Mark A. Bedau

Mark A. Bedau is Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Reed College, Adjunct Professor of Systems Science at Portland State University, and Editor-in-Chief of the MIT Press journal Artificial Life.

  • The Ethics of Protocells

    The Ethics of Protocells

    Moral and Social Implications of Creating Life in the Laboratory

    Mark A. Bedau and Emily C. Parke

    Experts explore the potential benefits, risks, and moral aspects of protocell technology, which creates simple forms of life from nonliving material.

    Teams of scientists around the world are racing to create protocells—microscopic, self-organizing entities that spontaneously assemble from simple organic and inorganic materials. The creation of fully autonomous protocells—a technology that can, for all intents and purposes, be considered literally alive—is only a matter of time. This book examines the pressing social and ethical issues raised by the creation of life in the laboratory. Protocells might offer great medical and social benefits and vast new economic opportunities, but they also pose potential risks and threaten cultural and moral norms against tampering with nature and “playing God.” The Ethics of Protocells offers a variety of perspectives on these concerns. After a brief survey of current protocell research (including the much-publicized “top-down” strategy of J. Craig Venter and Hamilton Smith, for which they have received multimillion dollar financing from the U.S. Department of Energy), the chapters treat risk, uncertainty, and precaution; lessons from recent history and related technologies; and ethics in a future society with protocells. The discussions range from new considerations of the precautionary principle and the role of professional ethicists to explorations of what can be learned from society's experience with other biotechnologies and the open-source software movement.

    Contributors Mark A. Bedau, Gaymon Bennett, Giovanni Boniolo, Carl Cranor, Bill Durodié, Mickey Gjerris, Brigitte Hantsche-Tangen, Christine Hauskeller, Andrew Hessel, Brian Johnson, George Khushf, Emily C. Parke, Alain Pottage, Paul Rabinow, Per Sandin, Joachim Schummer, Mark Triant, Laurie Zoloth

    • Hardcover $12.75 £9.99
    • Paperback $34.00 £27.00
  • Protocells

    Protocells

    Bridging Nonliving and Living Matter

    Steen Rasmussen, Mark A. Bedau, Liaohai Chen, David Deamer, David C. Krakauer, Norman H. Packard, and Peter F. Stadler

    The first comprehensive general resource on state-of-the-art protocell research, describing current approaches to making new forms of life from scratch in the laboratory.

    Protocells offers a comprehensive resource on current attempts to create simple forms of life from scratch in the laboratory. These minimal versions of cells, known as protocells, are entities with lifelike properties created from nonliving materials, and the book provides in-depth investigations of processes at the interface between nonliving and living matter. Chapters by experts in the field put this state-of-the-art research in the context of theory, laboratory work, and computer simulations on the components and properties of protocells. The book also provides perspectives on research in related areas and such broader societal issues as commercial applications and ethical considerations. The book covers all major scientific approaches to creating minimal life, both in the laboratory and in simulation. It emphasizes the bottom-up view of physicists, chemists, and material scientists but also includes the molecular biologists' top-down approach and the origin-of-life perspective. The capacity to engineer living technology could have an enormous socioeconomic impact and could bring both good and ill. Protocells promises to be the essential reference for research on bottom-up assembly of life and living technology for years to come. It is written to be both resource and inspiration for scientists working in this exciting and important field and a definitive text for the interested layman.

    • Hardcover $16.75 £13.99
  • Emergence

    Emergence

    Contemporary Readings in Philosophy and Science

    Mark A. Bedau and Paul Humphreys

    Contemporary classics on the the major approaches to emergence found in contemporary philosophy and science, with chapters by such prominent scholars as John Searle, Stephen Weinberg, William Wimsatt, Thomas Schelling, Jaegwon Kim, Daniel Dennett, Herbert Simon, Stephen Wolfram, Jerry Fodor, Philip Anderson, David Chalmers, and others.

    Emergence, largely ignored just thirty years ago, has become one of the liveliest areas of research in both philosophy and science. Fueled by advances in complexity theory, artificial life, physics, psychology, sociology, and biology and by the parallel development of new conceptual tools in philosophy, the idea of emergence offers a way to understand a wide variety of complex phenomena in ways that are intriguingly different from more traditional approaches. This reader collects for the first time in one easily accessible place classic writings on emergence from contemporary philosophy and science. The chapters, by such prominent scholars as John Searle, Stephen Weinberg, William Wimsatt, Thomas Schelling, Jaegwon Kim, Robert Laughlin, Daniel Dennett, Herbert Simon, Stephen Wolfram, Jerry Fodor, Philip Anderson, and David Chalmers, cover the major approaches to emergence. Each of the three sections ("Philosophical Perspectives," "Scientific Perspectives," and "Background and Polemics") begins with an introduction putting the chapters into context and posing key questions for further exploration. A bibliography lists more specialized material, and an associated website (http://mitpress.mit.edu/emergence) links to downloadable software and to other sites and publications about emergence.

