, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 103–118 | Cite as

Anticipation and the artificial: aesthetics, ethics, and synthetic life

  • Mihai NadinEmail author
Original Article


If complexity is a necessary but not sufficient premise for the existence and expression of the living, anticipation is the distinguishing characteristic of what is alive. Anticipation is at work even at levels of existence where we cannot refer to intelligence. The prospect of artificially generating aesthetic artifacts and ethical constructs of relevance to a world in which the natural and the artificial are coexistent cannot be subsumed as yet another product of scientific and technological advancement. Beyond the artificial, the synthetic conjures the understanding of aesthetics and ethics no longer from the perspective of the How? type of question, but rather the Why? Given the current infatuation with synthetic biology (i.e., making life from non-life), there is a practical consequence to such considerations. Synthetic life, as any other form of life, implies the possibility of evolution. Anticipation, which is the underlying factor of evolution, is thus expected. At the level of human existence, anticipation is expressed, for instance (but not exclusively), in aesthetic forms and ethical values. This translates, in turn, into an argument for the role aesthetics and ethics play in the process. Consequently, to qualify as life, the synthesis of the physical and the living will have to efficiently handle ambiguity. Current computational facilities, regardless of their nature or performance, operate exclusively in the semiotic domain of the well defined non-ambiguous.


Synthetic Biology Artificial Life Incompleteness Theorem Living Entity Simple Machine 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The author would like to acknowledge feedback from Lotfi Zadeh, Frank Dufour, W. Jay Dowling, and an anonymous reviewer. This research was supported by antÉ-Institute for Research in Anticipatory Systems, ATEC (Arts and Technology at the University of Texas at Dallas), and the QF Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.antÉ-Institute for Research in Anticipatory SystemsThe University of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA

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