Machine Life

Living things are remarkable, agential, morally-important machines

One of the most useful metaphors for driving scientific and engineering progress has been that of the “machine.”  But in light of our increased understanding of biology, evolution, intelligence, and engineering we must re-examine the life-as-machine metaphor with fair, up-to-date definitions. Such a process is allowing us to see that living things are in fact remarkable, agential, morally-important machines, writes Michael Levin.


The difference between living beings and machines was once apparent. Machines came from a factory and were designed by the real creatives - humans (or in the case of simple machines, such as levers, by crows), who understood exactly how they work. They were boring and predictable – they did the same thing over and over again, they did not adapt to new challenges, and they showed no evidence of having preferences or an inner perspective. Thus, we felt on safe moral ground to do whatever we wanted with them – disassem

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Nadia Eira 17 June 2024

The real innovators, also known as humans, were the individuals who designed the machines that were produced in the factory and had a thorough understanding of their functioning.

Phillip Melton 18 December 2023

There was a time when it was obvious what separated machines from living things. The true creatives, or humans, were the ones who developed the machines that came out of the factory and knew exactly how they operated.

Mi​chael Kieran 11 April 2023

It is undeniable that nowadays, technology plays a big role in people's lives. For example, humans have robots to assist in life. However, I think we also need to worry that robots can replace humans in the future.