Living Machines? Prospects and Limitations of the Engineering Approach to the Organism – University of Copenhagen

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Department of Media, Cognition and Communication > Research > MCC projects and externally funded projects > Living Machines

Living Machines? Prospects and Limitations of the Engineering Approach to the 

Are organisms machines? The analogy between biological systems and complex designed human artifacts abound in contemporary life science. To mention a few examples: “genomes are blueprints,” “brains are computers” and “cells are biochemical factories.”

The problem guiding this project is this: how should we understand thinking about organisms as engineered systems? What is the theoretical and practical significance of the machine model of the organism? The project will analyze the engineering approach to living systems in the context of synthetic biology, systems biology, and evolutionary theory. More specifically the project will investigate a cluster of interconnected yet distinct philosophical questions about

(i) The fundamental nature of living beings

(ii) Our understanding and explanation of biological systems

(iii) The methods and metaphors used in the life sciences and biotechnology.