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ISAL board election: candidate statements

Submitted by tim on Sat, 10/10/2015 - 11:45am

Candidates for Election to the ISAL Board of Directors

October 2015

ISAL is electing five new members to its board of directors, to replace the current directors whose terms are expiring. 15 society members are standing for election, as listed below. Follow the links for each candidate's election statement.

All society members will shortly be contacted with further information regarding the election date and voting procedure.

Click on a candidate to read their election statement.


Bradly Alicea

As an interdisciplinary scientist with significant experience in cutting-edge research, I can provide the perspective of both an experimental biologist and a computational scientist to the ISAL leadership. My vision for ISAL is to support two areas of focus. The first is to fulfill an interdisciplinary vision for the Alife community. This includes strengthening our ties to the complexity theory and empirical biology/science communities. I believe that our long-term goal in this area should be to provide new opportunities for education and interdisciplinary research collaboration amongst our membership. This includes advocating for the use of artificial life as a pedagogical tool in the biology curriculum. One of accomplishing this is by providing opportunities for biologists and computationalists to work together on otherwise intractable research problems such as the simulation and representation of hard biological problems. The second is to enhance ISAL's social media and open-science footprint. This includes promoting open-access publication (e.g. preprints, post-publication peer review), data and code sharing (e.g. Github), and other outreach efforts. As a member of the OpenWorm initiative, I have become expert at organizing innovative, distributed research projects composed of diverse expertise. As a ISAL board member, I believe that we can enhance the connectedness of our community through the use of such tools. I believe that an engaged community is a vibrant one, and that open, collaborative science is the future of scientific discovery.

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Takaya Arita

I am a professor and have led the ALife laboratory at Nagoya University, Japan for 20 years. I presented a paper on evolution of linguistic diversity that was selected as one of the plenary papers at ALIFE VI in 1997. Since then nearly 20 and 10 papers were presented at ALIFE and ECAL respectively, from my laboratory. I also wrote three books on artificial life, one of which was reviewed in Artificial Life journal. It's an honor to be nominated as a board member of ISAL. If elected, I would like to work to make ALife conferences more attractive to ALifers. Also, I would like to make more efforts to strengthen ALife-related activities especially in ASIA.

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Joshua Auerbach

I am a senior postdoctoral researcher in the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). I earned my PhD in 2013 from the University of Vermont for my dissertation entitled "The Evolution of Complexity in Autonomous Robots." My research interests include the evolution of complexity, the evolution of complete, physical robots, evolutionary art, WebAL, and understanding how evolution can (and does) contribute to learning in natural and artificial agents. Moreover, as the team leader of the RoboGen project, I strive to build tools to make Evolutionary Robotics accessible and captivating to researchers, hobbyists, and students around the world. In summary I strive to develop ALife techniques to solve interesting creative problems, attract new researchers and practitioners to the field, and to help answer questions about life as we know it (e.g. biology).

I have been an active member of the ALife community for many years, have published extensively in related venues, and am a member of the program committee for the ALife and ECAL conferences, as well being a co-organizer of several workshops and special sessions in related areas.

If elected to the ISAL board my priorities would be:

  • To continue holding conferences and other events that attract a diverse assortment of top caliber researchers.
  • To work to strengthen the ties between ALife researchers and related disciplines: biology on one side, and robotics engineers on another.
  • To work to attract new people to the field to further grow our community.

Thank you for your consideration.

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Wolfgang Banzhaf

I am a professor in the Department of Computer Science at Memorial University of Newfoundland. There I served as head of department from 2003 to 2009 and now again since September 1, 2012. My education is in Physics, where I received a Dr.rer.nat (PhD) from the Department of Physics of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). I then was postdoctoral research associate at the University of Stuttgart with Hermann Haken, Visiting and Senior Researcher at the Advanced Technology R&D Center of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation in Japan and at Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs (MERL) in Cambridge, MA, USA, not to forget 10 years as Associate Professor of Computer Science at University of Dortmund.

My research interests are in the field of bio-inspired computing, notably evolutionary computation and complex adaptive systems. Studies of self-organization in Artificial Life, and in particular Artificial Chemistries are very much of interest to me. Just this year, I have published a book on Artificial Chemistries, together with a former postdoc, Lidia Yamamoto. I look forward to innovative and collaborative research that touches fundamental questions of today: Origin of X (with X being life, language, you name it), how is innovation and novelty generated, and how do complex systems manage to grow more complex over time.

