To: Biology, Engineering and Philosophy Lists
Reposted Message From: Arantza Etxeberria
Subject: Artificial Life Workshop Announcement
Date: Mon, 18 Oct 93 10:48:42 BST

"Artificial Life: a Bridge towards a New Artificial Intelligence"

Palacio de Miramar (San Sebastian, Spain)
December 10th and 11th, 1993

Workshop organised by the Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science,
Faculty of Computer Science & Institute of Logic, Cognition, Language
and Information (ILCLI) of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)

Directors: Alvaro Moreno (University of the Basque Country)
Francisco Varela (CREA, Paris)

This Workshop will be dedicated to a discussion of the impact of works
on Artifical Life in Artificial Intelligence. Artificial Intelligence
(AI) has traditionally attempted to study cognition as an abstract
phenomenon using formal tools, that is, as a disembodied process that
can be grasped through formal operations, independent of the nature of
the system that displays it. Cognition appears as an abstract
representation of reality. After several decades of research in this
direction the field has encountered several problems that have taken it
to what many consider a "dead end": difficulties in understanding
autonomous and situated agencies, in relating behaviour in a real
environment, in studying the nature and evolution of perception, in
finding a pragmatic approach to explain the operation of most cognitive
capacities such as natural language, context dependent action, etc.

Artificial Life (AL) has recently emerged as a confluence of very
different fields trying to study different kinds of phenomena of living
systems using computers as a modelling tool, and, at last, trying to
artificially (re)produce a living or a population of living systems in
real or computational media. Examples of such phenomena are prebiotic
systems and their evolution, growth and development, self-reproduction,
adaptation to an environment, evolution of ecosystems and natural
selection, formation of sensory-motor loops, autonomous robots. Thus,
AL is having an impact on classic life sciences but also on the
conceptual foundations of AI and new methodological ideas to Cognitive

The aim of this Workshop is to focus on the last two points and to
evaluate the influence of the methodology and concepts appearing in AL
for the development of a new ideas about cognition that could
eventually give birth to a new Artificial Intelligence. Some of the
sessions consist on presentations and replies on a specific subject by
invited speakers while others will be debates open to all participants
in the workshop.


* A review of the problems of FUNCTIONALISM in Cognitive Science
and Artificial Life.
* Modelling Neural Networks through Genetic Algorithms.
* Autonomy and Robotics.
* Consequences of the crisis of the representational models of cognition.
* Minimal Living System and Minimal Cognitive System
* Artificial Life systems as problem solvers
* Emergence and evolution in artificial systems

P. Husbands
G. Kampis
B. Mac Mullin
D. Parisi
T. Smithers
E. Thompson
F. Varela

Further Information: Alvaro Moreno
Apartado 1249

E. Mail:
Fax: 34 43 311056
Phone: 34 43 310600 (extension 221)
34 43 218000 (extension 209)

Harnad Abstract (others not yet available to poster)


Stevan Harnad
Laboratoire Cognition et Mouvement
URA CNRS 1166 I.B.H.O.P.
Universite d'Aix Marseille II
13388 Marseille cedex 13, France

ABSTRACT: Both Artificial Life and Artificial Mind are branches of what
Dennett has called "reverse engineering": Ordinary engineering attempts
to build systems to meet certain functional specifications; reverse
bioengineering attempts to understand how systems that have already
been built by the Blind Watchmaker work. Computational modelling
(virtual life) can capture the formal principles of life, perhaps
predict and explain it completely, but it can no more BE alive than a
virtual forest fire can be hot. In itself, a computational model is
just an ungrounded symbol system; no matter how closely it matches the
properties of what is being modelled, it matches them only formally,
with the mediation of an interpretation. Synthetic life is not open to
this objection, but it is still an open question how close a functional
equivalence is needed in order to capture life. Close enough to fool
the Blind Watchmaker is probably close enough, but would that require
molecular indistinguishability, and if so, do we really need to go that far?