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II. Planetary Prodigy: An Emergent Sapiensphere Learns on Her/His Own

1. International Conferences

    A panoramic view of Vienna from the venue of the 2015 International Society for Information Studies conference.

 
     

A section within Mindkind's collaborative endeavors for info and entries to select meetings, events, seminars, courses, and projects of special interest across the natural and social spectrum. Another, more extensive, list can be found on Complexity Digest postings at www.comdig.org, click on CxConferences.

2016 Science of Consciousness. www.consciousness.arizona.edu. This is the main site for these premier, luminous biennial convocations founded in 1996 by the University of Arizona physician Stuart Hameroff, who continues as their impresario. This latest event merited a New York Times report Science of Consciousness Conference Is Carnival of the Mind by George Johnson (May 10). From this home page the large 2016 Program Book can be accessed with abstracts for over a hundred talks. Among the speakers are Stanislas Dehaene, Walter Freeman, David Chalmers, Nao Tsuchiya, Deepak Chopra, Terrence Deacon, Katherine Peil and Gyorgy Buzsaki. Sample sections are Panpsychism, Idealism and Metaphysics, Quantum Approaches, The Extended Mind, and Metacognition.

The Science of Consciousness is an interdisciplinary conference aimed at rigorous and leading edge approaches to all aspects of the study of conscious experience. These include neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, molecular biology, medicine, quantum physics, and cosmology, as well as art, technology, and experiential and contemplative approaches. The conference is the largest and longest-running interdisciplinary gathering probing fundamental questions related to conscious experience. As in previous conferences, program sessions will include plenary and keynote talks, concurrent talks, posters, art-science-film demos and exhibits, pre-conference workshops, side trips, and social events in the Tucson tradition.

After 23 years, the seminal conference ‘Toward a Science of Consciousness’ is now simply ‘The Science of Consciousness’. But as consciousness cannot be observed, scientifically explained, nor commonly defined, is there now truly a ‘Science of Consciousness’? Are we there yet? We do have essential questions. Is the brain a computer? Does it process or generate conscious information as output? When, where and how did consciousness evolve? Can we have free will, or are we just ‘along for the ride’? Will consciousness be reproduced through brain mapping, transhumanism and/or artificial intelligence? Or, does the brain ‘tune into’ and organize consciousness or its precursors existing naturally in the universe? What are the implications of either view on the nature of existence and treatment of mental and cognitive disorders? These and many other questions will be debated in a week-long gathering of scientists, philosophers, artists, meditators and interested people at Loews Ventana Canyon, a luxurious eco-resort in the mountains just north of Tucson, Arizona.

7th International Workshop on Thermodynamics, Disequilibrium and Evolution. http://pages.cnpem.br/tde2014/.. A September 2014 conference held in Campinas, Brazil, whose main organizer is the NASA Astrobiology Institute. There are so many ways can one document nowadays how much such science is a common, worldwide endeavor, open to everyone everywhere by instant collaborative communication. And the subject matter here is one more example of the welling union of physics and biology. The keynote speaker is Ada Yonath, Weizmann Institute, Israel, and 2009 Nobel laureate in Chemistry, abstract below.

The 7th Workshop on Thermodynamics, Disequilibrium and Evolution (TDE) aims to explore the relations between biological and planetary systems, considering their dynamic aspects. The searching for answers in this field must consider phenomena that are out of thermodynamic balance, in outdoor ambient systems. This approach is necessary for a better understanding of chemistry and geochemistry involved in prebiotic processes, in the origin of life and in the subsequent chemical complexity gain until self-sustained systems. Organized for the first time in Brazil, in partnership with the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the TDE workshop will bring together experts on this new field, in order to discuss experimental and theoretical approaches to constrain the scenarios of origin of life on our planet, and to explore the possibilities of life arising on other places on the Universe.

