The "Altenberg Workshops in Theoretical Biology" address key questions of biological theories. Each workshop is organized by leading experts of a certain field who invite a group of international specialists to the KLI. The Altenberg Workshops aim to make conceptual progress and to generate initiatives of a distinctly interdisciplinary nature.
There are two kinds of evolving, developing, and functionally organized entities in our world: biological organisms and technical artifacts. At a somewhat higher level, the parallel goes on with ecosystems and socio-technical systems. It is not astonishing, then, to find in the history of philosophy, but also in biology and in technology, many attempts to use entities of one kind as a model or explanation of the other. The transfer goes in both directions – cf. the machine metaphor for biological organisms and the evolutionary account of technological development. More than such controversial transfers, the comparison of organisms and technical artifacts with respect to special problems turned out to be fruitful in gaining a better understanding of organisms and artifacts. For example, teleological (teleonomic) behavior was described as a matter of self-regulation for both domains; symbolic processes were analyzed for both kinds of entities at the very beginning of thinking about artificial intelligence. More recently, advantage could be taken from such a comparison with respect to concepts of biological and technological functionality. During the last years the topic is vividly discussed in literature.