For the ALIFE Society, I am hoping that we can continue to be an inclusive and welcoming academic community, which allows a diversity of topics to be explored. I am very much in favor of rectifying our gender imbalance and wish us to be responsible scientists with intellectual foresight and prudence.

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Mark Bedau

I have been an active member of the artificial life community for over two decades, including editing the Artificial Life journal, co-organizing many conferences, and publishing scientific papers on evolutionary dynamics in agent-based models, and on software models and laboratory achievements involving synthesizing artificial cells. My Ph.D. and teaching careers have been in philosophy of science, with special focus on biology and computation, and my current philosophical focus is the epistemological and ethical implications of "soft" and "wet" artificial life.

I have been on the ISAL Board from the beginning, and I intend to transition off the Board in the very near term. But during this transition it would be my pleasure and my honor to serve on the Board one more time, in order to share my institutional memory with new Board members, and in order to follow through on the Board's current initiatives for activating participation in the artificial life community.

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Katie Bentley

I am Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and currently run an integrated wet and dry lab where we build predictive agent-based ALife simulations in iteration with in vitro and in vivo mouse experiments. The lab focusses on single to collective endothelial cell behaviors in blood vessel growth, in health and disease. I have been lucky enough to have built several models that predicted new mechanisms and dynamics that when tested in vivo were found to be true! This has led to some high profile papers in Nature/Nature Cell Biology etc. I wrote an invited perspectives piece recently in Dev Cell (2014) "Do endothelial Cells Dream of Eclectic Shape?" on how the ALife/Adaptive Systems way of thinking used in the design of these models helped us to make them so predictive.

I fell in love with ALife when I did the EASy MSc at Sussex 2001. I've presented at ECAL and Alife, starting back in 2004 and currently serve on the editorial board for Frontiers in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence journal and the program committees for the Alife, ECAL and the IEEE Alife confs. I keynoted at the IEEE Alife conf in 2013 and was invited to keynote at ECAL this year (though I had to decline unfortunately due to timing constraints).

So, if elected I'd like to (amongst many other things I've not yet thought of):

  1. Educate/encourage bio-inspired Alifers to draw on the intruiging properties of cellular systems as well as the more usual larger organisms (bees, ants etc) - as cells are really incredible gymasts, capable of alien-esk adaptive and collective behaviors, which could inspire lots of new ideas!
  2. Educate/encourage Alife simulation researchers towards making real predictions and experimentally validating those predictions to generate solid scientific discoveries.
  3. Strive to facilitate better integration of Alife with the modeling and biology communities, e.g. making Alife conference publications more accessible and increase awareness and the overall profile of Alife by promoting the powerful aspects of the approach to the biology and modeling communities.
  4. Oh and free beer at vibrant/well located conferences to promote networking/creativity☺

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Seth Bullock

I am Professor of Data Science and Simulation at the University of Bristol in the UK. I was elected to the board of directors of the International Society for Artificial Life in 2008, having been involved with the Artificial Life community since starting my PhD in 1993 at the University of Sussex. I regularly attend the ECAL and ALIFE conferences (my first paper was presented at the second ECAL in 1993) and publish in the Artificial Life journal. At the conferences I have progressed from posters and presentations to chairing sessions, running debates (e.g., on modelling methodology, ECAL'99), organising workshops (e.g., on interdisciplinarity at ECAL'01, and on visualization at ALIFE VIII) and eventually serving as conference chair for ALIFE XI. This was the first ALIFE to be held in Europe, the first to accept abstract submissions as well as full papers, and the first to be published as an open-access online MIT Press conference proceedings.

As a director of ISAL I am most interested in keeping the ECAL and ALIFE conferences vibrant, facilitating the development of a new generation of young Alife researchers, improving the visibility of the Artificial Life journal, and maintaining the strongly interdisciplinary nature of the Alife field.

If you think that I've been on the ISAL board for long enough, I would understand, and I would urge you strongly to consider voting for young, energetic members of the Alife community.

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Scott L. David

The fantastic work presented over the years in the Artificial Life Journal and through the ISAL has benefitted me professionally and personally, and I am seeking to be involved in ISAL governance to help support and expand its future work so that the deep insights offered by ISAL research can help reveal new solution phase space for emerging challenges in multiple domains.

It is possible to conceive of "living systems," from a thermodynamics perspective, as those that auto-catalytically maintain localized entropy reduction zones through time and space. My R&D work involves those aspects of living systems that have no direct physical embodiment, but nonetheless display these and other emergent characteristics of living systems. Examples include markets, supply chains, belief systems, nation states, insurance products, financial derivatives, etc.

