Events  Parmenides Talks



Parmenides Center for the Conceptual Foundations of Science

27 March, 11 am, Parmenides Foundation, Pullach

Dr. Richard Watson
Senior Lecturer, Natural Systems, Computer Science, Uni. of Southampton, UK.

The Evolution of Ecological Relationships and Connectionist Adaptation in Ecosystems
We show conditions for a dynamical homology between the evolution of inter-species relationships in an ecosystem and associative learning in neural networks. We demonstrate that an ecosystem can thereby exhibit associative memory/recall of past ecological states, and learning capability, homologous to a distributed constraint-solving algorithm, that improves the ability of the system to find ecological states that increase the efficient use of resources. This suggests that ecosystems can exhibit adaptation – not by natural selection and not in the Darwinian sense, but rather – in the same sense and by the same mechanism as connectionist models of organismic learning. We discuss the necessary conditions for this to occur and the consequences of such adaptation for ecological function.

Dr. Watson's main areas of scientific cross-disciplinary achievement include:
·        Modular problem structure and problem decomposition
·        Sex and genetic structure
·        Symbiosis, coevolution and coupled adaptive processes

Watson, R.A., Compositional Evolution: The impact of Sex, Symbiosis and Modularity on the Gradualist Framework of Evolution. MIT Press. 2006.



Parmenides Center for the Conceptual Foundations of Science

October 17, 2013, 11 am, Parmenides Foundation, Pullach

Prof. Dr. Dirk Helbing
Chair of Sociology, ETH Zurich.

Economy 2.0: Towards a Self-Regulating, Participatory Market Society to Counter Complexity and Extreme Events
Most 21st century challenges, including climate change, financial stability, or energy supply, cannot be solved by technology alone. They have an important behavioral and social component. Some of the problems even occur if everybody has good intentions, is well equipped, and highly motivated to do the right things. These problems can be a result of systemic instabilities, eventually resulting in cascade effects and extreme events. Typical examples are phantom traffic jams, crowd disasters, financial meltdowns, conflicts, or wars. Moreover, while cooperation in social dilemma situations would be favorable for everyone, it is often unstable. This can lead to "tragedies of the commons". The classical approach to overcome such tragedies is to introduce laws, regulations, punishments, taxes, or other mechanisms, which, in the best case, change the nature of the interaction. However, so far these mechanisms have largely failed to reduce carbon emissions or overfishing, for example. As an alternative, I will demonstrate the power of social mechanisms to change the behavior of people in favorable ways. I will show that evolution has, in fact, created a "homo socialis" with other-regarding preferences besides the self-regarding "homo economicus". But while humans have developed a science and institutions for the "homo economicus", we currently lack suitable institutions to support the "homo socialis". Therefore, there is a need for an innovative kind of socio-economic organization, which I will call "socionomy" or "participatory market society" or "economy 2.0". The transition to this new organization will be enabled and catalyzed by emerging information and communication technologies, particular social technologies. Overall, I expect a fundamental paradigm shift in our current socio-economic approach and thinking. It will open up a very exciting perspective for the 21st century, which I anticipate to be an era of creativity and participation.