ALIFE 2020 THEME: New Frontiers in AI: What can ALife offer AI?
Location - Virtual
Organizers - Vermont Complex Systems Center, University of Vermont
Hashtag - #ALIFE2020
ABOUT ALIFE 2020
The first Artificial Life workshop was held in Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1987 and brought together a (now rather legendary) group of researchers from a wide range of disciplines to explore the latest advances in the synthesis and simulation of living systems. This seminal workshop, organized by LANL and the Santa Fe Institute, gave birth to the field of Artificial Life.
- Invited Lectures
- Contributed Speaker Sessions
- Lightning Talks
- Satellite Workshops/Special Sessions & Tutorials
- Poster Session and Art Sessions
- Unconference Sessions
- What Is Artifical Life? life-as-it-could-be
Artificial Life, according to Christopher Langton (ALife's first organizer) in ALife's inaugural proceedings publication, "is a field of study devoted to understanding life by attempting to abstract the fundamental dynamical principals underlying biological phenomena, and recreating these dynamics in other physical media-such as computers-making them accessible to new kinds of experimental manipulation and testing….
In addition to providing new ways to study the biological phenomena associated with life here on Earth, life-as-we-know-it, Artificial Life allows us to extend our studies to the larger domain of the “bio-logic” of possible life, life-as-it-could-be, whatever it might be made of and wherever it might be found in the universe.
Thus, Artificial Life is not only about studying existing life, but also about the possibility of synthesizing new life, within computers or other “artificial” media. The life that is realized in the alternative media will force us to broaden our understanding of the proper domain of biology to include self-organizing, evolving, and even “living” machines, regardless of the specific physical stuff of which they are constituted, or whether or not they are based upon the same chemical and physical principals as the life that has evolved here on Earth.”
- Program Schedule SCHEDULE OVERVIEWMonday July 13 - Saturday July 18 Main Conference
- Invited Speakers
Professor, Computer Science, Portland State University; External Professor, Santa Fe Institute×
Melanie Mitchell, Professor, Computer Science, Portland State University; External Professor, Santa Fe Institute
Melanie Mitchell is Professor of Computer Science at Portland State University, and External Professor and Co-Chair of the Science Board at the Santa Fe Institute. She attended Brown University, where she majored in mathematics and did research in astronomy, and the University of Michigan, where she received a Ph.D. in computer science. Her dissertation, in collaboration with her advisor Douglas Hofstadter, was the development of Copycat, a computer program that makes analogies.
Mitchell has held faculty or professional positions at the University of Michigan, the Santa Fe Institute, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the OGI School of Science and Engineering, and Portland State University. She is the author or editor of six books and numerous scholarly papers in the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and complex systems, including Complexity: A Guided Tour (Oxford, 2009), which won the 2010 Phi Beta Kappa Science Book Award. Her newest book, Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux) will be published in October 2019.
Mitchell originated the Santa Fe Institute's Complexity Explorer project, which offers online courses and other educational resources related to the field of complex systems.
Research and Interests
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer vision, cognitive science, complex systems.
Associate Professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration; Deputy Director, Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science; Associate Director, ASU-SFI Center for Biosocial Complex Systems×
Sara Walker, Associate Professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration; Deputy Director, Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science; Associate Director, ASU-SFI Center for Biosocial Complex Systems
Sara Walker is an astrobiologist and theoretical physicist interested in the origin of life and how to find life on other worlds. While there are many things to be solved, she is most interested in whether or not there are ‘laws of life’ - related to how information structures the physical world - that could universally describe life here on Earth and on other planets.