    Contributors P. W. Anderson, Andrew Assad, Nils A. Baas, Mark A. Bedau, Mathieu S. Capcarrère, David Chalmers, James P. Crutchfield, Daniel C. Dennett, J. Doyne Farmer, Jerry Fodor, Carl Hempel, Paul Humphreys, Jaegwon Kim, Robert B. Laughlin, Bernd Mayer, Brian P. McLaughlin, Ernest Nagel, Martin Nillson, Paul Oppenheim, Norman H. Packard, David Pines, Steen Rasmussen, Edmund M. A. Ronald, Thomas Schelling, John Searle, Robert S. Shaw, Herbert Simon, Moshe Sipper, Stephen Weinberg, William Wimsatt, and Stephen Wolfram

    • Hardcover $18.75 £14.95
    • Paperback $55.00 £43.00
  • Artificial Life IX

    Artificial Life IX

    Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on the Simulation and Synthesis of Living Systems

    Jordan Pollack, Mark A. Bedau, Phil Husbands, Richard A. Watson, and Takashi Ikegami

    Proceedings from the ninth International Conference on Artificial Life; papers by scientists of many disciplines focusing on the principles of organization and applications of complex, life-like systems.

    Artificial Life is an interdisciplinary effort to investigate the fundamental properties of living systems through the simulation and synthesis of life-like processes. The young field brings a powerful set of tools to the study of how high-level behavior can arise in systems governed by simple rules of interaction. Some of the fundamental questions include: What are the principles of evolution, learning, and growth that can be understood well enough to simulate as an information process? Can robots be built faster and more cheaply by mimicking biology than by the product design process used for automobiles and airplanes? How can we unify theories from dynamical systems, game theory, evolution, computing, geophysics, and cognition?

    The field has contributed fundamentally to our understanding of life itself through computer models, and has led to novel solutions to complex real-world problems across high technology and human society. This elite biennial meeting has grown from a small workshop in Santa Fe to a major international conference. This ninth volume of the proceedings of the international A-life conference reflects the growing quality and impact of this interdisciplinary scientific community.

    • Paperback $80.00 £62.00
  • Artificial Life VIII

    Artificial Life VIII

    Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Artificial Life

    Russell Standish, Mark A. Bedau, and Hussein A. Abbass

    How high-level behaviors arise from low-level rules, and how understanding this relationship can suggest novel solutions to complex real-world problems such as disease prevention, stock-market prediction, and data mining on the Internet.

    The term "artificial life" describes research into synthetic systems that possess some of the essential properties of life. This interdisciplinary field includes biologists, computer scientists, physicists, chemists, geneticists, and others. Artificial life may be viewed as an attempt to understand high-level behavior from low-level rules—for example, how the simple interactions between ants and their environment lead to complex trail-following behavior. An understanding of such relationships in particular systems can suggest novel solutions to complex real-world problems such as disease prevention, stock-market prediction, and data mining on the Internet.

    Since their inception in 1987, the Artificial Life meetings have grown from small workshops to truly international conferences, reflecting the field's increasing appeal to researchers in all areas of science.

    • Paperback $90.00 £70.00
  • Artificial Life VII

    Artificial Life VII

    Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Artificial Life

    Mark A. Bedau, John S. McCaskill, Norman H. Packard, and Steen Rasmussen

    The term "artificial life" describes research into synthetic systems that possess some of the essential properties of life. This interdisciplinary field includes biologists, computer scientists, physicists, chemists, geneticists, and others. Artificial life may be viewed as an attempt to understand high-level behavior from low-level rules—for example, how the simple interactions between ants and their environment lead to complex trail-following behavior. An understanding of such relationships in particular systems can suggest novel solutions to complex real-world problems such as disease prevention, stock-market prediction, and data mining on the Internet.

    Since their inception in 1987, the Artificial Life meetings have grown from small workshops to truly international conferences, reflecting the field's increasing appeal to researchers in all areas of science.

    • Paperback $90.00 £70.00

Contributor

  • Synthetic Biology and Morality

    Synthetic Biology and Morality

    Artificial Life and the Bounds of Nature

    Gregory E. Kaebnick and Thomas H. Murray

    A range of views on the morality of synthetic biology and its place in public policy and political discourse.

    Synthetic biology, which aims to design and build organisms that serve human needs, has potential applications that range from producing biofuels to programming human behavior. The emergence of this new form of biotechnology, however, raises a variety of ethical questions—first and foremost, whether synthetic biology is intrinsically troubling in moral terms. Is it an egregious example of scientists “playing God”? Synthetic Biology and Morality takes on this threshold ethical question, as well as others that follow, offering a range of philosophical and political perspectives on the power of synthetic biology.

    The contributors consider the basic question of the ethics of making new organisms, with essays that lay out the conceptual terrain and offer opposing views of the intrinsic moral concerns; discuss the possibility that synthetic organisms are inherently valuable; and address whether, and how, moral objections to synthetic biology could be relevant to policy making and political discourse. Variations of these questions have been raised before, in debates over other biotechnologies, but, as this book shows, they take on novel and illuminating form when considered in the context of synthetic biology.

    Contributors John Basl, Mark A. Bedau, Joachim Boldt, John H. Evans, Bruce Jennings, Gregory E. Kaebnick, Ben Larson, Andrew Lustig, Jon Mandle, Thomas H. Murray, Christopher J. Preston, Ronald Sandler

    • Hardcover $42.00 £28.95
    • Paperback $25.00 £20.00