As the Anthropocene proceeds, and the attention of human societies pivots from physically-based to information-based systems of risk and value, how are the characteristics that we attribute to living systems presenting themselves as emergent phenomenon in distributed, networked information systems? How do new organizations of symbiogenesis and Eukaryotic-type information governance establish pathways to future living social, economic and political forms? How might Cope's Rule inform our understanding of large-scale socio-technical and bio-technical systems?

Current engagements:

  • University of Washington: Director of Policy at the Center for Information Assurance and Cyber security
  • MIT: Member of MIT/KIT Academic Advisory Board
  • World Economic Forum: Member of Data Driven Development Global Agenda Counsel
  • Open Identity Exchange: Member of Advisory Board
  • Internet of Things Privacy Forum: Member of Advisory Board
  • U.S. Government (NIST): Contractor (through OASIS) for US National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace and IDESG (signed by Obama in 2011)
  • KuppingerCole (Munich): Fellow Analyst
  • Prior work experience: 27 years as attorney working in ecommerce, technology transfer, IP, robotics, energy, data, privacy, standards, tax and corporate law

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Carlos Gershenson

I am a tenured, full time research professor at the computer science department of the Instituto de Investigaciones en Matemáticas Aplicadas y en Sistemas at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), where I lead the Self-organizing Systems Lab. I am and affiliated researcher and member of the directive council of the Center for Complexity Sciences at UNAM. I am also a Visiting Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, and ITMO University.

I have been involved with the Artificial Life community since 2002. After attending ALife in Sydney I was the webmaster for ISAL until 2010. I was also Book and Software Review Editor for the Artificial Life journal (2004-2011), and have co-organized two workshops at ALife conferences followed by special issues in the journal (on the evolution of complexity and complex networks). I am co-chair of ALife XV, to be held in Cancun in 2016.

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Charles Ofria

I am a Professor of Computer Science at Michigan State University and a dedicated member of the Artificial Life community. I have developed the Avida digital evolution software since 1993 and published results in top-tier biology journals including Science, Nature, PNAS, and PLoS Biology. I consistently advocate using Artificial Life techniques in biology and in 2008 I united a group of computer scientists and evolutionary biologists to form the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, now funded by the US National Science Foundation at $47.5 million. In 2012, I chaired ALIFE XIII, linking it with the annual BEACON Congress and substantially increased participation of biologists.

My research involves computational experiments that parallel traditional wet-lab studies to understand fundamental evolutionary dynamics. I am passionate about understanding the evolution of biological information and complexity, including the evolution of intelligence, cooperation, and major transitions.

If elected my priorities will be to:

  • Involve more biologists in the Artificial Life community, promote ALife studies alongside traditional wetlab experiments, and cultivate respect at funding agencies worldwide.
  • Highlight the value of ALife for engaging the public and improving scientific understanding through art, games, and societal impacts.
  • Push open science by exploiting the ease of experimental replication, methods validation, and transparent data collection in artificial life systems.
  • Develop materials to streamline organizing ALIFE and ECAL conferences, local ALife-based workshops, and student organizations.
  • Foster stronger ties and jointly-sponsored activities with the BEACON Center.
  • Expand ISAL’s membership, diversity, and funding.

More details about my vision for Artificial Life are HERE.

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Alexandra Penn

Since my DPhil at Sussex I have worked on Major Transitions in Evolution, co-operation/niche construction in bacterial biofilms, participatory management of industrial ecosystems and methods for designing and "steering" complex adaptive systems. I have repeatedly combined theory with application and participation. With projects from ecosystem selection to improve soil on degraded land; citizen science on human-microbial co-evolution; applying design methodology to manipulating biofilms; to putting complexity tools in the hands of stakeholders in regional economies. I have run numerous interdisciplinary workshops, tracks and events at ECAL/ALife and elsewhere.

I firmly believe that the creative, exploratory and practical spirit of Alife makes us ideally placed for contributing to positive societal futures. ALife and Complexity are not just problems to be dealt with or sources of ethical dilemmas, they are rich creative fonts of new ideas, approaches and technologies which will help us develop new ways of interacting with the world. As such I would like to galvanise a collective effort in the ALife community to engage with big societal issues.

If elected, I will create a society and sustainability track at every conference, providing a space for new thinking, discussion and the inception of innovative new projects. I will bring in diverse contributors from fields outside ALife, both academics and practitioners, to cross-pollinate ideas and maximise the benefit produced and derived. I will create a home for ideas with societal impact in the Artificial Life journal and work on creative outreach and engagement in a wide variety of forms.

