Acta Biotheoretica 63 (3):295-308 (2015)
AbstractLarge sets of elements interacting locally and producing specific architectures reliably form a category that transcends the usual dividing line between biological and engineered systems. We propose to call them morphogenetically architected complex systems (MACS). While taking the emergence of properties seriously, the notion of MACS enables at the same time the design (or “meta-design”) of operational means that allow controlling and even, paradoxically, programming this emergence. To demonstrate our claim, we first show that among all the self-organized systems studied in the field of Artificial Life, the specificity of MACS essentially lies in the close relation between their emergent properties and functional properties. Second, we argue that to be a MACS a system does not need to display more than weak emergent properties. Third, since the notion of weak emergence is based on the possibility of simulation, whether computational or mechanistic via machines, we see MACS as good candidates to help design artificial self-architected systems (such as robotic swarms) but also harness and redesign living ones (such as synthetic bacterial films).
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