Eski Yunan'dan αυτό (auto) kendi ve ποίησις (poiesis) yaratma, yaratım, üretme, üretim. Kelime anlamı olarak ise “kendi-üreten” ya da “kendi-üretilen”. Terim Şilili biyologlar Humberto Maturana ve Francisco Varela tarafından ortaya atılmıştır 1). Buna göre;
An autopoietic machine is a machine organized (defined as a unity) as a network of processes of production (transformation and destruction) of components which: (i) through their interactions and transformations continuously regenerate and realize the network of processes (relations) that produced them; and (ii) constitute it (the machine) as a concrete unity in space in which they (the components) exist by specifying the topological domain of its realization as such a network.