OUTONOMY project: Fleshing out autonomy beyond the individual


We are happy to announce that the Outonomy (“Fleshing out autonomy beyond the individual”) project got officially funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. The project is co-lead by Leonardo Bich and Xabier E. Barandiaran.

As part of this project we got awarded with a PhD Scholarship. Please help us find and match the best candidates by sharing this link to our pre-application call: https://www.ias-research.net/?p=4525

Project summary and main research lines

The project aims to expand theories of autonomy beyond classical conceptions of the individual by including integrative, relational, collective and environmental dimensions into it.

The concept of autonomy, understood as the capacity of a system to set up and follow the norms of its own functioning, is of central relevance to contemporary science and society. Recently, the increasing acknowledgement of the deep interconnectedness, mutual dependence and multi-scale embeddedness of several natural and social phenomena, has directly challenged the very idea of autonomy, together with those of individuality and identity, and the possibility of its applications to scientific and social challenges.Building on top of 25 years of philosophical and trans-disciplinary research at the IAS-Research Center for Life, Mind and Society of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), centred on a naturalized theory of autonomy in biological and cognitive sciences, this project aims to expand theories of autonomy beyond classical conceptions of the individual by including integrative, relational, collective and environmental dimensions into it.

To do so the project pursues 4 main goals:

1- To develop an account of integration in autonomous systems, as an organizational principle to understand how ‘physiological’ cohesiveness emerges within and across systems.

2- To understand how inter-actions between autonomous systems can give rise to supra-individual or collective forms of autonomy and how these can alter the autonomy of the former.

3- To investigate the extension of autonomous systems into their environment (from prebiotic scaffolds to technology) to achieve viability and coordinate regulatory self-governing processes.

4- To address the issue of sustainability (at different scales) of new eco and socio-ecological systems emerging from previously independent autonomous systems.

In order to achieve these trans-disciplinary goals, the methodology involves naturalist conceptual analysis and synthesis based on an active dialogue with empirical research, computational and mathematical models and scientific theories. The profiles of the 5 research team members in philosophy of science, philosophy of biology and complex systems is complemented by an international work team of 24 collaborators including social scientists, computer modellers, network and data analysts, biologists and environmental scientists.

If you want to know more about the project, we recommend you read and download our project description document by clicking on the image below:

You can follow the project updates on ResearchGate at the following link: https://www.researchgate.net/project/OUTONOMY-Fleshing-Out-Autonomy-Beyond-the-Individual

On the origin of the tRNA molecule – IAS-Research Talk by Massimo Di Giulio

Dr.Massimo Di Giulio (Laboratory for Molecular Evolution, Institute of Genetics and Biophysics «Adriano Buzzati-Traverso», CNR, Napoli, Italy) will be giving an IAS-Research Talk entitled “On the rigin of the tRNA Molecule” on Tuesday, June 11th 2013, at 11.30 at the Carlos Santamaria Building Room B14.


A model has been proposed suggesting that the tRNA molecule must have originated by direct duplication of an RNA hairpin structure [Di Giulio, M., 1992. On the origin of the transfer RNA molecule. J. Theor. Biol. 159, 199–214]. A non-monophyletic origin of this molecule has also been theorized [Di Giulio, M., 1999. The non-monophyletic origin of tRNA molecule. J. Theor. Biol. 197, 403–414]. In other words, the tRNA genes evolved only after the evolutionary stage of the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) through the assembly of two minigenes codifying for different RNA hairpin structures, which is what the exon theory of genes suggests when it is applied to the model of tRNA origin. Recent observations strongly corroborate this theorization because it has been found that some tRNA genes are completely separate in two minigenes codifying for the 5’ and 3’ halves of this molecule [Randau, L., et al., 2005a. Nanoarchaeum equitans creates functional tRNAs from separate genes for their 5’ and 3’ halves. Nature 433, 537–541]. It is shown that these tRNA genes codifying for the 5’ and 3’ halves of this molecule are the ancestral form from which the tRNA genes continuously codifying for the complete tRNA molecule are thought to have evolved. This, together with the very existence of completely separate tRNA genes codifying for their 5’ and 3’ halves, proves a non-monophyletic origin for tRNA genes — as a monophyletic origin would exclude the existence of these genes which have, on the contrary, been observed.

«Synthetic Modeling of Life and Cognition: Open Questions» (SMLC 2013) – 12-14.09.2013, Bergamo, Italy

Call for Papers

Workshop «Synthetic Modeling of Life and Cognition: Open Questions» (SMLC 2013)

12-14th September 2013, University of Bergamo, Italy


Luisa Damiano (University of Bergamo)

Vincent C. Müller (Anatolia College/ACT & University of Oxford)


In recent decades researchers in various scientific domains have been working intensely on procedures directed to exploring life and cognition in a “synthetic” way, i.e. through modeling in artificial systems. Research on biological and cognitive processes is thus been increasingly based on implementations in “software” (simulations), “hardware” (robots) and “wetware” (chemical systems) used as scientific models of the processes in question. This scientific development is often seen as the emergence of a new general methodology, a “synthetic methodology”, slated to become a dominant force in science. This synthetic methodology poses a challenge for both science itself and the philosophy of science: to define the possibilities, the limits, and the ways of the synthetic modeling of life and cognition, and its relevance for biological, behavioral, cognitive, and social sciences.

