I begin by presenting the theory of conceptual spaces that uses geometrical notion like convexity to represent the meaning of natural concepts. Then I argue that the meanings of different word classes can be given a cognitive grounding in terms of conceptual spaces. I show that a geometric analysis can be provided for the major word classes. A universal single-domain thesis is proposed, saying that words in all content word classes, except for nouns, refer to a single domain.
Materials · A Semantic Theory of Word Classes
Bio Senior professor of Cognitive Science at Lund University. Main current research interests are concept formation (using conceptual spaces based on geometrical and topological models), cognitive semantics, models of reasoning, human-robot interaction and the evolution of cognition. For more details see: https://www.lucs.lu.se/people/peter-gardenfors-cv/.
All creatures must move and act in space to survive. The elementary act is to approach or to avoid an inherently emotional act. In mammals, place cells in the hippocampus cull multi-sensory information to represent places; they are spatially arrayed one synapse away in grid cells in the entorhinal cortex. In people, place cells also represent events, people, and ideas and grid cells array them in temporal, social, and conceptual spaces. The spatial foundation of thought is evident in expression of thought, in gesture, diagrams, and language, with implications for design, creativity, and cooperation.
Bio Barbara Tversky is emerita Professor of Psychology at Stanford and Professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia Teachers College. She has held positions at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of Michigan, Malardalen University in Sweden, and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris.. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Science, a recipient of the Kampe de Feriat Prize, and a fellow of the Cognitive Science Society, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Society for Experimental Psychology. She has served as President of the Association for Psychological Science and on the executive committees or editorial boards of many societies and journals. Her research has spanned memory, knowledge representation, language, spatial language and thinking, event perception and cognition, HCI, gesture, diagrammatic reasoning and creativity. She has enjoyed collaborations with linguists, philosophers, computer scientists (HCI, graphics, AI), biologist, chemists, engineers, designers, and artists.
Life was solving problems in metabolic, genetic, physiological, and anatomical spaces long before brains and nervous systems appeared. In this talk, I will describe remarkable capabilities of cell groups as they create, repair, and remodel complex anatomies. Anatomical homeostasis reveals that groups of cells are collective intelligences; their cognitive medium is the same as that of the human mind: electrical signals propagating in cell networks. I will explain non-neural bioelectricity and the tools we use to track the basal cognition of cells and tissues and control their function for applications in regenerative medicine. I will conclude with a discussion of our framework based on evolutionary scaling of intelligence by pivoting conserved mechanisms that allow agents, whether designed or evolved, to navigate complex problem spaces.
Materials · The Electrical Blueprints that Orchestrate Life (TED Talk) · Michael Levin's interviews and presentations · Michael Levin's publications · The Institute for Computationally Designed Organisms (ICDO)
Bio Michael Levin received dual B.S. degrees (computer science and biology), followed by a Ph.D. (Harvard University). After post-doc training (Harvard Medical School), he started his independent lab focusing on the biophysics of cell: cell communication during embryogenesis, regeneration, and cancer. His group at Tufts uses biophysical and computational approaches to study decision-making and basal cognition in cells, tissues, and synthetic living machines. Levin holds the Vannevar Bush chair, and directs the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts, working to crack the morphogenetic code for applications in regenerative medicine and basal cognition. Recent work includes the modulation of native bioelectric circuits to control embryogenesis, regeneration, and cancer, and the creation of novel synthetic living proto-organisms.
Drawing is an epitome of uniquely human expression. Its range seems infinite: When we draw, we seem limited only by our fine motor skills and the expectations of our culture. And yet, in this talk I suggest a previously unrecognized and early emerging cognitive constraint on human drawing, rooted in everyday navigation and revealed by the drawings of young children.
Materials · Lab for the Developing Mind
Bio Moira (Molly) Dillon is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at New York University. She received her B.A. from Yale University and her A.M. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. She is a recipient of a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. Her work focuses on revealing infants’ and children’s precocious knowledge about the world, including how it forms the basis of uniquely human cultural and intellectual achievements and how it might inspire more human-like machine commonsense.
