Robot life: simulation and participation in the study of evolution and social behavior

  • Christopher M. KeltyEmail author
Original Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Computer Simulation in the Life Sciences


This paper explores the case of using robots to simulate evolution, in particular the case of Hamilton’s Law. The uses of robots raises several questions that this paper seeks to address. The first concerns the role of the robots in biological research: do they simulate something (life, evolution, sociality) or do they participate in something? The second question concerns the physicality of the robots: what difference does embodiment make to the role of the robot in these experiments. Thirdly, how do life, embodiment and social behavior relate in contemporary biology and why is it possible for robots to illuminate this relation? These questions are provoked by a strange similarity that has not been noted before: between the problem of simulation in philosophy of science, and Deleuze’s reading of Plato on the relationship of ideas, copies and simulacra.


Simulation Evolution Robots Participation Social behavior Deleuze 



This paper is a revised and expanded version of a chapter with the same title that appeared in the volume Research Objects in their Technological Setting, edited by Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, Sacha Loeve, Alfred Nordmann, and Astrid Schwartz (New York: Routledge, 2017). I thank the editors of this volume for their permission to publish this revised version, and for their editorial and intellectual assistance. I also thank Janina Wellman and the MECS group at Leuphana University for the invitation to present this work and to include it in this series, and the editor of HPLS and three anonymous reviewers for detailed and helpful criticisms.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The UCLA Institute for Society and GeneticsLos AngelesUSA

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