At Arizona State University she is Deputy Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, Associate Director of the ASU-Santa Fe Institute Center for Biosocial Complex Systems and Associate Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. She is also Co-founder of the astrobiology-themed social website SAGANet.org, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Blue Marble Space. She is active in public engagement in science, with appearances at the World Science Festival, and on "Through the Wormhole" and NPR's Science Friday
John J. Lee Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, Take School of Engineering and Applied ScienceCenter for Biosocial Complex Systems
Vannevar Bush Professor; Director, Allen Discovery Center at Tufts; Director, Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology, Department of Biology, Tufts University×
Michael Levin, Vannevar Bush Professor; Director, Allen Discovery Center at Tufts; Director, Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental, Biology
Department of Biology, Tufts University
The capacity to generate a complex organism from the single cell of a fertilized egg is one of the most amazing qualities of multicellular animals. The processes involved in laying out a basic body plan and defining the structures that will ultimately be formed depend upon a constant flow of information between cells and tissues. The Levin laboratory studies the molecular mechanisms cells use to communicate with one another in the 4-dimensional dynamical system known as the developing embryo. Through experimental approaches and mathematical modeling, we examine the processes governing large-scale pattern formation and biological information storage during animal embryogenesis. Our investigations are directed toward understanding the mechanisms of signaling between cells and tissues that allows a biological system to reliably generate and maintain a complex morphology. We study these processes in the context of embryonic development and regeneration, with a particular focus on the biophysics of cell behavior. In contrast to other groups focusing on gene expression networks and biochemical signaling factors, we are pursuing, at a molecular level, the roles of endogenous voltages, pH gradients, and ion fluxes as epigenetic carriers of morphological information. Using gain- and loss-of-function techniques to specifically modulate cells' ion flow we have the ability to regulate large-scale morphogenetic events relevant to limb formation, eye induction, etc. We believe this information will result in important clinical advances through harnessing the biophysical controls of cell behavior.
Assistant Professor at University of Michigan in Complex Systems and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology×
Luis Zaman, Assistant Professor at University of Michigan in Complex Systems and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.
I became interested in evolution because of an undergraduate computer science class. It's still amazing to me that we can bottle up evolution in an algorithm, and yet are still just scratching the surface of understanding the biodiversity and complexity it has produced.
One of the challenges is that evolution creates diversity and complexity, which then strongly influences further evolution. Untangling this feedback loop between what evolution produces and what then becomes selectively favorable motivates much of my work. Host-parasite coevolution is a prime instance of this complex feedback loop at what I consider the core of evolutionary biology.
Coming to evolutionary biology via computer science has left its marks on my academic interests. I study host-parasite coevolution using a mixture of computational and microbial experiments. I treat computer systems as another experimental system, much like E. coli and Elephants are two living systems that can be studied in surprisingly similar ways
Group Leader, Regius Chair of Chemistry, Cronin Laboratory, School of Chemistry, University of Glasgow×
Lee Cronin, Group Leader, Regius Chair of Chemistry, Cronin Laboratory, School of Chemistry, University of Glasgow
Lee Cronin was born in the UK and was fascinated with science and technology from an early age getting his first computer and chemistry set when he was 8 years old. This is when he first started thinking about programming chemistry and looking for inorganic aliens. He went to the University of York where he completed both a degree and PhD in Chemistry and then on to do post docs in Edinburgh and Germany before becoming a lecturer at the Universities of Birmingham, and then Glasgow where he has been since 2002 working up the ranks to become the Regius Professor of Chemistry in 2013 aged 39. He has one of the largest multidisciplinary chemistry-based research teams in the world, having raised over $35 M in grants and current income of $15 M. He has given over 300 international talks and has authored over 350 peer reviewed papers with recent work published in Nature, Science, and PNAS. He and his team are trying to make artificial life forms, find alien life, explore the digitization of chemistry, understand how information can be encoded into chemicals and construct chemical computers.
- Organizers Hosting Organization:Academic Conference Chair:Josh Bongard, Academic Conference Chair, Morphology, Evolution & Cognition Laboratory, Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Vermont×
My research interests can be broken down into two broad questions:
"How can we automatically design a robot with little human intervention?"
Imagine a robot-making machine is sent to Mars, and settles on Meridiani Planum. The machine detects that the ground is littered with boulders between 10 centimeters and 1 meter high. Should the machine build a robot with wheels or legs? If the robot should be able to not only observe its surrounding, but also manipulate objects (like drilling into rocks), how many manipulators should it have? What should the manipulators look like? Determining what the most appropriate kind of robot is for a particular task is tricky.
My PhD research was concerned with using evolutionary computation -- a computational search process -- to repeatedly test out different robot designs in a virtual environment. The computer observes the relative performance of these virtual robots, and throws away the bad designs, and makes slight changes (mutations) to the better designs. The computer repeats this process thousands of times, and if it's lucky, produces a robot design that is well suited to its particular task. More specifically, my research focussed on improving this computerized evolutionary process in order to produce better robots: I implemented a system, called Artificial Ontogeny, that 'grows' a virtual egg into a fully formed virtual adult robot. The adult robot is then evaluated against the task.
