New paper published in BioSystems: Bich, L. & Moreno, A. The role of regulation in the origin and synthetic modelling of minimal cognition



In this paper we address the question of minimal cognition by investigating the origin of some crucial cognitive properties from the very basic organisation of biological systems. More specifically, we propose a theoretical model of how a system can distinguish between specific features of its interaction with the environment, which is a fundamental requirement for the emergence of minimal forms of cognition. We argue that the appearance of this capacity is grounded in the molecular domain, and originates from basic mechanisms of biological regulation. In doing so, our aim is to provide a theoretical account that can also work as a possible conceptual bridge between Synthetic Biology and Artificial Intelligence. In fact, we argue, Synthetic Biology can contribute to the study of minimal cognition (and therefore to a minimal AI), by providing a privileged approach to the study of these mechanisms by means of artificial systems.


Keywords: minimal cognition; regulation; stability; biological autonomy; normativity; Synthetic Biology

Published in BioSystems (2015)

The final publication is available at Elsevier via:

Preprint here


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  • "To say that a system is complex […] is to say that we can describe the same system in a variety of distinct ways […]. Therefore a system is simple to the extent that a single description suffices to account for our interaction with the system; it is complex to the extent that it fails to be true." (Robert Rosen, 1978)
  • “Complexity is not an intrinsic property of a system nor of a system description. Rather, it arises from the number of ways in which we are able to interact with the system. Thus, complexity is a function not only of the system’s interactive capabilities, but of our own”
    (Robert Rosen, 1985)

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