Tuesday, August 20, 2013

David Krakauer - Cognitive Ubiquity: The Evolution of Intelligence on Earth

This series of video lectures comes from the Santa Fe Institute's Stanislaw Ulam Memorial Lecture Series (2011 edition). In three lectures, SFI Professor David Krakauer explored the extraordinarily convergent theories from mathematics, physics, computation, and biology describing the emergence of intelligence, and speculates about the future for biological intelligence in a world of distributed thinking machines.

This is his Research Quasi-Statement
My research is concerned with the evolutionary history of information processing mechanisms in biology and culture, with an emphasis on robust information transmission, signaling dynamics and their role in constructing novel, higher level features. The research spans several levels of organization finding analogous processes in genetics, cell biology, microbiology and in organismal behavior and society. At the cellular level I have been interested in molecular processes, which rely on volatile, error-prone, asynchronous, mechanisms, which can be used as a basis for decision making and patterning. I also investigate how signaling interactions at higher levels, including microbial and organismal, are used to coordinate complex life cycles and social systems, and under what conditions we observe the emergence of proto-grammars. Much of this work is motivated by the search for 'noisy-design' principles in biology and culture emerging through evolutionary dynamics that span hierarchical structures. In addition to general principles there is a need to provide an explicit theory of evolutionary history, a theory of memory accounting for those incompressible regularities revealed once the regular components have been subtracted.

Research projects includes work on the molecular logic of signaling pathways, the evolution of genome organization (redundancy, multiple encoding, quantization and compression), robust communication over networks, the evolution of distributed forms of biological information processing, dynamical memory systems, the logic of transmissible regulatory networks (such as virus life cycles) and the many ways in which organisms construct their environments (niche construction). Thinking about niche constructing niches provides us with a new perspective on the major evolutionary transitions.

Many of these areas are characterized by the need to encode heritable information (genetic, epigenetic, auto-catalytic or linguistic) at distinct levels of biological organization, where selection pressures are often independent or in conflict. Furthermore, components are noisy and degrade and interactions are typically diffusively coupled. At each level I ask how information is acquired, stored, transmitted, replicated, transformed and robustly encoded. With collaborators I am engaged in projects applying insights from biological information processing to electronic, engineered systems.

The big question that many of us are asking is what will evolutionary theory look like once it has become integrated with the sciences of adaptive information, and of course, what will these sciences then look like?

I am Professor at SFI, and Chair of the Faculty for the period 2009-2011.
This stuff is a bit geeky, but it's also very cool. Follow the links below to see each of the three videos (or download them from iTunesU with the link provided.

Video: Cognitive ubiquity - The evolution of intelligence on Earth

Sept. 12, 2011 2:35 p.m.

Stanislaw Ulam Memorial Lecture Series

From the formation of the earth from interstellar dust it has taken just under five billion years for matter to be able to speculate about its own origins. But how did intelligence come to be, and what is intelligence anyway?

In three SFI Community Lectures over three nights, SFI Professor David Krakauer explored the extraordinarily convergent theories from mathematics, physics, computation, and biology describing the emergence of intelligence, and speculates about the future for biological intelligence in a world of distributed thinking machines.

Download the lecture videos here via iTunesU.

Watch Part One: "The adversarial quartet" (69 minutes, Tuesday, August 30, 2011) - Starting with our efforts to define and measure order and intelligence, Krakauer surveys key ideas from the history of mathematics, physics, computation, and biology that have extraordinarily converged on very similar explanations for adaptive behavior.

Watch Part Two: "Invasion of the inferential cell" (84 minutes, Wednesday, August 31, 2011) - Krakauer recounts the evolution of life on Earth focusing on the advent of increasingly complex forms of behavior and thought, identifying the common principles of intelligent biological systems.

Watch Part Three: "All watched over by machines of loving grace" (92 minutes, Thursday, September 1, 2011) - Krakauer considers the future of biological intelligence in a world of distributed machine intelligence, where there is a prospect of new cultural mechanisms capable of eclipsing the analytical capabilities of our own species.

SFI’s Ulam Memorial Lecture series is named for Polish mathematician and Manhattan Project contributor Stanislaw Ulam (1909-1984).

The 2011 Ulam Lectures were generously underwritten by the Peters Family Foundation. Support for SFI's 2011 Community Lecture series is provided by Los Alamos National Bank.

  • Listen to an interview with Krakauer on KSFR's Radio Cafe (August 30, 2011)
  • Read the Santa Fe New Mexican article (August 30, 2011)


Krakauer's suggested reading list follows:

Part One
  • The Universal History of Numbers: From Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer, by Georges Ifrah (2005)
  • Who's in Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain, by Michael S. Gazzaniga (2011)
  • Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On The Matter Of The Mind, by Gerald M. Edelman (1993)
  • I Am a Strange Loop, by Douglas R. Hofstadter (2008)
  • The Mismeasure of Man (revised & expanded), by Stephen Jay Gould (paperback - June 17, 1996)

Part Two
  • The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain, by Terrence W. Deacon (paperback - April 17, 1998)
  • Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension (Philosophy of Mind), by Andy Clark (hardcover - October 29, 2008)
  • Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness, by Nicholas Humphrey (hardcover - February 20, 2011)
  • Wetware: A Computer in Every Living Cell, by Dennis Bray (paperback - March 1, 2011)

Part Three
  • Chess Metaphors: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Mind, by Diego Rasskin-Gutman and Deborah Klosky (hardcover - July 10, 2009)
  • The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World, by David Deutsch (hardcover - July 21, 2011)
  • The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive, by Brian Christian (hardcover - March 1, 2011)
  • You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto (Vintage), by Jaron Lanier (February 8, 2011)
  • The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr (June 6, 2011)
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