Continuous geometry has served as a substrate for a deeper understanding of many topics in science and engineering: organizing families of objects or actions into abstract spaces unlocks both familiar geometric intuitions and powerful new mathematical tools. Phase spaces of physical and chemical systems, shape spaces of 2D and 3D forms, representation and parameter spaces of neural networks, state spaces of control systems, probability distributions in information geometry, and configuration spaces of mechanical robots serve as diverse examples. But finite computational processes provide a wellspring of discrete spaces with connections to language, reasoning, logic, and information. How might we adapt tools devised for continuous geometry to these fundamentally discrete settings? What are the digital forms of familiar constructions like continuous maps, quotients, curvature, product spaces, and fiber bundles, and what role do they play in understanding the computations that generate them?
Materials · Discrete Geometry and Quivers Website
Bio Taliesin Beynon led research teams at Wolfram Research from 2010 to 2018. He now works on discrete geometry.
Quantum mechanics and general relativity are the two pillars of 20th-century physics. However, paradoxes arise when we attempt to combine these theories to arrive at a quantum theory of space and time, often because the appearance of black holes and spacetime singularities seem to destroy quantum information. I will discuss how we can resolve these paradoxes by drawing on concepts of complexity and information from theoretical computer science, communications theory and cryptography. I will use techniques from these fields to explain diverse, interlinked aspects of fundamental physics, including: the possible emergence of space from non-spatial physical entities; the recovery of information from beyond the horizon of black holes; and, most fundamentally, causality in physical processes.
Bio Balasubramanian is the Cathy and Marc Lasry professor of physics at the University of Pennsylvania. He received B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in physics and computer science from MIT and a Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University. He was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows before joining the faculty at Penn. His research spans diverse fields ranging from string theory to theoretical neuroscience.
What kinds of spatial information do human and nonhumans attend to in their environment? How does this knowledge form the basis of intelligent spatial behaviors? To what extent can nonhuman animals represent virtual, imaginary scenarios to solve real-world cognitive problems? And, how does our ever-dynamic world impact these representations and problem-solving abilities? To address these questions, we designed a virtual world where monkeys, apes and humans face biologically relevant challenges such as those found in the real world, for example, finding food and avoiding competitors and predators. Our virtual reality (VR) multi-user touchscreen platform uses cutting-edge software and hardware to generate multiple realistic, ecologically relevant scenarios, ideally suited to capture a more ecologically valid method of testing spatial problem solving and memory. Virtual reality provides great flexibility paired with control and maintains a high measure of ecological validity compared to more abstract experimental presentations. Using VR, we tested bonobos, chimpanzees, and humans (US children and adults, and Congolese hunter-gatherers and farmer-fishermen children). Participants navigate using the touchscreen to touch virtual food items, which is followed by an auditory reward (“ding”) and a visual reward (the food glows then disappears). The nonhuman primates received real food rewards corresponding to the type of virtual foods in VR while the humans received verbal rewards and at the end of testing, a gift (e.g., gift card, food, or clothing). In one study for example, in a series of conditions we compared participants’ performance on the same virtual touchscreen spatial memory-foraging tasks in a simulated naturalistic environment. The overall goal was to determine whether they could generate a shortcut in virtual space. In this task, the participants learned the location of a trove of food (apples, bananas, grapes, and peanuts) behind the first ‘Treasure Tree”. Then the food was shifted to a novel location under the second “Treasure Tree”. We assessed whether the participants could compute a shortcut to localize the novel food location. Our aim was to compare these species’ ability to generate novel shortcuts based on their memory of the distance, angle, and direction between the landmarks and geometric features of the virtual environment. We also evaluated their ability to project spatial knowledge gained in virtual environments to solve spatial problems in the real world in a one-to-one correspondence (equivalence). This cross-species, cross-cultural approach lends insight into the emergence of primates’ complex cognitive spatial abilities, particularly in dynamic landscapes. Co-PIs and Contributors: Brandon Klein, Karline Janmaat, Miguel DeGuinea, Lauren Robinson, Josep Call, Matthias Allritz, Emma McEwan, Charles Menzel and Ken Schweller Funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation and the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
Bio Dr. Dolins is a Comparative Psychologist with a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology and Behavioral Primatology (University of Stirling, Scotland), and BSc. in Biology (Behavioral Ecology, Evolutionary Theory and Animal Cognition) (University of Sussex, UK). Her research focuses on primate cognition and behavior and cognitive-ecological modeling in the field and laboratory. Specifically, her research concentrates on questions regarding spatial cognition, navigation, and foraging behavior. In the lab, she uses virtual reality (VR) to compare nonhuman and human primate spatial and social cognition and applies VR technology to enhance the environmental enrichment of captive nonhuman primates. In field work, her research focuses on the spatial and foraging context of group decision-making and social information transfer. Dr. Dolins has received multiple research grants from the Templeton World Charity Foundation and the Ford Motor Company. She has edited three volumes with Cambridge University Press, Attitudes to Animals, Spatial Cognition - Spatial Perception, and Spatial Analysis in Field Primatology: Applying GIS at Varying Scales. Additionally, Dr. Dolins has been active in furthering conservation education and STEM in primary education by working with teachers and children in the United States and Madagascar (the Ako Project). Dr. Dolins co-chairs of the Conservation Action Network (American Society of Primatology), an international primate conservation initiative.
