8th MEW at ALife 2018

Morphogenetic Engineering (Workshop) Special Session, at
2018 Conference on Artificial Life

July 26, 2018
National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Venus & Mars Hall)
Odaiba, Tokyo, Japan
Program - Overview - Organizers - Past Editions
References - Call for Papers - Topics of Interest - Registration


This special session aims to promote and expand Morphogenetic Engineering, a field of research exploring 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.


  • 3:15pm Holonic Cellular Automata: Modelling Multi-level Self-organisation of Structure and Behaviour.
    Ada Diaconescu, Sven Tomforde and Christian Müller-Schloer

  • 3:40pm The Self-Assembling Brain: Contributions to Morphogenetic Engineering from a Self-Organizing Neural Network in the Insect Brain.
    Robin Hiesinger

  • 4:05pm Modeling Cell Migration in a Simulated Bioelectrical Signaling Network for Anatomical Regeneration.
    Giordano Ferreira, Matthias Scheutz and Michael Levin


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?


Past Editions

This special session is the 8th Morphogenetic Engineering Workshop or Special Session (MEW) of its kind. It follows:


Call for Papers

Special sessions at ALife 2018 share the same review system as the main conference tracks, and accepted submissions will be published in the conference proceedings. To submit your paper to the Morphogenetic Engineering special session, follow the instructions for authors link and select the Morphogenetic Engineering session when prompted. There are two options for submission format: full paper (8 pages maximum) and extended abstract (2 pages maximum).

Important Dates:

  • Paper submission deadline: April 2, 2018
  • Notification of acceptance: April 23, 2018
  • Camera-ready due: May 21, 2018
  • Special session date: July 26, 2018 (3:15-4:30pm)

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 biology, complex networks, etc.)
  • Philosophical questions about morphogenetic engineering


Registration should be made through the ALife 2018 website.


Program - Overview - Organizers - Past Editions
References - Call for Papers - Topics of Interest - Registration
Page created and maintained by René Doursat
Last update: July 19, 2018