Complex Systems

On Minimal Autonomous Agency: Natural and Artificial Download PDF

Alvaro Moreno
Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science
University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU
Avenida de Tolosa 70/20018 Donostia/San Sebastián, Spain


The idea of minimal agency (MA) may be understood as the simplest agent within the known phenomenological domain, that is, the simplest agent as-we-know-it, and as the simplest agent that could exist, either synthetically or in a hypothetical process of biogenesis, that is, the simplest agent as-it-should-be. The second view is more radical, since it focuses on the simplest organizational and material conditions required for generating agential capacities, not on how they are in fact minimally instantiated. It searches for the simplest material building blocks that, either naturally or artificially, could achieve the simplest form of organization necessary to display agency. Yet, although synthetic methodologies may seem a more adequate strategy to generate minimal forms of agency, I argue that the study of how the biological domain has generated agents is ultimately necessary to understand paradoxical cases of minimal agents and shows us fundamental lessons for their artificial fabrication.

Keywords: minimal agency; autonomy; synthetic agents; natural agents; regulation