Acta Biotheoretica

, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 295–308

Programming the Emergence in Morphogenetically Architected Complex Systems

  • Franck Varenne
  • Pierre Chaigneau
  • Jean Petitot
  • René Doursat
Regular Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10441-015-9262-z

Cite this article as:
Varenne, F., Chaigneau, P., Petitot, J. et al. Acta Biotheor (2015) 63: 295. doi:10.1007/s10441-015-9262-z


Large 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).


Artificial life Bio-inspiration Complex systems  Self-architected systems Functional form Weak emergence Pattern formation Morphogenesis Morphogenetic engineering Swarm robotics Synthetic biology 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Franck Varenne
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pierre Chaigneau
    • 3
  • Jean Petitot
    • 4
  • René Doursat
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Sorbonne Research Group in Sociological Analysis Methods (GEMASS), CNRS (UMR8598)Paris-Sorbonne UniversityParisFrance
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of RouenRouenFrance
  3. 3.“Science, Philosophy, History” (SPHERE) Laboratory, CNRS (UMR7219)Paris-Diderot UniversityParisFrance
  4. 4.Center for Social Analysis and Mathematics (CAMS), CNRS (UMR8557)School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS)ParisFrance
  5. 5.Complex Systems Institute Paris Ile-de-France (ISC-PIF)CNRS (UPS3611)ParisFrance
  6. 6.BioEmergences LaboratoryCNRS (USR3695)Gif-sur-YvetteFrance

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