Being and appearance, or the omnipresence of algorithms

Luís Moniz Pereira, António Barata Lopes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In classical Philosophy, it was generally assumed that there were unifying essences behind the appearance of diversity. Plato and Aristotle, each in their own way, developed a whole Metaphysics grounded on this idea. A way to update such a conception, with the evolutionary nuances known today, can be established on the notion of the algorithm. All living beings execute algorithms, be it in the definition of an individual organism, their inclusion in a species, or their behavioural realm. The difference between them and cognitive machines lies in the fact that biological algorithms are coded and regulated in DNA sequences, whereas machine algorithms are coded with zeros and ones. The question is: from a strictly functional standpoint, will there be much difference between biological and digital coding? The answer is complex and leads us to a difference between closed algorithms, which enable us to perform predetermined functions, and algorithms with learning and self-modifying capabilities. Finally, we deem it necessary to reflect on the social and cultural consequences of the excessive use of algorithms on human life.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMachine Ethics
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-39630-5
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-39629-9
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameStudies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics
ISSN (Print)2192-6255
ISSN (Electronic)2192-6263


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