Fabio Fossa

In this essay I try to determine the extent to which it is possible to conceive robots and organisms as analogous entities. After a cursory preamble on the long history of epistemological connections between machines and organisms I focus on Norbert Wiener’s cybernetics, where the analogy between modern machines and organisms is introduced most explicitly. The analysis of issues pertaining to the cybernetic interpretation of the analogy serves then as a basis for a critical assessment of its reprise in contemporary robotics and AI, where the line between organisms and technologies gets even more blurred. In brief, I argue for the necessity of defining the extent to which the analogy between robots and organisms applies in order not only to harness its heuristic potential, but also to keep track of the pivotal differences that distinguish the two classes of entities. Finally, I discuss how the ordinary use of language and the peculiar status of the idea of robot obstruct awareness of the differences between robots and organisms.

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