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Keynote Speakers

Listed  in the alphabetical order.


James Dyke

The autonomous Earth: How humans created a planetary civilisation that is beyond their control


James Dyke is an academic, writer and author. He is an Assistant Director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter where he also leads the MSc Global Sustainability Solutions. He writes an environmental column for the UK newspaper i and is a contributor to the Guardian, Independent, Ecologist, The Conversation and many other publications. His first book “Fire Storm and Flood: the violence of climate change” will be published in August 2021. James conducted his doctoral research at the Centre for Computational Neuroscience & Robotics at the University of Sussex, and then held posts at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany, and the Centre for Complex Systems Simulation at the University of Southampton.


Jessica Flack

Complexity begets complexity


Jessica Flack is a professor at the Santa Fe Institute, director of SFI's Collective Computation Group (C4), chief editor of the new, transdisciplinary journal, Collective Intelligence, and, previously, was founding director of University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Complexity and Collective Computation in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. Flack is interested in the roles of information processing and collective computation in the emergence of robust but evolvable structure and function in biological and social systems. This work sits at the intersection of evolutionary theory, statistical mechanics, information theory, theoretical computer science and cognitive science. Flack's work has been covered in many publications and media outlets, including the BBC, NPR, Nature, Science, The Economist, New Scientist, Current Biology, The Atlantic, and Quanta Magazine. Flack also writes popular science articles on collective behavior and complexity science for magazines like Aeon. In 2020 her work with several collaborators including Nihat Ay and David Krakauer on the information theory of individuality was chosen as a science breakthrough of the year by Quanta Magazine.


David Ha

World Models and Attention for Reinforcement Learning


Consciousness and the concept of internal mental models are foundational topics in neuroscience and psychology. Yet, we do not understand them well enough to engineer artificial lifeforms that are conscious. In this talk, I will be discussing a line of work on developing “world models” for artificial agents. Such world models construct an abstract representation of the agent’s world that helps it navigate in its environment. We will be discussing the use of world models and attention as a form of bottleneck for an artificial agent, connecting this line of work with ideas and techniques from computational evolution and artificial life. The goal of the talk is to encourage the development of artificial life that incorporates a form of internal mental model, which will be a stepping stone for creating conscious machines.


Jana Horáková

Homage to R.U.R.: 100 Ways to Play a Robot


Jana Horáková graduated from theatre studies and now she is an associate professor in new media art at Masaryk University, Czech Republic. She has specialised in robotic art, robotic performance, and new media art. She is an author of a book "Robot as Robot", in which she focused on Karel Čapek’s play R.U.R. from perspective of differences in staging and reception of Robots as well as on the Robot character appropriation by science-fiction writers and scientists. She presented her findings worldwide, at international conferences, and in scientific journals. Recently, she spoke about Robots at European Researchers' Night 2020, and she was interviewed for BBS to discuss 100 years of Čapek's play about Robots.


Iyad Rahwan

Experiments in Machine Behavior


Iyad Rahwan is a director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, where he founded and directs the Center for Humans & Machines. He is also an honorary professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Technical University of Berlin. Until June 2020, he was an Associate Professor of Media Arts & Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A native of Aleppo, Syria, Rahwan holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne, Australia.


Daniela Rus

Soft Robots: Increasing Robot Diversity with Soft Materials


Daniela Rus is the Andrew (1956) and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT, and Deputy Dean of Research in the Schwarzman College of Computing at MIT. Rus' research interests are in robotics and artificial intelligence. The key focus of her research is to develop the science and engineering of autonomy. Rus is a Class of 2002 MacArthur Fellow, a fellow of ACM, AAAI and IEEE, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a senior visiting fellow at MITRE Corporation. She is the recipient of the Engelberger Award for robotics. She earned her PhD in Computer Science from Cornell University.


Mike Russell

Order from Order: How Life Emerged from a Convection-driven Submarine Spring


Mike Russell is a geologist who works on the origin of life. He is the originator of the theory that life emerged at alkaline submarine hydrothermal vents. He was NASA Senior Research Fellow at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, and a member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute from 2006 until 2019. Russell was an undergraduate in geology at Queen Mary College of the University of London, took his PhD in geochemistry at University of Durham, taught at the University of Glasgow, and was a visiting Professor at the University of Grenoble. Russell has appeared on BBC programmes including Life on Mars and Origin of Life.


Andrew Steele

Ageing in artificial and real life: can we code a cure?


Andrew Steele is a scientist and author of Ageless: The new science of getting older without getting old. After a PhD in physics from the University of Oxford, Andrew decided that ageing was the single most important scientific challenge of our time, and switched fields to computational biology. After five years using machine learning to investigate DNA and NHS medical records, he is now a full-time writer, presenter and campaigner.


Tim Taylor

Weird Tales: Early Visions of Machines That Can Reproduce and Evolve, and Their Relevance Today


Tim Taylor is a scientist, author, and coder, based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He pursues research and development in artificial life, agent-based modelling and artificial intelligence, and also has a deep interest in the history of these fields. He has held research positions in various leading universities in the UK and Australia, including Edinburgh, York, Goldsmiths and Monash. His book “Rise of the Self-Replicators: Early Visions of Machines, AI and Robots That Can Reproduce and Evolve”, co-authored with Alan Dorin, was published in 2020. He currently works part-time (and remotely) as a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Data Science and AI at Monash University, Australia, while also progressing his own research and writing interests as an independent researcher. He is an associate examiner for the University of London, and an elected board member of the International Society for Artificial Life.

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