Complex Systems

Synthetic Biology and Artificial Intelligence: Grounding a Cross-Disciplinary Approach to the Synthetic Exploration of (Embodied) Cognition Download PDF

Luisa Damiano
Epistemology of the Sciences of the Artificial Research Group (ESARG)
Department of Ancient and Modern Civilizations
University of Messina, Messina, Italy

Pasquale Stano
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Technologies (DiSTeBA)
University of Salento, Lecce, Italy


Recent scientific developments—the emergence in the 1990s of a “body-centered” artificial intelligence (AI) and the birth in the 2000s of synthetic  biology (SB)—allow and require the constitution of a new cross-disciplinary synergy, that elsewhere we called “SB-AI.” In this paper, we define the motivation, possibilities, limits and methodologies of this line of research. Based on the insufficiencies of embodied AI, we draw on frontier developments in synthetic cells SB to introduce a promising research program in SB-AI, which we define as Chemical Autopoietic AI. As we emphasize, the promise of this approach is twofold: building organizationally relevant wetware models of minimal biological-like systems, and contributing to the exploration of (embodied) cognition and to the full realization of the “embodiment turn” in contemporary AI.

Keywords: autopoiesis; embodied AI; lipid vesicles; minimal cognition; SB-AI; synthetic biology; synthetic cells