This approach then combines biological growth with biological evolution; an individual robot can learn and adapt to its virtual surroundings over its lifetime, while the robot population evolves over generations similar to how organisms grow and adapt to their surroundings, while species adapt over evolutionary time. (New Scientist article about my work.)
"How can we automatically create a model of a physical system?"
Consider the following exchange:
Q1: "Is it classified as a vegetable, animal, other or unknown?" A1: "Other"
Q2: "Does it usually have four corners?" A2: "No"
Q3: "Does it have cash value?" A3: "No"
Q4: "Does it move?" A4: "Yes"
Q5: "Does it grow over time?" A5: "Sometimes"
Q6: "Is it warm blooded?" A6: "No"
Q7: "Can you find it in a house?" A7: "No"
Q8: "Is it located in space?" A8: "No"
Q9: "Can you play with it?" A9: "No"
Q10: "Is it useful?" A10: "Sometimes"
Q11: "Is it tall?" A11: "Sometimes"
Q12: "Is it white?" A12: "Yes"
Q13: "Can it bend without breaking?" A13: "Unknown"
Q14: "Is it shiny?" A14: "No"
Q15: "Is it annoying?" A15: "No"
Q16: "Is it a specific color?" A16: "Yes"
Q17: "Do you love it?" A17: "No"
Q18: "Are you thinking of a cloud?" A18: "Yes"
(Courtesy of 20Q.net)
How did the questioner figure out that the answerer was thinking of a cloud? The answerer in this case was a human; the questioner was a computer program. The ability of the program to guess what the person was thinking of lies in the ability to ask the right questions.
My second line of research is developing software that can 'ask the right questions' of physical systems like walking robots, biological organisms and manmade structures. In other words, we are developing software that generates useful experiments that, when carried out on the target system, reveal hidden, internal information about that system. The algorithm we are developing to perform this intelligent questioning is called the Estimation-Exploration Algorithm, or EEA.
Consider an example. In one application, we are trying to unravel gene regulation pathways in bacteria. We know how many genes a bacteria like Eschericia coli has, but we don't know how the genes influence each others behavior. We can, however, gain indirect information about how genes influence each other by presenting the bacteria with particular stimuli, like presenting them with a large amount of nutrients, and then recording how the protein levels in the bacteria changes over time as they digest the nutrients. These protein changes can then help us to construct a model of which genes influence which other genes.
So by performing intelligent tests on a physical system, we can accomplish two things: we can build a model of the physical system (automated inference), and, by using that model, get the physical system to perform desired behavior (automated synthesis), such as getting a robot to carry out some desired task. We are currently applying this algorithm to a number of problem domains, and extending the algorithm so that can infer the structure of, or synthesize behaviors for, increasingly complex systems.
General Conference Chair:Juniper Lovato, General Conference Chair, UVM Director of Partnerships and External Programs, Vermont Complex Systems Center×
At the Vermont Complex Systems Center, Juniper works across generations and geographical limits to make resources and knowledge on cutting-edge complexity science more accessible to those with a hunger and curiosity for learning and exploration. Juniper came to Burlington in 2018. She previously served as the Director of Education for the Santa Fe Institute, an independent complexity science research center. She is also a co-founder of MAKE Santa Fe, a not-for-profit community makerspace in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Juniper received her Master’s in the Western Classics from St. John’s College in 2013 where she completed a thesis on the nature of pleasure in work in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.
Conference Co-Organizer:Laurent Hébert-Dufresne, Co-Organizer, Assistant Professor, UVM Department of Computer Science, The Vermont Complex Systems Center×
Laurent studies the interaction of structure and dynamics. His research involves network theory, statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics along with their applications in epidemiology, ecology, biology, and sociology. Recent projects include comparing complex networks of different nature, the coevolution of human behavior and infectious diseases, understanding the role of forest shape in determining stability of tropical forests, as well as the impact of echo chambers in political discussions.
Radha comes to CEMS from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He earned a master's degree in computer science in 2013, worked as a research intern at Huawei Media Lab in 2014 and served as a graduate instructor for three summer semesters 2016-2018. His areas of expertise include Computer Vision and Image Processing, Machine Learning and Multimedia Systems. Radha has three years of work experience in software engineering, prior to his graduate study.
