6th MEW at ALife XV

Morphogenetic Engineering Workshop, at the
Artificial Life Conference 2016

Monday, July 4, 2016
Cancun International Convention Center, Mexico
Overview - Program - Organizers - Past Editions
References - Call for Abstracts - Topics of Interest - Registration



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 and elaborate 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?



The workshop will take place on Monday, July 4 morning, in room Xcaret 2 of the Cancun International Convention Center:

Part I: Insects, bacteria, chemicals

  • 9:00-9:55, Opening keynote:
    Complex systems engineering: multi-scale collective construction in artificial insects
    Seth Bullock

  • 9:55-10:20
    Emergence of bacteria talk and morphology of group behavior
    Nesrine Ouannes, N. Djedi, Y. Duthen & H. Luga VIDEO

  • 10:20-10:45
    Coupling self-assembling materials with digital designs to grow adaptive structures
    Adam Blaney, J. Alexander, N. Dunn, D. Richards, R. Doursat, A. Rennie & J. Anwar

  • 10:45-11:15 - Coffee break

Part II: Gene regulatory networks

  • 11:15-11:40
    RBN-based morphogenetic systems with spring-mass-damper kinetics
    Hyobin Kim & H. Sayama

  • 11:40-12:05
    Intelligent cell using on-line GRN policy enzyme
    Rima Hiouani, N. Ouannes, N. Djedi, Y. Duthen & S. Cussat-Blanc

  • 12:05-12:30
    Evolving genetic regulatory networks for online neurogenesis
    Dennis Wilson, S. Cussat-Blanc & H. Luga

  • 12:30-13:00, Closing guest talk:
    Spiral autowaves as minimal, distributed gait controllers for soft-robots
    Michal Joachimczak, R. Kaur, R. Suzuki & T. Arita

  • 13:00 - Lunch


Past Editions

This workshop is the 6th 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

  • the 5th MEW (2015), which was held as a special session of the
    13th European Conference on Artificial Life (ECAL'15) in York, on July 20, 2015


Call for Abstracts (closed)

This workshop 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.

Authors are invited to submit an abstract (up to 2 pages) on their research, or on a review and discussion about any aspect of Morphogenetic Engineering. It should be prepared following the ALife XV paper format. Contributions may be original or already published (please specify when submitting and add proper bibliographical references, if applicable). Accepted abstracts will be compiled into the Workshop Proceedings and will be published online on the Workshop website for free downloads.

Please submit your abstract in PDF by email to both organizers:

  • Rene Doursat: r.doursatmmu.ac.uk
  • Hiroki Sayama: sayamabinghamton.edu

Important Dates:

  • Deadline for abstract submission: April 30, 2016 May 7, 2016
  • Notification of acceptance: May 15, 2016
  • Camera-ready abstract due: May 31, 2016
  • Date of workshop: July 4, 2016

The workshop will last about 3.5 hours and the total number of speakers is limited to 6. Submissions will be reviewed based on their relevance to the workshop, clarity, and overall quality. Whether submitting or simply attending, please register via the online ALife XV conference registration system.

Topics of Interest

  • 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 (swarm robots, synthetic biologie, complex networks, etc.)
  • Philosophical questions about morphogenetic engineering


Registration should be made through the ALife XV website.


Overview - Program - Organizers - Past Editions
References - Call for Abstracts - Topics of Interest - Registration
Page created and maintained by René Doursat
Last update: June 11, 2016