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ALIFE 2020 THEME: New Frontiers in AI: What can ALife offer AI?

The fields of AI and ALife share a common history and a common approach: true understanding of living systems can only be demonstrated by successfully re-creating them using biology and/or technology. But mind and life are two of the most mysterious systems known to us, so re-creating them is exceedingly challenging, exciting and, at times, surprising. Recently, AI has "thrown down the gauntlet" by making large strides forward in understanding some aspects of intelligence, and intelligence is one of many phenomena expressed by living systems; this suggests that more big discoveries are yet to come. So, we invite you to join us, July 2020, to continue the search for answers to life, the universe, and everything.
Dates - July 13-18, 2020
Location - Virtual
Organizers - Vermont Complex Systems Center, University of Vermont
Hashtag - #ALIFE2020


ALife is the flagship conference of the International Society for Artificial Life, which aims to bring together leading researchers and practitioners working on problems related to simulating and synthesizing complex phenomena in computation, biology, artificial intelligence, robotics, philosophy, and cognitive science, just to name a few. The ALife conference has a long history of encouraging multi-disciplinary collaboration across research, business, arts, and design and we look forward to upholding this long standing tradition at the ALife 2020 conference.

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.

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ALife 2020 will be a combination of:

  • Invited Lectures
  • Contributed Speaker Sessions
  • Lightning Talks
  • Satellite Workshops/Special Sessions & Tutorials
  • Poster Session and Art Sessions
  • Unconference Sessions

  • What Is Artifical Life?

    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
    Monday July 13 - Saturday July 18 Main Conference

  • Invited Speakers

    Melanie Mitchell

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    Professor, Computer Science, Portland State University; External Professor, Santa Fe Institute

    Sara Walker

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    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

    Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio

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    John J. Lee Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, Take School of Engineering and Applied ScienceCenter for Biosocial Complex Systems

    Michael Levin

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    Vannevar Bush Professor; Director, Allen Discovery Center at Tufts; Director, Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology, Department of Biology, Tufts University

    Luis Zaman

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    Assistant Professor at University of Michigan in Complex Systems and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

    Lee Cronin

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    Group Leader, Regius Chair of Chemistry, Cronin Laboratory, School of Chemistry, University of Glasgow

  • Organizers
    Hosting Organization:
    Vermont Complex Systems Center, University of Vermont
    Academic Conference Chair:
    Josh Bongard, Academic Conference Chair, Morphology, Evolution & Cognition Laboratory, Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Vermont
    General Conference Chair:
    Juniper Lovato, General Conference Chair, UVM Director of Partnerships and External Programs, Vermont Complex Systems Center
    Conference Co-Organizer:
    Laurent Hébert-Dufresne, Co-Organizer, Assistant Professor, UVM Department of Computer Science, The Vermont Complex Systems Center
    Radhakrishna Dasari, Technology Chair, University of Vermont
    Program Committee Chair:
    Lisa Soros, Postdoctoral Researcher, New York University
  • 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
    ALIFE 2020 CALLS

    Workshops/Tutorials/Special Sessions Submission Deadline: February 17, 2020
    Notification of Acceptance: March 1, 2020

    Contact email for queries:

    Deadline: 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.

    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:

    Deadline for submission of proposals: July 6, 2020 (artists will be notified on a rolling basis)

    Contact email for queries:

    Deadline for submissions: June 26, 2020

    Contact email for queries:

    Registration 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, 2020
    Becoming 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:

    Canadian resident:
    You are registered for the conference, and has issued a within-country travel advisory / restriction.

    Resident of other country:
    You are registered for the conference, and 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.