Program Committee Chair:×
Lisa Soros is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Game Innovation Lab at New York University. She was formerly a PhD student in the Evolutionary Complexity Resarch group at the University of Central Florida and an Assitant Professor at Champlain College. Her research focuses on understanding and engineering open-ended generative systems. She is also the Secretary for the International Society for Artificial Life.
- Virtual Conference Format
VIRTUAL CONFERENCE FORMAT
Format for online conference: The ALife 2020 Conference will be a fully virtual experience this year. We see this as an opportunity to explore and experiment with virtual environments and really test the boundaries of an online conference. We are excited for the challenge and we hope that you and the rest of the community will join us in this virtual exploration. We are working very hard to make sure we replicate as best as possible the social experience and networking of a face-to-face conference, we are organizing MANY virtual social activities and networking events for you to participate in. We are really trying to be experimental with this portion of the conference so some of the social activities may be a little weird but also super fun! : )
Making all this run smoothly will require us to use several different virtual tools and we thank you all for your support and kindness as we venture into the virtual conference experience. We hope to integrate all of these tools as seamlessly as we can and will be sure there is plenty of instructional information and training on how to use them prior to the conference. We will be asking your feedback via a post program survey on this experience so please let us know what works and what doesn’t, we want to be able to share this information with the scientific community so that future virtual conferences can benefit from our experience.
What your typical virtual conference experience will look like:
Prior to the Conference:
Pre-Conference Survey: We want your feedback on how you would like us to organize this virtual experience, please complete this very short survey here. Thank you this information is really valuable to the organizers!
Access the Conference Online Portal: You will experience the virtual conference through our online portal. Each participant will be given a pin to log-in and access the conference content.
Sign-up for an ALife 2020 Tech Training Session: we will be hosting training sessions to help you navigate the ALife 2020 conference space and to familiarize you with Zoom, Youtube, and Slack. These are all great tools to learn professionally and we hope that by the end of these sessions you will be using them like a pro! We will be here for you during the whole process and available during the conference for any technical difficulties.
Watch Recordings of Lectures: All Conference talks will be recorded and posted online after the original presentation if you cannot make it to the live presentation. Links to these videos will be posted on the conference virtual portal and will be hosted on unlisted playlists on YouTube. If you are in a country that does not support viewing from YouTube please contact us and we will give you access through other means.
During the Conference:
Join the livestream via Zoom: (you will not need a zoom account to access this content). Each conference activity (plenary, contributed talks, satellites, keynotes, posters, and unconference sessions etc.) will have a live session where you can watch lectures and engage in discussion with speakers, you can find a schedule of these sessions on the website. These sessions will be at key times throughout the day and will include a live Q&A and discussion. To speak up during a live session, you can either raise your hand in Zoom and then speak directly or write comments into the chat function. Each session will have a session chair who will moderate the discussion. If you cannot make the live session, not to fear, we will be recording the live sessions, and you can submit questions for the speakers via the ALife Slack Workspace.
Log into ALife 2020 Slack Workspace: the Slack workspace will be a great way to have discussion across time zones, to submit questions to the live sessions (via a slack plugin called Slido which allows you to submit questions and upvote them), and to start making connections with other ALifers. We hope that this can turn into a robust community that lives on after the conference and is a space where you can share papers, post jobs, and ask questions to the community. We encourage you to make this space fun, share memes, be silly, and make it your own.
Partake in Social Activities: We will be hosting many virtual social activities, you can find a full list of these on the conference website and we will be adding more activities as we get closer to the conference. We want to replicate social interaction and networking as much as possible so push yourself to engage in these activities and the Slack workspace as much as possible.
Serendipitous Collisions: We will be hosting small networking sessions called Serendipitous Collisions where you will be paired with a random participant and have a short chat. Just like you would while networking at a coffee session. A sign up sheet for time slots will be released shortly.
Post Conference Activity:
Post-Conference Survey: We will be asking your feedback via a post program survey on this experience so please let us know what works and what doesn’t, we want to be able to share this information with the scientific community so that future virtual conferences can benefit from our experience.
Proceedings: all published proceedings will be published by MIT Press and will be available to all ISAL society members. Did you know that by attending ALife 2020 you automatically become an ISAL member for one year, cool right!?
