Natural Computing

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 517–535

A review of morphogenetic engineering


DOI: 10.1007/s11047-013-9398-1

Cite this article as:
Doursat, R., Sayama, H. & Michel, O. Nat Comput (2013) 12: 517. doi:10.1007/s11047-013-9398-1


Generally, phenomena of spontaneous pattern formation are random and repetitive, whereas elaborate devices are the deterministic product of human design. Yet, biological organisms and collective insect constructions are exceptional examples of complex systems (CS) that are both architectured and self-organized. Can we understand their precise self-formation capabilities and integrate them with technological planning? Can physical systems be endowed with information, or informational systems be embedded in physics, to create autonomous morphologies and functions? To answer these questions, we have launched in 2009, and developed through a series of workshops and a collective book, a new field of research called morphogenetic engineering. It is the first initiative of its kind to rally and promote models and implementations of complex self-architecturing systems. Particular emphasis is set on the programmability and computational abilities of self-organization, properties that are often underappreciated in CS science—while, conversely, the benefits of self-organization are often underappreciated in engineering methodologies. [This paper is an extended version of Doursat, Sayama and Michel (2012b) (Chapter 1, in Doursat R et al. (eds.) Morphogenetic engineering: toward programmable complex systems. Understanding complex systems. Springer, 2012a).]


Agent-based modeling Artificial life Collective construction Complex systems Evolutionary development Generative grammars Morphogenesis Self-organization Swarm robotics Systems engineering 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biomedical EngineeringDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Collective Dynamics of Complex Systems Research GroupBinghamton University, SUNYBinghamtonUSA
  3. 3.Faculté des Sciences et TechnologieUniversité de CréteilCréteil CedexFrance

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