The workshop “Synthetic Modeling of Life and Cognition: Open Questions” will tackle this challenge by creating a strongly interdisciplinary forum that can formulate and address these fundamental questions. The workshop brings together pioneers of the synthetic exploration of life and cognition from different scientific domains (computer science, synthetic biology, cognitive, developmental, social robotics…), and invites them to discuss with philosophers and other specialists studying this emerging form of scientific investigation.

Invited speakers

  • Minoru Asada, Osaka University, Japan
  • Angelo Cangelosi, University of Plymouth, UK
  • Luciano Fadiga, University of Ferrara, Italy
  • Stuart Kauffman, University of Calgary, Canada
  • Pier Luigi Luisi, University of Rome Three, Italy
  • Giorgio Metta, Italian Institute of Technology, Italy
  • Giulio Sandini, Italian Institute of Technology, Italy
  • Ricard Solé, Pompeu Fabra University, Spain


  • Università degli studi di Bergamo, Italy
  • Research Center for Ars Vivendi at Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan
  • EUCog, European Network for the Advancement of Artificial Cognitive Systems, Interaction and Robotics


Call for Papers

The SMLC 2013 workshop adopts an “Open Questions” format. – This means that the SMLC 2013 call for papers contains a list of questions on the synthetic modeling of life and cognition formulated by members of the Program Committee and other selected specialists on the basis of their expertise and in accordance with the topics of the workshop.

The SMLC 2013 workshop questions are cutting-edge open questions defining the agenda of the nascent  interdisciplinary community dedicated to support the reflected and cooperative development of the synthetic modeling of life and cognition.

We welcome abstracts presenting and critically supporting original approaches directed to tackle the issues defined by the questions, and able to stimulate discussions and the emergence of new research lines in the interdisciplinary community created by the workshop.

The list of the SMLC 2013 workshop open questions can be found below. The questions are divided in three groups on the basis of their contents, and each question has an ID number.

We invite specialists from all the different research fields involved in this highly interdisciplinary forum to submit abstracts. In particular we welcome researchers from biology, synthetic biology, computational biology, AL, cognitive sciences, sciences of complex systems, computer sciences, AI, cognitive robotics, developmental robotics, social robotics, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of biology, philosophy of cognitive science, epistemology.

The Program Committee will select the papers to be presented at the workshop as talks through a double-blind peer review process.

We are planning to publish proceedings of the conference with a reputed publisher.

Information on how to prepare your abstract(s):

Each abstract should be anonymised for blind review and should include:

– the ID number and the short version of the question you are addressing;

–  the title of your contribution;

–  a text of up to 1000 words (excl. references) in a PDF;

–  a short abstract of up to 150 words.

Deadline: 30.06.2013

Submission at: https://www.easychair.org/conferences/?conf=smlc2013

Latest Information at http://www.pt-ai.org/smlc/2013/paper-submission

For any further information, please do not hesitate to contact the organizers.

Thank you for contributing to this emergent research area!

SMLC 2013: Open Questions

This is the list of questions on the synthetic modeling of life and cognition, formulated by members of the Program Committee and other selected specialists on the basis of their expertise and in accordance with the topics of the workshop.

a) Synthetic exploration of life 

(1) What are the possibilities and the limits of the synthetic study of the origins of life?

(2) Aiming at a universal biology: what can be the contribution of the synthetic methodology?

(3) Does the synthetic modeling of life need teleology?

(4) How can we test for artificial life?

b) Synthetic exploration of cognition

(5) What can synthetic biology offer to the study of cognition?

(6) What is the role of embodiment in the synthetic exploration of cognition?

(7) How can one build an agent aware of its environment?

(8) How can we model conscious experience?

(9) The extended mind thesis: can it be explored synthetically?

c) Possibilities, limits, ways and impacts of the synthetic modeling of life and cognition:

(10) The “sciences of the artificial” and the “sciences of the natural”: How can we guarantee positive  interaction?

(11) What are the characteristics and roles of synthetic models?

(12) Do different forms of the synthetic modeling have different explanatory powers?

(13) Which levels of abstraction are appropriate in the synthetic modeling of life and cognition?

(14) What are the impacts of the synthetic methodology on the dichotomies ‘science/engineering’, and ‘artificial/natural’?

(15) The synthetic methodology: What are the environmental and social impacts?


Explanations of the open questions on