Twitter Conference: Once the proceedings are released we will be hosting an informal ALife 2020 Twitter Conference where we will post the video link, link to author’s papers, and @ the author (for those who want to participate) so that the larger scientific community can discuss the work on twitter and ask questions. We hope this will inspire lively discussion and help spread the word about your awesome publications!
- Important Deadlines DeadlinesALIFE 2020 CALLS
CALL FOR WORKSHOPS, TUTORIALS, AND SPECIAL SESSIONSWorkshops/Tutorials/Special Sessions Submission Deadline: February 17, 2020
Notification of Acceptance: March 1, 2020
Contact email for queries: firstname.lastname@example.org
CALL FOR PAPERS AND ABSTRACTSDeadline: May 1, 2020
For the submission deadline, we will wait to close the submission EasyChair site until after 11:59pm May 1st has passed anywhere in the world. https://time.is/Anywhere_on_Earth
We know you are all working very hard to get submissions in and want to be flexible. Please reach out if you have any issues submitting.
Notification of acceptance: May 31, 2020
Camera Ready Submission Due: June 20, 2020
Contact email for queries: email@example.com
CALL FOR ART, ROBOTICS DISPLAYS, AND VISUALIZATIONSDeadline for submission of proposals: July 6, 2020 (artists will be notified on a rolling basis)
Contact email for queries: firstname.lastname@example.orgALIFE 2020 REGISTRATION
REGISTRATION INFORMATION AND DEADLINESRegistration fees include: access to the conference. There is no separate payment for the main conference, workshops, and other related sessions.Early-Bird Registration Deadline: June 8, 2020Becoming an ISAL Member: If you would like to become a member of ISAL before registering please visit the ISAL website
- ALife Poster
- Conference Anti-Harrasment Policy Anti Harassment Policy:
This policy is adapted from the example available from the one written and promoted by the Ada Initiative co-founders.
ALIFE 2020 is dedicated to providing a harassment-free workshop experience for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, race, or religion. We do not tolerate harassment of conference participants in any form. Sexual language and imagery is not appropriate for any workshop venue, including presentations. Conference participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the ALIFE 2020 at the discretion of the conference organizers. Harassment includes: offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, race, religion; sexual images in public spaces; deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording; sustained disruption of talks or other events; inappropriate physical contact; unwelcome sexual attention. Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately. We expect participants to follow these rules at all time. If a participant engages in harassing behavior, the conference organizers may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or expulsion from the conference. If you are being harassed, or notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact a ALIFE 2020 organizer immediately. We value your attendance.
- Conference COVID-19 Policy IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT ALIFE 2020: As you know, over the last few weeks, the ALife organizing team has been continuously monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak and its potential impact on the ALife 2020 conference in Montréal. After serious discussions with the ISAL board, we have decided to move all ALife 2020 activities to virtual environments; for the physical and financial health of our community.
We will be releasing many more details about this in the following days so stay tuned here or follow us on twitter for updates and information.
We have also decided to extend the submission deadline to accommodate those who would like to contribute to the conference proceedings but could not previously attend physically or would have missed the deadline due to COVID-19. The new deadline is May 1.
In the event of cancelling the physical conference for the safety of our community, we will hold a virtual version of the conference as well as continue with the full published proceedings. So please plan to submit your abstracts and papers by the March 18th deadline. Early registration is April 30 and we will be making final decisions about the conference before that date so there is plenty of time to still book travel and lodging. For the latest updates about the conference please follow us on Twitter or sign up for our newsletter here.
ALife 2020 (COVID-19) Registration Cancellation Policy:
At any time between now and the start of the conference, the organizers may decide to cancel the conference to help minimize the spread of coronavirus in which case all participants will be reimbursed (with a $50 cancellation fee) and given the option to register for the virtual conference. If the conference is not cancelled but travel is limited, we will issue coronavirus related reimbursements (with a $50 cancellation fee) only under the following conditions:
You are registered for the conference, and
travel.gc.ca has issued a within-country travel advisory / restriction.
Resident of other country:
You are registered for the conference, and
travel.gc.ca has issued an in-bound advisory / restriction from your country or
your government has issued an out-bound advisory /restriction to Canada.
If you qualify under the conditions above, please contact the organizers as soon as possible to obtain a reimbursement.
The organizers cannot provide reimbursements for any other costs incurred in preparing to attend ALife.