A Prebiotic Bonding Entity is Function in all Living Cells: Ribosomes, the universal cellular machines for translation of the genetic code into proteins, possess spectacular architecture accompanied by inherent mobility, allowing for their smooth performance as polymerases that translate the genetic code into proteins. The site for peptide bond formation is located within an almost fully conserved internal semi-symmetrical region made exclusively of RNA. The high conservation of this region implies its existence irrespective of environmental conditions and indicates that it may represent an ancient RNA machine. (Ada Yonath)

AAAS 2012 Annual Meeting. www.aaas.org/meetings. The American Association for the Advancement of Science will gather over February 12 – 16, 2012 in Vancouver, Canada. As usual, a sterling array of sessions and seminars that span cosmos, nature, life, with a focus on our socially and ecologically stressed planet, within the theme “Flattening the World: Building a Global Knowledge Society.” Here is an overview and a few samples.

The focus of the 2012 meeting, then, is on using the power of electronic communications and information resources to tackle the complex problems of the 21st century on a global scale through international, multidisciplinary efforts. We have a model already in the scale and scope of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The ability to approach global problems through global collaborations depends on an educated populace and on substantial scientific and technological sophistication throughout the world. Thus building the global knowledge society depends on advancing education and research, the engines of the knowledge society, everywhere. This task is facilitated, but not accomplished, by the existence of electronically accessible open educational resources. There remain limitations of language and culture, of poverty and access. (Website)

Can Proteomics Fill the Gap Between the Genome and Phenotypes?
A Hidden Connection Is Stronger than an Obvious Connection in the Proteome World. Andrew Emili, University of Toronto. “Proteins are cooperative and interactive.” New Frontiers in the Radio Universe: Protoplanetary Disks to the Far Universe
Unveiling Stellar Nurseries in Other Galaxies. Christine Wilson, McMaster University. New Insights into the Infant Universe. Kartik Sheth, NRAO.

Science, Sustainability, and the Arts. Art and Sustainability: Connecting Patterns for a Culture of Complexity. Sacha Kagan, Leuphana University. Analogy in Applications of Mathematics and Statistics to Other Disciplines.
Emergence of Modularity in Biology. Michael Deem, Rice University.

The Earth Microbiome Project: Modeling the Microbial Planet. The Earth Microbiome Project (EMP) is the most ambitious attempt to provide a systematic characterization of the microbial world that dominates this planet. In the same way as the physics community came together to use the Large Hadron Collidor, the EMP represents the accumulated need for a directed approach to tackling the biggest black hole in global knowledge: How do microbes keep the planet alive?.

AIP Conference Proceedings. http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/proceeding/aipcp.. ”AIP Conference Proceedings report findings presented at many of the most important scientific meetings around the world. Published proceedings are valuable as topical status reports providing quick access to information before it appears in the traditional journal literature.” The series is now up to 1575 volumes with 2013 titles such as Nonlinear and Modern Mathematical Physics, International Symposium on Computational Models for Life Sciences, and First International Conference on Chemical Evolution of Star Forming Regions and Origins of Life.

Artificial Life XII. www.alifexii.org. This 12th International Conference is to focus on The Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems. It is organized by the Center for Fundamental Living Technology and to be held August 19-23, 2010 at the University of Southern Denmark. Steen Rasmussen is the Chairperson. We note because its synopsis below is a good appreciation of how pervasive a self-creating genesis is there to be realized, if our paradigm mindset allows it to be so.

Critical Properties of Living Systems: The conference will be organized around the theme of identifying and synthesizing the critical properties of living and life-like systems (e.g., self-replication, self-assembly, self-organization, metabolism, adaptation, evolution). The meeting will reflect all of the main areas of artificial life research, including “wet” systems based on carbon chemistry, “soft” systems realized in software, and “hard” systems consisting of autonomous robotic agents, integration of the above areas, as well as a variety of social and technical systems that embody the critical properties of living systems. The conference will have broad interdisciplinary interest, because “living” processes are found virtually everywhere.

