Workshop 2008

 You are hereby invited to an international, half-day workshop in our interdisciplinary seminar series on Evolution, Complexity and Cognition (ECCO).



Monday, October 13, 2008, 2-7 pm.



Room B 0.036 (building B, level 0, close to the human sciences computer rooms), on the VUB Campus Etterbeek (Brussels, Belgium). Coffee and drinks are available. Free entrance: everybody welcome!



ECCO Workshop:

Future Evolution of Mind and Universe




As an immediate follow-up on its conference "Evolution and Development of the Universe" (Paris, Oct. 8-9, 2008), the ECCO group organizes a half-day international workshop in Brussels, on a related subject. The speakers, all affiliated with ECCO, come from four continents to discuss the implications for the future of humanity that follow from their research on information, knowledge, and consciousness, and their functions in society and the larger universe. The workshop intends to discuss some of the core themes of the interdisciplinary domain of "Evolution, Complexity and Cognition", with a focus on future developments.



14.00 - 14.30: Francis Heylighen (director ECCO, VUB):

An Introduction to the ECCO Theme, and its Implications for Future Development


14.30 - 16.00: Nagarjuna G. (Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Mumbai, India):

Constructing a World out of Nodes and Links: Structure and Dynamics of Knowledge


16.00 - 16.20: Coffee Pause


16.20 - 17.40: John Stewart (ECCO, Australia):

The Future Psychological Evolution of Humanity


17.40 - 19.00: John Smart (Acceleration Studies Foundation, USA):

Evo Devo Universe? A Framework for Speculations on Cosmic Culture


The longer presentations last about 40 minutes each, with a similar amount of time devoted to questions and discussion during and after the presentation.



More information about the talks and speakers:



Nagarjuna G.: Constructing a World out of Nodes and Links: Structure and Dynamics of Knowledge



At the lab in Homi Bhabha Centre, TIFR, Mumbai, we have been developing, based on several of the available semantic network models, a distributed collaborative knowledge base (GNOWSYS) where all data is handled as nodes and links between them. All knowledge assertions are handled as links between nodes, and the system can be used to study dynamics of knowledge (change in knowledge, conceptual change, growth of knowledge networks), etc. The talk will include a brief demonstration of one of the web-based applications developed using GNOWSYS called "dependency network of concepts". However, the focus of the talk will be on the node/link-centered philosophy of science, and how it can transform the ontological and epistemological foundations of science. A set of hypotheses will be stated for measuring and comparing degree of formal character of knowledge.


About the speaker

Dr. Nagarjuna G is a Reader at Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Tata institute of Fundamental Research, based in Mumbai, India. His major focus of research is structure and dynamics of knowledge. A biologist and philosopher by training, he uses and develops libre software for research and education using knowledge representation techniques.



John Stewart:  The Future Psychological Evolution of Humanity



Evolution on Earth has a trajectory.  The scale over which living processes are organized cooperatively has increased progressively, as has their evolvability.  Evolution on Earth now appears to be on the threshold of producing a cooperative organization that is coordinated on the scale of the planet.  Extrapolating further, the scale of cooperative organization would continue to increase as a result of the linking up of life that emerges in separate locations in the universe. Recent theoretical advances raise the possibility that this trajectory is itself part of a wider developmental process that could lead to the reproduction of the universe itself.   When life emerges on a planet, it moves along this trajectory of its own accord.  However, at a particular point evolution will continue to advance only if organisms emerge that decide to advance the evolutionary process intentionally.


To complete this transition to intentional evolution, the organisms must free themselves from the dictates of the goals and values implanted in them during their biological and cultural past, enabling them to find motivation and satisfaction in whatever needs to be done to advance the evolutionary process. Critical questions to be discussed are: has humanity got the potential to develop this new psychological capacity?  If so, how might the capacity be acquired? What other potentials exist for enhancing human psychological capacities? The presentation will draw on information processing models of the functioning of consciousness and of the practices of religious and contemplative traditions to address these questions.


About the speaker

John Stewart is an Australia-based member of the Evolution, Complexity and Cognition (ECCO) group.  His main interest is in the development of an evolutionary worldview that reveals to us who we are, and what we should be doing with our lives.  He has published several papers in international journals that outline a theory of the directionality of evolution and its implications for humanity. He is the author of the book 'Evolution's Arrow: the direction of evolution and the future of humanity'. More recently he has finalized 'The Evolutionary Manifesto', which outlines an evolutionary worldview and explores its relevance to humanity.




John Smart: Evo Devo Universe? A Framework for Speculations on Cosmic Culture



The underlying paradigm for cosmology is theoretical physics. We explore ways this framework might be extended with insights from information and computation studies and evolutionary developmental (evo-devo) biology, and what it implies for cosmic culture. We will briefly model our universe as an information processing, evolutionary and developmental system. Our framework will try to reconcile the majority of unpredictable, evolutionary features of universal emergence with a special subset of potentially statistically predictable and developmental universal trends, including:

  • accelerating advances in universal complexity, a pattern seen over the last half-but not the first half-of the universe's history
  • increasing spatial and temporal locality of universal complexity development
  • apparently hierarchical emergence of increasingly matter and energy efficient and matter and energy dense 'substrates' (platforms) for adaptation and computation
  • the apparent accelerating emergence, on Earth, of increasingly postbiological (technological) systems of physical transformation and computation.


About the speaker

John Smart is an evolutionary developmental systems theorist who studies science and technological culture with an emphasis on accelerating change, computational autonomy and theories of intelligence. He directs the Acceleration Studies Foundation, a non-profit research organization, is an affiliate of the ECCO research group at VUB and a co-founder of the . John has a BS in business from UC Berkeley, has done graduate work in physiology and medicine at UC San Diego, and post-baccalaureate work in biological, cognitive, computer and physical sciences at UCLA, UC Berkeley, and UCSD. Most recently he finished an MS in Futures Studies at the University of Houston in 2007.