Each year’s IK is centered on a specific topical core. In 2016 this focus is

Transitions and Transformations in Cognition, Biology, and Interactive Systems

Both biological and artificial systems are built around collections of individual units, which create a network of interacting parts. In these dynamically interacting environments, the system as a whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. Such systems often undergo transitions and transformations, defining changes in the fundamental character of that entity. Organisms undergo natural processes of change linked to age and development, as they grow from juvenile to adult, and continue into seniority. Neural and cognitive processes also dynamically change across different time scales, as we age and as we respond to the immediate world around us. Transitional and transformational processes additionally occur on across levels of organization, from the self-organization of cells and the emergence of life; to the transformations of groups of individuals into cooperative societies; from groups of cells into multicellularity. These transformations are fundamental to how biological systems are defined.

In parallel with the natural world, artificial systems also act and interact over different time scales, and across levels of complexity. To function in real world environments, artificial systems (like natural systems) must adapt to change. The Interdisciplinary College 2016 will consider Transitions and Transformations in Cognition, Biology and Interactive Systems from diverse perspectives across the natural and AI worlds. The courses will present research insights and discussion to address questions such as:

  • When does a group of cells become an organism, or a group of organisms become a society?

  • Can artificial systems of collective subunits self-organize into a group with defined purpose?

  • How do natural systems survive and adapt to changing external environments?

  • What do we need to capture from a computing perspective to duplicate natural transformations?

  • How do humans change in individual and social function as they age?

  • What processes drive cell growth, death, and cooperation, during organismal or neural development?

  • Can cancer cells cheat cooperation and death to become immortal?

  • How do social groups change through life and into death, and can groups become immortal?