My talk will focus on the connection between geometry and music, beginning with the circle of fifths, continuing with Leonard Euler’s “Tonnetz”, and ending with the current state of the art. I will show how computers and technology allow us to visualize the infinite-dimensional space describing the voice-leading relationships among all possible chords, opening the door to new ways of conceiving musical structure.
Materials · Mad Musical Science
Bio Dmitri Tymoczko is a composer and music theorist who teaches at Princeton University. He is the author of one book, A Geometry of Music, and four CDs. He published the first two music theory papers ever to appear in Science magazine.
In this talk, we explore the evolutionary emergence of modern spatial abilities, as reconstructed from the archaeological record of stone tools, a record that spans over three million years. This record shows that the ability to hold an allocentric (bird’s eye) view of space was in place by 500,000 years ago. We then discuss the dispersal of the human species across the planet, which occurred within the past 200,000 years, focusing on the migrations into Australia, the Americas, and the Pacific region within the past 60,000 years. These migrations suggest that traditional societies deal with space on three, overlapping, scales. From largest to smallest, these are navigating the unknown (the allocentric view and survey knowledge), traveling the known (the egocentric view and route knowledge), and measuring cultural space (which begins with the body). We end by connecting the last to the emergence of geometry, the science of space and shape.
Bios Tom Wynn is a distinguished professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Cognitive Archaeology at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, where he taught from 1977 to 2022. He earned his BA in sociology and anthropology at Occidental College and his MA and PhD in anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana. His doctoral research introduced a hitherto unexplored direction in Palaeolithic studies—the explicit use of psychological theory to interpret archaeological remains. His 1979 article in the journal Man, “The intelligence of later Acheulean hominids,” continues to be cited over 40 years after its appearance and is considered one of the foundation documents of evolutionary cognitive archaeology. In 2008, he and Frederick L. Coolidge organized the 139th numbered Wenner-Gren Symposium, entitled “Working memory: Beyond language and symbolism.” To date, he has published more than 150 articles and book chapters in Palaeolithic studies, with a particular emphasis on cognitive evolution. His books include The evolution of spatial competence (University of Illinois Press, 1989) and several volumes authored or edited with Frederick L. Coolidge: The rise of Homo sapiens (Routledge 2009; Oxford 2018), Cognitive archaeology and human evolution (Cambridge, 2009), How to think like a Neandertal (Oxford, 2012), Cognitive models in Palaeolithic archaeology (Oxford, 2017), and An introduction to evolutionary cognitive archaeology (Routledge, 2022). In 2018 he and artist Tony Berlant co-curated the exhibition First Sculpture for the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas. This exhibition celebrated the aesthetic aspects of early stone tools. He is currently co-editing The Oxford handbook of cognitive archaeology (Oxford, 2022) with Frederick L. Coolidge and Karenleigh A. Overmann. Karenleigh A. Overmann is an associate professor of anthropology (adjunct) and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Archaeology at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. She earned her doctorate in archaeology from the University of Oxford in 2016 as a Clarendon scholar. In June 2020, she completed two years of postdoctoral research at the University of Bergen (MSCA individual fellowship, EU project 785793), and she was a visiting scholar at the University of Pittsburgh from Sept. 2020 to June 2021. She investigates how societies become numerate and literate by using and modifying material forms over generations of collaborative effort, the effect this elaborational mechanism has on conceptual content, how material forms become increasingly refined to elicit specific behavioral and psychological responses, and what this might augur about the future of human cognition. To date, she has published 50 articles and book chapters, two special journal issues, and three books: The material origin of numbers (Gorgias Press, 2019), Squeezing minds from stones (Oxford, 2019, co-edited with Frederick L. Coolidge), and Nature and transformation of writing systems in the ancient Near East (Ugarit Verlag, 2021, co-edited with Gösta Gabriel and Annick Payne). She is currently co-editing The Oxford handbook of cognitive archaeology (Oxford, 2022) with Tom Wynn and Frederick L. Coolidge.
