This special session aims to promote and expand a recent field of research called “Morphogenetic Engineering”, which explores the artificial design and implementation of autonomous systems capable of developing complex, heterogeneous morphologies. Particular emphasis is set on the programmability and computing abilities of self-organization, properties that are often underappreciated in complex systems science–while, conversely, the benefits of self-organization are often underappreciated in engineering methodologies.
Traditional engineered products are generally made of a number of unique, heterogeneous components assembled in complicated but precise ways, and are intended to work deterministically following specifications given by their designers. By contrast, self-organization in natural complex systems (physical, biological, ecological, social) often emerges from the repetition of agents obeying identical rules under stochastic dynamics. These systems produce relatively regular patterns (spots, stripes, waves, trails, clusters, hubs, etc.) that can be characterized by a small number of statistical variables. They are random and/or shaped by boundary conditions, but do not exhibit an intrinsic architecture like engineered products do.
Two salient exceptions, however, strikingly demonstrate the possibility of combining pure self-organization andelaborate architectures: biological development (the self-assembly of myriads of cells into the body plans and appendages of organisms) and insect constructions (the stigmergic collaboration of colonies of social insects toward large and complicated nests). These structures are composed of segments and parts arranged in very specific ways that resemble the products of human inventiveness. Yet, they entirely self-assemble in a decentralized fashion, under the control of genetic or behavioral rules stored in every agent.
How do these collectives (cells or insects) achieve such impressive morphogenetic tasks so reliably? Can we export their precise self-formation capabilities to engineered systems? What are principles and best practices for the design and engineering of such morphogenetic systems?
This special session is the 5th Morphogenetic Engineering Workshop or Special Session (MEW) of its kind. It follows:
- the 1st MEW (2009), which was held at the Complex Systems Institute, Paris (ISC-PIF) on June 19, 2009
- the 2nd MEW (2010), which was held as a special session of the 7th International Conference on Swarm Intelligence (ANTS 2010) in Brussels, on September 10, 2010
- the 3rd MEW (2011), which was held as a satellite workshop of the 11th European Conference on Artificial Life (ECAL’11) in Paris, on August 12, 2011
- the 4th MEW (2014), which was held as a satellite workshop of the 14th International Conference on Artificial Life (Alife XIV) in New York, on July 31, 2014
- Book: Doursat, R., Sayama, H. & Michel, O., eds. (2012) Morphogenetic Engineering: Toward Programmable Complex Systems. “Understanding Complex Systems” Series, Springer-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-642-33901-1 (452 pages)
- Review paper: Doursat, R., Sayama, H. & Michel, O. (2013) A review of morphogenetic engineering. “Frontiers of Natural Computing” (FNC 2012) Special Issue. Lones, M., Tyrrell, A., Stepney, S. & Caves, L., eds. Natural Computing 12(2): 517-535 Download PDF
If you have any comment or question, feel free to contact the organizers. Thank you for your interest.
Call for Papers
This special session aims to promote a recent field of research called “Morphogenetic Engineering”, which explores the artificial design and implementation of autonomous systems capable of developing complex, heterogeneous morphologies. Particular emphasis is set on the programmability and computing abilities of self-organization.
Special sessions help shape the programme of ECAL 2015. Each special session showcases important, novel and/or emergent research directions in an area of interest to ECAL participants. Special session themes are typically focused, rather than broadly defined, and generally comprise 4-5 papers. All papers in the session will be reviewed through the same review process as the regular papers of the conference to ensure that the contributions are of high scientific quality.
Authors are invited to submit either a full paper (max. 8-page) or a 1-page abstract, following the submission guidelines of the ECAL 2015 conference. Note that the format is exactly the same for both options. The only difference resides in the number of pages and type of contents:
- Full papers have an 8-page maximum length and should report on new, unpublished work
- Abstracts are limited to a 1-page length and can report on previously published work, but offer a new perspective on that work
Papers and abstracts will be selected for oral or poster presentation, with no distinction being made between full papers and abstracts.
- Deadline for submission:
March 2MARCH 16
- Notification of acceptance:
April 17APRIL 24
- Camera-ready version: May 18
- Date of workshop: TBA, between 20-24 July
Abstracts should be submitted electronically via the online EasyChair system. During submission you will be asked to choose an appropriate track: please select “Morphogenetic Engineering”. This special session will last 2 hours and the total number of speakers is limited to 4-5.
Topics of Interest
The topics that we anticipate will include, but are not limited to:
- New principles of morphogenesis in artificial systems
- Bio-inspiration from plant vs. animal development
- Programmability of self-organizing morphogenetic systems
- Indirect, decentralized control of morphogenetic systems
- Sensitivity to environmental/boundary conditions vs. endogenous drive
- Evolvability, by variations and selection, of morphogenetic systems
- Links with evolutionary computation, artificial embryogeny, “evo-devo” approaches
- Swarm-based approaches to morphogenetic systems
- Design techniques for morphogenetic engineering
- Causalities between micro and macro properties of morphogenetic systems
- Physical implementations
- Applications to real-world problems (nanotechnologies, reconfigurable robots, swarm robotics, complex networks, etc.)
- Philosophical issues on morphogenetic engineering
MEW Organizing Committee
René Doursat (CNRS, Paris, France) is a Research Scientist and a former Director of ISC-PIF. He co-founded the Complex Systems Master’s at Ecole Polytechnique, where he is a Guest Lecturer. An alumnus of Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, he completed his PhD in 1991 and a postdoc in neuroinformatics at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany. The main theme of R. Doursat’s research is the computational modeling and simulation of morphogenetic engineering systems (book published), i.e. how complex architectures self-organize from a swarm of heterogeneous agents via dynamical, developmental, and evolutionary processes. He was the General Chair ofECAL 2011, the European Conference on Artificial Life.
Hiroki Sayama (Binghamton University, State University of New York) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering and the Director of the Collective Dynamics of Complex Systems Research Group at Binghamton University, State University of New York. He received his BSc, MSc and DSc in Information Science, all from the University of Tokyo. He did his post-doc work at the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), Cambridge, Massachusetts, from 1999 to 2002. He is currently an affiliate of NECSI. His research interests include complex dynamical networks, collective behaviors, social systems modeling, swarm chemistry, mathematical biology, and computer and information sciences. He was the Program Chair of Alife XIV, the International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems.
MEW Program Committee
University of York, UK
- Prof. Susan Stepney, General Chair
- Prof. Jon Timmis, Technical Chair
- Dr. Paul Andrews, Local Chair
- Dr. Fiona Polack, Tutorial Chair
- Dr. Simon Hickinbotham, Workshop Chair
- Dr. Leo Caves, Special Sessions Chair
- Dr. René Doursat (CNRS, France), Education Chair
- Ms. Sarah Christmas, Local Support
- Mr. Bob French, Local Support