In recent years, bio-inspired robots have shaped numerous domains of technical and scientific production. Despite the wealth of historiographic and philosophical studies published on this topic, a philosophical investigation of the mimetic principle used in bio-robotics is still missing. In this talk, I will ask a simple question: what is the role of biomimetic and bio-inspired processes in the different practices of bio-robotics? The biomimetic principle is the big elephant in the room for the philosophical and historical inquiry on bio-robotics. This elephant needs to be fully addressed in order for there to be an understanding of the epistemic aims and differences within the various practices of bio-robotics. To develop a philosophical taxonomy of the biomimetic principle in use, I will examine several emblematic cases in which the biomimetic principle operates differently to produce (biological) knowledge.
Marco Tamborini teaches history and philosophy of science at the Technical University of Darmstadt and is a member of the Junge Akademie | Mainz at the Academy of Sciences and Literature | Mainz, as well as fellow of the Johanna Quandt Young Academy at Goethe. His research focuses on the history and philosophy of biology, technoscience, robotics, and architecture from the nineteenth century to the present. His latest book, entitled The Architecture of Evolution: The Science of Form in Twentieth-Century Evolutionary Biology (University of Pittsburgh Press 2022), narrates the neglected contributions of the science of form to the recent development of evolutionary biology—and in particular, to the field of evolutionary developmental biology.
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