Public and Plenary Lectures


Public Lectures - open to the general public, everyone welcome

John Barnden 'Creative Metaphor, Mind Out! Or Rather, Mind In' (Tuesday 1st April, 18:00-19:00, New Academic Building, LG02) Click here for details. Simon Colton 'The Painting Fool: Weak and Strong Computational Creativity Research in Action' (Thursday 3rd April, 18:00-19:00, New Academic Building, LG02) Click here for details. Hannah Smithson The Colour Group (GB) Public Lecture: 'New perspectives on colour from a 13th century account of light, material and rainbows' (Friday 4th April: 18:00-19:00, New Academic Building, LG02) Click here for details.  

Plenaries - during the AISB50 convention

Susan Stepney 'When does a slime mould compute?' (Tuesday 1st April, 9:30-10:30  Convention Plenary, NAB LG02) Click here for details. Lucy Suchman 'Human(oid) Robot Reconfigurations' (Wednesday 2nd April, 9:30-10:30  Convention Plenary, NAB LG02) Click here for details. Terrence Deacon 'In what sense could a machine be alive?' (Thursday 3th April, 9:30-10:30  Convention Plenary, NAB LG02) Click here for details. Humberto Maturana 'Living Systems and Robots' (Friday 4th April, 9:30-10:30  Convention Plenary, NAB LG02) Click here for details.  

