Complex Systems

Synthetic Modelling of Biological Communication: A Theoretical and Operational Framework for the Investigation of Minimal Life and Cognition Download PDF

Leonardo Bich*
IAS-Research Centre for Life, Mind and Society
Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science
University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)
Avenida de Tolosa 70, Donostia/San Sebastián, 20018, Spain
*Corresponding author:

Ramiro Frick
Department of Sociology
Universidad Diego Portales
Manuel Rodríguez Sur 415, Santiago, Chile
Department of Philosophy
Universidad Alberto Hurtado
Alameda 1869, Santiago, Chile


This paper analyses conceptual and experimental work in synthetic biology on different types of interactions considered as minimal examples or models of communication. It discusses their pertinence and relevance for the wider understanding of this biological and cognitive phenomenon.  It critically analyses their limits and it argues that a conceptual framework is needed. As a possible solution, it provides a theoretical account of communication based on the notion of organisation, and characterised in terms of the functional influence exerted by the sender upon the receiver. It shows that this account can be operationalised in synthetic biology, and that it can supply criteria and guidelines for the design and evaluation of synthetic models.

Keywords: regulation; synthetic biology; minimal cognition; influence; organisation; biological functions; protocells