Astrobiology 2010. www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/abscicon2010. An April 26 – 29 conference sponsored by the Lunar and Planetary Institute to take place in League City, Texas, near the NASA Johnson Space Center. A Program page is accessible where Abstracts for topical sections ranging from Extraterrestrial Molecular Evolution and Pre-Biological Chemistry to Evolution of Intelligent Life. A major inspiration in this endeavor has been the prolific presence Extrasolar Planets. Individual papers range from declaring our human moment is a rare anachronism to inklings of a greater genesis. A sample of the latter might be “The Linguistic Model in Biology” where Dennis Waters, a principal partner of GenomeWeb LLC, affirms a deep correspondence between genetic and language codes, noted from George Beadle and Ramon Jakobson to bioinformatics, which could be a guide to encountering life in the galactic cosmos. University of Colorado atmosphere specialists E. Wolf and O. B. Toon offer “A Fractal Aggregate Model of Early Earth Organic Hazes” and “A Model of Habitability within the Milky Way Galaxy” is considered by Michael Gowanlock, et al of Trent University, Canada.

Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories. http://www.evolution-rome2009.net/. Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories is a major conference to be held at the Pontifical Gregorian University, March 3 – 7, 2009 in coordination with the 200th Anniversary year of Charles Darwin’s birth, and the 150th year after the publication of his The Origin of Species. An international panel has been assembled with a good number of active researchers and theorists such as Simon Conway Morris, Stuart Kauffman, Lynn Margulis, Francisco Ayala, Robert Ulanowicz, and David Sloan Wilson. A website along with a program and speaker bios can be reached by the URL or Googling venue and title keywords. Its themes of a broadened, more purposeful, 21st century Darwinism might be broached by these paragraphs from the website's “Aims” page.

Paper abstracts have now been posted in late February which seem to range from Darwin plus to a cosmic teleology. In such regard, they exemplify the current divide, or paradigm shift, between aimless contingency, for which Darwin has been misappropriated as David Depew argues, and an inherent evolutionary convergence, which Simon Conway Morris cites with usual emphasis. And we find the term Embryogeny used by Anthropologist Dr. Anne Dambricourt Malasse could be an apt image for a cosmic natural genesis.

These last few years have seen the growth of several intense, and at times heated, debates on Evolution that have involved scientists, philosophers and theologians. The repercussions of those debates have been heard on several occasions in the mass media and have involved the public as well. Frequently it appeared that the debates were the expression of true ideological positions: on the one hand, an antireligious metaphysical evolutionism; on the other hand, fundamentalist conceptions leading to a misconstrued “creationism” or to the so-called “Intelligent Design.” (Aims)

Thanks to recent discoveries, we can reconsider the problem of evolution within a broader perspective then traditional neo-darwinism. In particular, we refer to the role of epigenetical mechanisms in evolution as well as to new developments produced by the theory of complexity and by the study of incidence on the environment of living species, especially in regards to the value and significance of intelligent behaviour. In this context, which witnesses the intertwining of several fields of knowledge, an appropriate consideration is needed more than ever before. (Aims)

It is received wisdom in nearly all neo-Darwinian circles that these, like any other evolutionary end-point, are effectively flukes, mere accidents of history. Such resonates, of course, with the emphasis on randomness, be it in terms of mutation or mass extinctions. Stephen Jay Gould observed, using the famous Burgess Shale as his exemplar, that were we to re-run the tape of life then the end-products would be completely different. No humans, for example. Drawing on evolutionary convergence I will argue for the complete opposite, and in doing so will suggest that evolution is like any other science, that is predictable. Simon Conway Morris)

Complex Adaptive Systems and the Threshold Effect. http://www.aaai.org/Symposia/Fall/fss09symposia.php#fs03. An announcement for an Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) Fall Symposium to be held November 5 - 7, 2009 in Arlington, VA. An alternative address is: http://sites.google.com/site/complexadaptivesystems/Home. We note here because its description and emphasis of CAS offer a good synopsis of their essence and universality.