Abstracts and Biographies

John Barnden (Tuesday 1st April, 18:00-19:00, New Academic Building, LG02) Title: Creative Metaphor, Mind Out! Or Rather, Mind In Abstract: Metaphors often describe situations creatively, whether to impress you with a familiar phenomenon in a new way, or to convey a new, interesting thought. I will discuss respects in which metaphors can be creative, drawing insights from the AI account called ATT-Meta that I have been developing, This aims to explain how the subtleties of metaphorical language--and other, non-linguistic, forms of metaphorical expression--arise and can be understood. The approach lends itself naturally to the idea popular in some circles that metaphor resides in thought as opposed to communication particularly. But more than this the approach supports a dramatic and disruptive version of this suggestion: namely that our thoughts can be intrinsically and creatively metaphorical in a way that cannot wholly be translated into non-metaphorical thoughts. This suggestion arises out of the ATT-Meta approach's stance on analogy: while analogy is involved in metaphor, and novel analogies are important in creativity, there is also a strong non-analogical side to creative metaphor. Bio: John Barnden has been Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham, UK, since 1997. He was Chair of AISB (Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour) from 2003 to 2010, and is currently Vice-Chair. Prior to 1997 he spent many years in the USA, first at Indiana University (in Bloomington, Indiana) and then at the Computing Research Laboratory at New Mexico State University. His first degree was in mathematics at Cambridge, and his doctorate was in AI at Oxford. His main research in metaphor, and he is interested in the linguistic, psychological and philosophical aspects of this topic as well as in its role in AI.
Simon Colton (Thursday 3rd April, 18:00-19:00, New Academic Building, LG02) Title: The Painting Fool: Weak and Strong Computational Creativity Research in Action Abstract: Computational Creativity research comprises the art, science, philosophy and engineering of software which, by taking on certain responsibilities, would be called creative by unbiased observes. In particular, we try to hand over creative responsibilities to software so that it can act as a creative collaborator, or an independently creative entity. Mirroring Artificial Intelligence research in general, there are often weak and strong aims to our projects. Weak aims target the improved generation of intriguing and engaging artefacts, such as poems, paintings, musical compositions, video games, mathematical theories and designs. Projects with strong aims look to convince people that it is appropriate to use the word creative to describe the behaviour of autonomous software. Many projects have both weak and strong aims, and these are often conflicting and contradictory. In the talk, I will raise these issues in a general philosophical context, covering other areas such as how to assess creative progress in software and the humanity gap. The Painting Fool is software that we have developed for more than a decade, with the aim that it is one day accepted as a creative artist in its own right ( This raises as many sociological as technical issues, and in the second half of the talk, I will present The Painting Fool as an emerging artist from both weak and strong Computational Creativity perspectives. In particular, I will discuss the recent You Can't Know my Mind exhibit within a Computational Creativity festival. Here, the portraits that The Painting Fool produced were directed by a mood model driven by constantly reading newspaper articles, and in some cases, if it was in a particularly bad mood, it would refuse to paint a portrait at all, citing good reasons for its decision. When in a better mood, a portrait is painted live, in an attempt to capture that mood - and at the end of the process the software assesses how well it has done with pre-trained Artificial Neural Networks. For this project, we enabled The Painting Fool to express behaviours which involve skill, appreciation, imagination, learning, reflection, accountability and intentionality, and in the talk, I hope to convince the audience that it might be appropriate to call this software creative in its own right. Bio: Simon Colton is a Professor of Computational Creativity in the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths, University of London, and also an EPSRC leadership fellow. His research interests have covered many areas of Artificial Intelligence and philosophy, all within a context of Computational Creativity, where the aim is to engineer autonomously creative software. He has published more than 150 papers, and his research has been recognised with national and international awards. He leads the Computational Creativity Research Group at Goldsmiths (, which comprises 12 people investigating issues surrounding creative systems with applications to pure mathematics, graphic design, creative language, ideation, the visual arts and videogame design. Prof. Colton is best known for his work on creative systems such as The Painting Fool (, for which the aim is to build an automated painter which is one day taken seriously as a creative artist in its own right. His work has been covered by the New Scientist, BBC Horizon, BBC radio, The Observer, Wired, Stuff magazine, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, More 4 News, The Metro, El Pais and many other news outlets.
Hannah Smithson The Colour Group (GB) Public Lecture Title: 'New perspectives on colour from a 13th century account of light, material and rainbows' (Friday 4th April: 18:00-19:00, New Academic Building, LG02) Abstract: Can science today learn from thirteenth century literature? An interdisciplinary team of physicists, medievalists, Latin scholars and historians of science has embarked on a rich encounter with the great medieval English thinker Robert Grosseteste (1175-1253). We present Grosseteste’s treatise the De colore (On colour), to reveal and explore the three-dimensional space within which he characterises colour. His later treatise the De iride (On the rainbow) revisits his theory of colour generation, but with surprising results when seen from modern perspectives. By using medieval studies and modern colour science, the treatises can be interpreted in new, stimulating and more complete ways. Almost 800 years after their inception, Grosseteste’s writings prompt us to explore a new coordinate system for colour.
Susan Stepney (Tuesday 1st April, 9:30-10:30 Convention Plenary, NAB LG02) Title: When does a slime mould compute? Abstract: Some people are using billiard balls, chemicals, bacteria, slime moulds, soap films, spaghetti, even black holes, as computers (although some of these only in theory yet). But what does it mean for such unconventional substrates to compute? I will introduce our framework for physical computing, give requirements for physical system to be used as a computer, and show how some unconventional substrates are indeed computing, and how others are not.
Lucy Suchman (Wednesday 2nd April, 9:30-10:30 Convention Plenary, NAB LG02) Title: Human(oid) Robot Reconfigurations Abstract: Building on the arguments put forward in Human-Machine Reconfigurations (2007; an expanded edition of my earlier book Plans and Situated Actions 1987), this talk considers the ways in which the lives and liveliness of humanoid robots are currently represented, and how their histories might be narrated differently. More specifically, I suggest that the stories that comprise humanoid robot biographies are based upon a series of elisions that work to obscure the material practices and specific circumstances on which the agencies of robots depend. Those materialities and specificities, made evident, challenge the traditional humanist figurations that animate popular robot imaginaries. And they enable different stories that configure roboticists, robots and human-robot interactions into what promise to be less mystifying, and more generative, affiliations.
Terrence Deacon (Thursday 3th April, 9:30-10:30 Convention Plenary, NAB LG02) Title: In what sense could a machine be alive? Abstract: Definitions of life are notoriously either vague and overgeneralized or fragmented and disjointed. Commonly cited properties include self-maintenance and reproduction, though being capable of evolving is often also considered relevant, and the presence or absence of one or another of these may not be critical. Slightly more descriptive accounts often include the reciprocal production of components, each from interactions among the others (as in the concepts of autopoiesis and hypercycle). Most definitions lack any account of the underlying mechanism that achieves these functions, however. ``Artificial life" simulations, which exhibit the tendency of algorithms or their graphical representations to reproduce and evolve, similarly tend to be agnostic about how these properties are physically realized, and ignore altogether the material and energetic basis of these processes. Probably the first and best-known effort to specify the properties required to define a living machine was produced by John von Neumann in his 1966 paper on self-reproducing machines. In this model there was a strict distinction between the instruction code for the design of the machine and the construction mechanism that implemented and ultimately copied these instructions. Though this logic was the precursor to the whole field of artificial life and cellular automata, its full physical realization remains beyond reach. I argue that this difficulty reflects the failure to define life mechanistically, i.e. by specifying the types of physical processes that reciprocally produce their component parts, explaining how these self-reconstituting processes maintain the integrated unity of the whole system, and demonstrating how the architecture of the whole can be represented in a form that doesn't become corrupted by turnover of components and factors that degrade system organization. A process called autogenesis is described in which multiple self-organizing processes are linked by virtue of each producing the critical boundary constraints that maintain the others. By virtue of this synergy of constraints they collectively generate a second-order constraint that maintains the integrity of the whole. Because this second-order constraint is neither a physical nor a chemical constraint, but rather a constraint on the relationships between lower-order constraint-generating processes, it persists unchanged despite turnover of substrates and partial degradation of system integrity. Though described in terms of molecular components, autogenesis is a generic process that should be realizable in diverse substrates and at diverse scales. I argue that a machine (in the widest sense of being a system of interacting parts) is alive if it is autogenic.​
Humberto Maturana (Friday 4th April, 9:30-10:30  Convention Plenary, NAB LG02) Title: tbc Abstract: tbc