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Sebastian Risi

I am an associate professor at the IT University of Copenhagen, where I co-direct the Robotics, Evolution and Art Lab (REAL). I am interested in Alife topics such as neuroevolution, generative and developmental systems, and open-ended evolution. Together with colleagues I have developed several Alife algorithms that facilitate the evolution of more complex artificial systems (Adaptive HyperNEAT, ES-HyperNEAT). Currently I'm very excited by the emerging field of web-based Alife and Alife projects at the intersection of digital and biological systems, like our flora robotica project that investigates symbiotic relationships between robots and natural plants.

I have co-chaired several Alife-related events, such as the Generative and Developmental Systems track at GECCO, an AAAI symposium about abstractions in AI research, and this year's EvoStar conference. In 2014, I organised the first Alife Science Visualisation Competition, to encourage communicating Alife to a broader audience and cross-pollinating of ideas between different Alife subfields.

I am honoured to have been nominated as a candidate for the ISAL Board. If elected I would:

  1. continue to make Alife accessible to a broader audience through events such as the Science Visualisation Competition
  2. foster more interactions between different Alife subfields by organising workshops that explicitly encourage interdisciplinary work and introduce a new "best interdisciplinary paper" award
  3. aim to facilitate the career development of young Alife researchers through a dedicated career development webpage with Alife-related job postings and other useful resources

Thank you for your consideration!

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Sabri Sansoy

I'm an MIT educated, seasoned entrepreneur with a passion in Artificial life, AI and Biomimicry. I firmly believe breakthrough ideas are often the result of the convergence of seemingly disparate concepts. I'm inspired by everything from bumblebees to tumbleweeds and committed to finding ways of applying nature's solutions to our everyday conundrums.

My work has been featured in several news organizations including CNN, the Los Angeles Times, and TreeHugger.

Most recently I gave a talk at Big Data Day LA on leveraging Deep Learning Convolutional Neural Networks for audio classification.

My interest in Artificial Life began when I first heard about the concept while attending a lecture by Christopher Langton at the Santa Fe Institute in the mid 1980's. His argument that a computer virus is a form of life has always resonated with me.

My interest in serving on ISAL's board is to help evangelize the concept of Artificial Life to be as prominent as Artificial Intelligence.

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Neil Vaughan

I am a Post-doctoral Researcher in Computer Science at Bournemouth University, United Kingdom. As Nominated Candidate for Election to Board of Directors, I would encourage growth in the fertile scientific community of ALIFE, increase membership numbers, aiming to tackle the Open Problems in Artificial Life. I would encourage increased contributions to the high standards of our ALIFE conferences and journal. Future directions of ISAL require us to focus on alignment with societal needs, delivering potential impacts, engagement with external stakeholders, increased dissemination of ALIFE through educational programmes and targeted consortium funding applications.

My roles include Program Committee Member and reviewer for ALIFE Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems. Track Chair, Program Committee and Reviewer for European Conference on Artificial Life (ECAL) conference. Reviewer for Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour (AISB) Conference. Reviewer for several international journals (CMPB, JCMSE) and track chair for international and USA symposia (EETA, IDETC, DMD). Member of The International Society of Artificial Life (ISAL), Supporter of Artificial Life MIT Press Journal.

Research Interests: Nature inspired algorithms, swarm behaviour including termites, ant and bee colonies, evolutionary algorithms, genetic programming, neural networks, cellular automata, fractals, computational models of plant and animal phenotypes and evolution.

Application areas: Applied models of animal behaviour for adaptive system problems. Smart technology, computer vision and audio recognition. Intelligent Game opponent and problem solving, autonomous agents, virtual reality, automation and adaptive systems.

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Nathaniel Virgo

I am a Project Assistant Professor at the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI), Tokyo, Japan. I am the executive director of the ELSI Origins Network programme, a $5M project to build a network of researchers around the topic of the origins of life, a field in which I believe ALife's contributions are of great importance.

Ever since my PhD at Sussex I have built my career around bringing the ALife perspective to other fields, and my current research is on using techniques from artificial life, and artificial chemistry in particular, to understand the emergence of complex, life-like systems.

As an ISAL board member, my personal highest priorities would be:

  • increase the flow of ideas and people between ALife and Origins of Life, Astrobiology and related disciplines
  • increase the flow of funding into ALife from these disciplines
  • maintain the conferences as a fantastic melting pot of ideas across many disciplines
  • enhance the dissemination of ALife's results and ideas to the scientific community at large

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