Most interesting phenomena in natural and social systems include constant transitions and oscillations among their various phases. Wars, companies, societies, markets, and humans rarely stay in a stable, predictable state for long. Randomness, power laws, and human behavior ensure that the future is both unknown and challenging. Complex Adaptive Systems have proven to be a powerful tool for exploring these and other related phenomena. We characterize a general CAS model as having a large number of self-similar agents that: 1) utilize one or more levels of feedback; 2) exhibit emergent properties and self-organization; and 3) produce non-linear dynamic behavior.

Computation by Natural Systems. royalsociety.org/science-events-and-lectures/2018/03/natural-systems. A Kavli Royal Society Centre meeting on March 21-22, 2018 with talks such as Entropy and Information in Natural Complex Systems by Karoline Wiesner, Thermodynamics of Computation with Chemical Reaction Networks by Massimiliano Esposito, and Computations and Control in Brain Systems by Danielle Bassett.

Over recent years it has become clear in various sciences that many natural systems perform computations. Research into the properties of these natural computers remains fragmented along disciplinary boundaries between computer science, physics, engineering and biology. The objective of this meeting is to overcome the fragmentation by bringing together researchers from different fields to discuss their latest finding on natural computation. (Synopsis)

Computing can be seen as transformations between nonequilibrium states. In stochastic thermodynamics, the second law can be used to provide a direct connection between the thermodynamic cost needed to induce such transformations and the distance from equilibrium (relative entropy) of these nonequilibrium states. Remarkably, a closely related result also holds for open chemical reaction networks described by deterministic mass action law kinetics. These results lay the foundations for a systematic study of the thermodynamic cost needed to produce chemical spatio-temporal signals which play a key role in biology and chemical computing. (M. Esposito abstract)

Dynamic DNA Structures in Biology. www.faseb.org/src/micro/Site/DynDNA/Home.aspx. A summer July, 2016 conference sponsored by the Federation of American Society for Experimental Biology FASEB at the Vermont Academy in Saxtons River, which is a glimpse of genomic frontiers.

For decades after its discovery, genomic DNA was believed to exist only as a right-handed, double helix known as B-DNA. Its sole functions were to serve as a template for RNA synthesis or as a template for the production of identical duplexes during chromosome replication. These core beliefs were shaken by the discovery that DNA is covalently modified and packaged into chromatin, and that the molecule can form an enormous variety of non-B alternative structures, including cruciforms, a left-handed helix, three- and four-stranded helices, and slip-strand configurations. Studies conducted in many labs worldwide have confirmed that structural transitions are not only central to normal functions of the genome, but also are responsible for occasional malfunctioning that leads to a disease state. The most striking example is expansion of structure-prone DNA repeats, which is responsible for more than thirty hereditary neurological and developmental diseases.

Eighth International Conference on Complex Systems. http://www.necsi.edu/events/iccs2011/index.html. The New England Complex Systems Institute will host at the Boston Marriott from June 26 to July 1, 2011 the eighth in their series of arguably the premier gathering of its kind on the planet. No exception this time with plenary speakers such as Eshel Ben Jacob, Steven Bressler, Eric Davidson, John Hopfield, Mark Newman, Didier Sornette, and many others. Two main domains are slated: Unifying Themes of Emergence, Complexity, Information, Dynamics, Self-Organization, and Networks, and their manifest activity in Physical, Chemical, Bio-Molecular, Cellular, Organism, Psychological, Social, and Economic Systems. I have attended the 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006 events, whence each time provided an intense immersion in this vital scientific revolution.

Emergence in Chemical Systems 2.0. www.math.uaa.alaska.edu/~afkjm/chemicalemergence/index.php. A conference to be held at the University of Alaska Anchorage, June 22-26, 2009 to consider the growing scientific sense of a fertile natural materiality which inexorably develops into increasingly intricate and intelligent life. Noted more in The Origin of Life.

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