A Special Session @ ALIFE 2023 Conference, Sapporo (Japan) + Virtual. July 24th-July 28th 2023


This proposal continues the tradition of the ALife & Society Special Session: now in its 7th year.
The Call For Papers will be announced soon.
Please visit the ALife 2023 site for further information.

Artificial Life, with its combination of philosophical perspectives, modelling approaches, insights, methods, and technologies, has immense potential to engage with pressing societal, ecological, and planetary problems. Many of these are one-shot wicked problems, where quality of “life” is fundamentally wrapped up in the quality of society and the environment. Addressing these problems necessitates interactionist perspectives rather than individualist approaches to “quality” that place equity, sustainability, and the reality of socio-economical-political contexts at the heart of research.

Moving beyond the myth of the technological fix, our focus is not on providing technological solutions to what are fundamentally social problems. Rather, we are proposing an agenda where ALife-based perspectives are explored that enable (or are a catalyst for) ecological and social solutions to ecological and social problems. ALife research has the potential to provide philosophical perspectives, modelling approaches, insights, methods, and technologies that enable us to conceive, understand, contextualise, and interact with eco-socio-technical systems in new ways.

In doing this, we also cannot escape questions of ethics and power, and our special session provides a space for the ALife community to engage explicitly with these. The ALife and Society Special Session provides a home for extended and critical scholarly discussion on how our discipline could, does, and should engage with the grand societal, ecological, and planetary challenges of our time.

The goal of our Special Session is to continue providing a space for ALife-based research and perspectives - in particular those that can help enable or be a catalyst for addressing societal, ecological, and planetary problems - to be explored in a scientific and critical manner. Our Special Session will facilitate scholarly discourse on these areas, where ALife perspectives can be developed from ideas to experiments and practice, in collaborations with other disciplines and those working on the ground on these grand challenges. To this end, and following on from the success of previous years, we propose a diverse programme consisting of a combination of full papers/extended abstracts, invited speaker(s), and a scholarly panel.

Topics of Interest include (but are not limited to):

  • ALife in the real world: case studies and learning from work on real-world ecological and societal challenges

  • Using ALife perspectives to tackle wicked global problems, including those targeted by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (e.g. poverty, hunger, climate change)

  • ALife and the environment: sustainability, ecological change, agriculture, conservation

  • Communicating and educating society on ALIFE

  • Using ALife to empower and enable social action

  • The design of ecological-social-technological systems as hybrid living systems.

  • Using ALife approaches to learn from, and engage with, complex ecosystems where the interaction between parts and feedbacks between levels are fundamental for emergence

  • Co-evolution of the self, society, biosphere, and/or technology

  • Philosophical, ethical, and practical approaches to Artificial Life in the Anthropocene

  • Societal implications and impacts of hybrid living/lifelike technologies and AI systems with agency

  • New opportunities and challenges in ALife that merit reflection on societal impact or ethical ramifications

  • Technical, philosophical and social implications of synthetic biology and ecology

  • Approaches for managing dynamic, multi-level living systems

  • Emergent interactions and dynamic aspects of the organism-environment boundary in socio-ecological-technical systems

  • Visions of artificial futures: ALife-inspired visions and fiction for the Anthropocene

  • Participatory appropriation - political, economic, cultural - of ALife/AI technologies

Organisers: Imy Khan (University of Gothenburg, Sweden), Peter Lewis (Ontario Tech University, Canada)