Meeting Description: A major transition in evolution, which has taken place in different groups and throughout different types of mechanisms and levels, is the emergence of cognitive systems capable of dealing with a complex world. The emergence of the nervous system is exemplified by the rise of brains from simple groups of cells sensing simple signals to highly evolved, integrated assemblies of many interconnected neurons. The evolution of a nervous system not only changed the way that information was processed, stored and used but also altered the nature of the individuals in which it was present. Moreover, it also led to a new type of heredity—social and cultural heredity—based on the transmission of behaviourally acquired information. But neural-like systems and interactions seem to pervade a wide range of cognitive living and designed systems that can somewhat be described as “liquid brains”, where agents (from cells in biofilms and the immune system to ants or robot swarms) move and interact within a spatial domain with no stable pairwise links. Similarly, networks of computing connected elements can be described in plants or even non-neuronal systems such as Physarum. Are there universal laws associated to these broad types of cognitive networks? How does the physical nature of the underlying interactions affect the nature elf computations performed? The working group will start a first interdisciplinary approach to this and other fundamental questions.
This workshop is supported in part by the John Temple Foundation.