Cultural data analysis is an increasingly systematic multidisciplinary science that combines qualitative, quantitative, computational, and aesthetic expertise. While starting from traditional substance, such as images, objects, audiovisual media, music, or language, both topological and geometric multidimensional meaning spaces have begun to take center stage as subjects within the field. Topological aspects have gained attention due to the growing availability of large cultural knowledge graphs and the rise of multidisciplinary network science over the last two decades. Geometric aspects have become conspicuous more recently, not least due to advances in machine learning, where so-called latent embedding spaces are constituted between stimulus and response. Looking at relevant theory, we will close the circle to Peter Gärdenfors, the first speaker in this conference, while further highlighting useful connections to Eigen, Cassirer, and Leibniz. Focusing on practical results, I will present a collaboration that disambiguates polymorphic visual family resemblance via the harnessing of a fully explainable multidimensional embedding space, to make sense of art history over centuries and near-real-time contemporary art market dynamics. The aim of the talk is to spark a discussion, including questions such as: How are cultural meaning spaces constituted? How can we capture the structure and dynamics of such spaces? How do given datasets occupy such spaces? How are such spaces negotiated by cultural agents? And what is their relation to "reality"?
Materials · Cultural Analysis Situs
Bio Professor for Cultural Data Analytics at Tallinn University in Estonia. Maximilian is a multidisciplinary scientist who collaborates towards a systematic understanding of art and culture, using critical and creative aesthetics, qualitative inquiry, quantitative measurement, and computation. Current work builds on a background in art history, classical archaeology, network science, computational social science, and "database pathology". He is currently leading the CUDAN ERA Chair Research Group, which is generously funded through the European Commission and the Estonian Research Foundation. Details: https://cudan.tlu.ee/team/.
Agents, whether human or robotic, inhabit a spatial world, whether the real world or a virtual one; they observe it, the events that take place in it, and move around in it. They need to navigate in it, perform tasks which will affect the positions and other aspects of objects in the world. They have goals to achieve and may need to communicate about the world they inhabit with other agents, without necessarily having complete knowledge about the world. In this session, I will talk about why reasoning about space is important; what makes space “special”; the variety of spatial tasks an agent may face; and what are the particular challenges of endowing an agent with spatial intelligence. I will talk about some of the techniques the have been developed to endow agents with spatial intelligence. Amongst these are methods involving qualitative spatial reasoning which has been a particular focus of mine over the years. The real challenge is how to enable an agent to make commonsense spatial inferences, and what is the role of natural language in relation to commonsense spatial reasoning?
Bio Anthony (Tony) Cohn is Professor of Automated Reasoning in the School of Computing, University of Leeds. His current research interests range from theoretical work on spatial calculi (receiving a KR test-of-time classic paper award in 2020) and spatial ontologies, to cognitive vision, modelling spatial information in the hippocampus, and Decision Support Systems, particularly for the built environment, as well as robotics. He is Editor-in-Chief of Spatial Cognition and Computation and was previously Editor-in-chief of the AI journal. He is the recipient of the 2021 Herbert A Simon Cognitive Systems Prize, as well as Distinguished Service Awards from IJCAI and AAAI. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Alan Turing Institute in the UK, and is also a Fellow of the AI societies AAAI, AISB, EurAI and AAIA.