Are Robots Alive?

  • Adrian David Cheok
  • Emma Yann ZhangEmail author
Part of the Human–Computer Interaction Series book series (HCIS)


Some attempts to answer the title question require a clarification of what is meant be “alive”—how the word is defined by biologists, other scientists, philosophers and experts from other disciplines. Such attempts fail because of the lack of a suitable definition of “alive” to serve as our starting point. This failure prompts us to consider various sets of criteria of life, criteria that have been promoted as enabling us to determine whether or not a particular entity is alive. This attempt too fails, because there are so many such sets and so many differences between them that they create confusion rather than clarity. We also consider a more general set of criteria, a set devised in the 1970s and known collectively as Living Systems Theory, which does not rely on traditional biological considerations. Here we have more success—if the theory is correct we may indeed conclude that robots are alive. We then examine how advances in the various 21st century branches of biology have paved the way for the birth of a new science—Living Technology—which brings us much closer to being able to provide a definitive answer to our title question.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Imagineering InstituteIskander PuteriMalaysia

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