A September 27–29 workshop, the Complex Time General Conference on Immortality, meets to explore general patterns for lifespan across scales, from organisms, the mind, and behavior, to civilizations and star systems. The organizers hope to challenge preconceptions about immortality and, eventually, develop a general theory of longevity.
The past 20 years have seen rapid changes in our social networks, and our individual behaviors are now maladapted. To respond to these changes as a society, we first need a better understanding of how groups alter their decision-making strategies and beliefs to cope with emerging problems. A September 12–14 workshop, part of SFI’s CounterBalance Series and funded by Siegel Family Foundation, is convening scientists from a range of biological, social, and physical sciences, and senior representatives from civic organizations and the tech industry, to discuss the challenges and potential directions forward.
From the perch of modernity, it is tempting to envision the limbs of the tree of life as inevitable, a steady march toward existence from one generation to the next. Some branches in the tree are shorter than others, of course — tales of extinction, from the asteroid-blasted dinosaurs to the human-blasted passenger pigeon, offer a tragic alternative vision of what life on Earth could look like today. An August working group, “Feasible but Undiscovered Metabolisms II: Thermodynamics, Evolution, and the Origin of Life,” explores spaces of undiscovered life.
By using knowledge of phase transitions in physical systems, researchers can gain new insights into more efficient ways to answer questions about patterns and structures in sprawling datasets. SFI Professor Cris Moore recently organized a working group, held July 17–21 at SFI, that brought together experts from computer science, physics, and mathematics to explore connections between theoretical computer science and spin-glass theory, which is a framework for understanding phase transitions in complex materials.
Prediction is a key part of complex systems, in a wide variety of fields. Physicists and mathematicians use prediction performance to evaluate their models of mechanical systems; engineering prediction algorithms can inform the design of complicated devices. Prediction is also integral in artificial intelligence, in large language models like ChatGPT, which are designed to predict a word or words that follow from a prompt. A July 10–14 workshop at SFI called “Sensory Prediction: Engineered and Evolved” met to discuss how to build better models of prediction in living organisms.
Registration for virtual participation in SFI’s three-day Collective Intelligence Symposium & Short Course (CISSC) is now open. With a sold-out in-person event, organizers are offering live streaming and virtual access to posters for remote participants. The $100 online-only registration fee also provides lifetime access to video recordings of the meeting. Seats via Zoom are limited. Interested participants are encouraged to register soon.
AI and the Barrier of Meaning 2, a workshop held at the Santa Fe Institute on April 24–26, brought together experts working in AI, cognitive science, philosophy, anthropology, linguistics, neuroscience, and law. Videos of the talks from the workshop are now available on YouTube. Similar to the first AI and the Barrier of Meaning workshop, held in 2018, the event focused on questions related to “understanding” and what it means to “extract meaning” in a humanlike way.
Most people think of a disease outbreak when they hear the word “contagion.” But it’s a concept that extends beyond pathogens. It could be an infectious disease, a fad, an online meme, or even a positive behavior in a population. An April 19–21 workshop will explore the dynamics of interacting contagions.
SFI will host a three-day Collective Intelligence Symposium & Short Course on June 20–23, 2023, focusing on foundational ideas like first principles to help establish a rigorous approach to the study of collective intelligence. The event will also leap into unexplored possibilities through a Radical Ideas competition. Applications are required for all participants, and the priority deadline is February 1, 2023.
In November, Brian Enquist, Mary O’Connor, and Chris Kempes organized a workshop to take stock of advances in biological scaling theory since the publication of a seminal book for the field.
This summer, 38 Ph.D. students from the U.S. and Europe gathered in Vienna, Austria, for SFI’s first Complexity-GAINs international summer school to better understand the dynamics of societies, with an eye toward preventing disintegration.
Research jams are among the highlights of the biannual JSMF–SFI Postdocs in Complexity Conference. This fall, two micro-working groups met in the week leading up to the conference to make progress on conversations they began at the meeting last spring.
At the crossroads of computer science and computational science, the emerging field of scientific machine learning focuses on harnessing new ideas in machine learning together with predictive physics-based models to solve complex, real-world problems. On October 10–12, a group met to collaborate on new ideas about using scientific machine learning in complex fields.
This October 22 & 23, SFI will reprise the InterPlanetary Festival. In partnership with SITE Santa Fe, this year’s festival offers an intimate setting with limited seating, and content simulcast to multiple screens in Santa Fe's Railyard Park and streamed online.
Imagine a bookshelf that stretches far into the distance, laden with genre fiction: potboilers, romances, thrillers. Farther down, we glimpse the royal blue of a Fitzcarraldo edition. The catch? Every book has the same author: E. Machina. They’ve all been written by AI. To SFI External Professor Dan Rockmore (Dartmouth College), we’re closer than we think to the world of that bookstore. The working group “The Anxiety of the Computational” explores questions about how AI-written literature might impact the humanities.
Ten percent of carbon burned on Earth comes from devices like your cellphone, quietly computing even when you aren’t looking at it. Developing a greater understanding of the thermodynamics of computation like that done by your cellphone is critical to reducing energy use. It is also critical to understanding a host of deep, long-standing scientific problems. An Aug. 15–17 workshop, "The Thermodynamics of Natural and Artificial Distributed Computational Systems," meets to identify challenges, opportunities, and priorities to push forward scientific investigations of this topic.