Engineering Life

Imaginaries of Life-likeness


The registration takes place via RWTH Online and is possible until October 15th. Further information about the registration process can be found in our FAQ.

All students can register for one module. You can specify two preferences. Please use the numbers “1” and “2”. If you have not been assigned a place in the project after the end of the assignment and are still interested in participating, please contact sibel.yildirim[@]ipw.rwth-aachen.de directly.

(If you have any problems with the registration or with RWTHonline, please contact Mrs. Sibel Yildirim (IPW), also stating your matriculation number: sibel.yildirim@ipw.rwth-aachen.de)

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Academic Responsibility


Chair for „Technology and Society“; Speaker of the Human Technology Center; Director of ‘Käte Hamburger College’: „Cultures of Research“; Member of the Steering Committee of the profile area Energy, Chemical and Process Engineering
RWTH Aachen



Chair for Science of Technology and Philosophy of Science; Director of the ‘Käte Hamburger College: „Cultures of Research“; Pro dean for Research of the Faculty of Philosophy; Member of the Steering Committee of the profile area Production Engineering
RWTH Aachen



Managing Director of the KHK (Administration) 
RWTH Aachen

Contact Person





Wednesday, 5:00-6:30 p.m.


  • primarily online
  • Two block appointments (workshops) on site:

Theaterstraße 75 
‘Lecture Hall’ at “Käte Hamburger Kolleg” – Cultures of Research

Dear students, since specifically this “Leonardo” course will be limited to 30 participants, please do only register, if you will be able to attend the two seminar sessions on site, as well.


What model drives the design of contemporary technologies?
“Life-likeness” is one of the most insightful challenges that recent and fast technological transformation is revealing. The term refers to representations or imitations of a living being. In fields such as robotics, new materials or synthetic biology, the imitation of the living has become increasingly complex, since, more than merely representing what we understand that life is, we now seem to transform our construal of life through technology. Does life have a given form or is it merely interpreted by humans as determinate? Life-likeness is, so to say, in the eye of the beholder. Throughout history, humans have shown an enduring fascination with the creation of human-like entities, as suggested by the ancient myths, such as that of Pygmalion and Galatea, and technological efforts from ancient mechanical robots to, currently, synthetic cells . We show fascination and fear towards human-likeness, as revealed by what has been termed the uncanny valley: humans experience unsettling feelings when perceiving simulations that closely resemble us. With recent advances in Artificial Intelligence, these questions are at gaining urgency. It is difficult to explain AI not because it is artificial, but because intelligence, in general, is difficult, if not impossible, to explain. Are we projecting human ideas of intelligence? Can we think of non-human forms of intelligence? How would they shape our technological imaginations? Any progress in understanding AI offers important insights on into the more difficult topic of intelligence, in general. The interrogation of life-likeness is an important pathway in this pursuit, as it leads to insights into concepts of life aside what the natural sciences classically posited. As such, this course will explore life-likeness through the prisms of natural, life and technical sciences (e.g., robotics); humanities (anthropology; questions on meaning-making, as stemming from biosemiotics); the arts and art history; science journalism and scientific illustration, as loci of mediation and representation of this conception.             

Learning Outcomes

  • students acquire basic ideas about ‘life-likeness’, its forms and specific features
  • students observe a broad variety of relations to otherness, in contemporary pursuits, such as Artificial Intelligence
  • students can explain why different perspectives of science studies (philosophy of science, sociology of science, history of science, media studies …) provide valuable insights into understanding the phenomenon of ‘life-likeness’
  • students reflect on how phenomena of ‘life-likeness’ are not only scientific but political ones as well
  • students can explain how the distinction between natural and artificial is becoming increasingly blurred 
    students learn to give constructive feedback in an interdisciplinary field of study

Dates/ Program

“Life From Scratch”
Prof. Dr. Gabriele Gramelsberger (workshop on site)

“Robot, a Laboratory ‘Animal’: Producing Knowledge Through and About Human-Robot Interaction”
Dr. Andrei Korbut
Sociology, Human-Robot Interaction

“Neuromorphic Computing: Inspiration From the Brain for Future AI Technologies”
Prof. Dr. Emre Neftci
Neuromorphic Engineering, Computational Neuroscience

“Art’s Mediation as Remediation: On Some Artworks and Their Reuses of Toxic Materials”
Prof. Dr. Esther Leslie
Political Theory in Aesthetics, Poetics of Science

“Towards an Ecology of Technoscience”
(Assist.) Prof. Dr. Massimiliano Simons
Philosophy of Biology and Technology

“Flowers for Agouti: Epigenetics and the Genealogy of Uplift”
Dr. Ben Woodward (ICI Berlin)
Philosophy / History of Science

[Workshop Title]
Univ. Prof. Dr. Stephan Böschen (workshop on site)

“Bio-Inspired Materials and Dreams of Inspiration” 
Prof. Dr. Dr. Michael Friedmann
Philosophy of Science, History of Mathematics


Titel der Veranstaltung




Titel der Veranstaltung


Procedure/Working method​

Depending on your curriculum, we provide credit points directly or via certificate, in case of a valid examination result. Of course, you can also take exams without receiving curricular credit for them. Visit our FAQs for more information.



Certificate of Participation (0 CP, not graded)


Protocol with Analysis (2 CP, not graded)

Project "Leonardo“: Protocol with Analysis

Questionnaire (3 CP, not graded)

Project "Leonardo": Presentation

Essay (4 CP, graded)

Project "Leonardo": Study Paper

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