Recent Highlights


In December 2016, Caleb Scharf, Director of Astrobiology at Columbia University, wrote a blog post in Scientific American titled Fresh Ideas for Chasing Consciousness, in which our new YHouse initiative was featured prominently.

Also in December 2016, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 30 June as International Asteroid Day, only two and a half years after the first Asteroid day was held, following the 100X Asteroid Declaration for which I was an early signer, in my fuction of Strategic Advisor for the B612 Foundation.

Also in December 2016, Susan Schneider, a visitor in my Program in Interdisciplinary Studies, published an article It May Not Feel Like Anything to be an Alien in Nautilus.

In November 2016, I gave a talk at the Rubin Museum in New York City titled From Knowing What You Have to Waking Up to What You Are as part of our YHouse public outreach series.

In October 2016, Eric Smith and I gave a presentation at the Center for Theological Inquiry in Princeton, of a book writing project that we are working on, tentatively titled The Innovation Circle: Emergent Order in Cognition and in the World.

In September 2016, we launched our new YHouse initiative, for which I am the Executive Director, with a rich spectrum of four weekly events.  Especially the public talks at the Rubin Museum in New York City drew large crowds.

In August 2016, I organized a one-day metacognition workshop at the Earth-Life Science Institute in Tokyo, with talks about recursion in cognitive neuroscience, self-reference in the theory of computation, and the role of subsystems that act like compilers at the core of living systems.

In July 2016, I was a co-organizer of the two-day Satellite Symposium on The Origin of Consciousness at the Earth-Life Science Institute in Tokyo.  I gave a talk on Investigating Experience as Experience within Experience.

In May 2016, I was invited to give a talk at the Center of Subjectivity Research at the University of Copenhagen, titled An Extradisciplinary Approach to the Study of Consciousness.

In April 2016, I was invited to give a talk at the Okinawa Institute for Science and Technology for the graduate students there, titled Recognizing Opportunities in Interdisciplinary Research. I talked about the notion that "every crisis is an opportunity" not only in business, but also in interdisciplinary research, and I engaged in an hour-long discussion with the students.

In March 2016, the computer program AlphaGo defeated one of the strongest human players, and soon afterwards the New York Times ran an article in which I was quoted as having made a wrong prediction, being off by eighty years. Like many others, I was indeed very surprised by the quick rise in strength of AlphaGo.

<- In January 2016, we had our first annual EON meeting, attended by 27 members from the ELSI Origins Network extended family.

Also in January, Jun Makino and I visited Takashi Kohno at the Komaba campus of Tokyo University, where he and his colleagues at the Laboratories for Mathematics, Lifesciences, and Informatics are developing neuromorphic computer chips

Also in January, John Tromp succeeded in calculating the exact number of legal positions for the game of go, on the 19x19 go board, using background CPU time on various computers with large amounts of memory, including the cluster at the School of Natural Sciences at IAS that I made available to him. The answer made it prominently on many news outlets, such as motherboard, and is 208168199381979984699478633344862770286522453884530548425639456820927419612738015378525648451698

<- In December 2015, I gave a talk, "From Astrophysics to Astrobiology to Complex Systems Studies", at the MODEST 15-S conference to celebrate Steve McMillan's 60th birthday, in Kobe, Japan, which was a fun occasion to meet many old and new friends and colleagues in astrophysics.

In November 2015, I was one of the organizers for the conference "Re-Conceptualizing the Origin of Life" at the Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington DC. This meeting, which presented together a stimulatingly diverse set of angles on origins of life studies, was the culmination of two years of grassroots organizing of MOL workshops, for Modeling Origins of Life.

Also in November, I attended a fascinating workshop on integrated information theory at New York University with talks by Giulio Tononi, Christof Koch, and many others.

<- In August 2015, I organized a three-week summer school in Kobe, Japan, Towards an Integrative Approach to the Study of Awareness, together with colleagues from many different disciplines, including neuroscience, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, artificial life, robotics, logic, high performance computing, psychology, and philosophy, in particular phenomenology.

Also in August 2015, I chaired the first EON workshop, titled The Spontaneous Emergence of Autonomous Agents in Complex Systems, held in Kobe, Japan, as part of the above summer school.

Following the first workshop, still in August 2015, I co-organized the second EON workshop, titled The Strategy for Origins of Life Research, held at ELSI in Tokyo, Japan.

<- In July 2015, we started the ELSI Origins Network, EON for short, an international network for scientists doing research on the origins of life and related topics. The network is formed by ELSI as its hub, and a growing number of affiliated centers as its nodes. The links will be formed by active collaborations between shared postdocs, long time visitors, and other activities. EON is supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

<- Also in July, I participated in a very interesting conference, ASSC19, the 19th annual meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness.

In June 2015, a new brochure was created at ELSI illustrating the breadth and with of this new institute. On p.12 there is a summary of some of my contributions to the interactive atmosphere at ELSI.

<- In May 2015, I gave a colloquium at Kavli IPMU, with the title Beyond Thermodynamics: the Physics of Matter, Life, and Intelligence, as part of an initiative to promote more collaboration between the two WPI Institutes, Kavli IPMU and ELSI.

In April 2015, I spent some time at Osaka University where I visited the neuroscience labs of Kaoru Amano and Shinji Nishimoto, and the robotics labs of Minoru Asada and Yukie Nagai. In addition, I visited Masako Myowa-Yamakoshi at Kyoto University to learn about her work on cognitive psychology of perinatal infants.