Workshops 29th July and 2nd August 2013

The Living Machines 2013 workshops will be held in the Sir Alexander Fleming Building, Imperial College London

Sir Alexander Fleming Building
Imperial College London
South Kensington Campus

Imperial College is conveniently located within a short walking distance of the other Living Machines venues: For directions to Imperial College please refer to:


Workshops Monday 29 July  


“Self and Cognitive Systems"

Peter Ford Dominey: CNRS, Inserm,
peter [dot] dominey [at] inserm [dot] fr,
Paul Verschure: ICREA-UPF, paul [dot] verschure [at] upf [dot] edu,

The emergence of “self” in human development, and its full expression in adulthood is one of the remaining core problems in the human cognitive sciences. This workshop will take a new perspective on this issue by approaching the question from a new perspective: can we build a system that has a self? We will address the development of the sense of self in the human infant and child, in the context of attempting to contribute to a characterization of the initial state of the infant, the learning mechanisms, and the developmental trajectory through stages including the ecological self, the interpersonal self, and the autobiographical self.
- Principal contributions will be from developmental psychologists, neuroscientists, psychiatrists and philosophers. In order to provide a concrete framework, presenters will be make their presentations with the intention that they will contribute to discussion about the specification of a developmental robotic cognitive system that can be used to investigate the development of self.
- An introduction and targeted presentations will outline the state of the art in robotic cognitive systems.
- Substantial time will be devoted to discussion.

Invited Speakers:
Martin Conway – Autobiographical memory and self
Nick Chater – Self and Other in Joint Action
Kevin O’Regan – Phenomenal experience of self
Giorgio Metta – Physical Self and Peri-personal Space
Yiannis Demiris – Motor Self and Development of the Mirror system
Paul Verschure – An Architecture for Self
Peter Ford Dominey – Construction of the Narrative Self over Time

The workshop will be oriented towards specification of open problems in self
and cognitive systems, with focused discussion to attempt to address these
issues together.
Peter Ford Dominey – Introduction and Welcome
09.45-10.30: Yiannis Demiris 35 min talk + 10 min q’s
10.30-11:15: Giorgio Metta 35 min talk + 10 min q’s
11.15-12.00: Peter Ford Dominey 35 min talk + 10 min q’s
12.00-13.00: Lunch To be provided
13:00-14:00: Martin Conway 50 min talk + 10 min q’s
14:00-15:00: Nick Chater 50 min talk + 10 min q’s
15.00-16.00: Kevin O’Regan 50 min talk + 10 min q’s
16.00-16.45: Paul Verschure 35 min talk + 10 min q’s
16.45-18.00: Focused discussion on the open challenges for development of self in cognitive systems.


Learning from the Plant Kingdom to Invent Smart Artificial Solutions

Barbara Mazzolai: Center for Micro-BioRobotics, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT)
e-mail: barbara [dot] mazzolai [at] iit [dot] it,

Lucia Beccai: Center of MicroBioRobotics, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT)
e-mail: lucia [dot] beccai [at] iit [dot] it,

The aim of the workshop is to present and discuss the importance of investigating plants for learning from their structure and behaviour, and for mimicking their features to develop new technologies and systems. Plants are the best example among living beings of efficient soil exploration and conquer of almost any surface of the planet. However plants have rarely been a source of inspiration for robotics and artificial intelligence, probably because of misconceptions on their capabilities and because of their radically different functional principles as compared to other living organisms. The challenge is to build from our understanding of plants into materials and new design targets, and hence new technology. In this Workshop a selected group of top-scientists, worldwide expert and active in the field, will contribute to discuss the best approaches and strategic priorities, in addition to identify potential application areas, in order to push the relevant scientific and technological frontiers of this field.
Main topics that will be covered are:
- Plant-inspired robotics
- Plant sensing and growth
- Fibre hierarchies in plants
- Actuators inspired by osmosis principle
- Communication in plants
- Plant-inspired evolutionary algorithms
- Plant phenotyping
- Plant-inspired adaptive structures

Programme: click here


Workshops Friday 2nd August                                      


Neuromorphic models, circuits, and emerging nano-technologies for real-time neural processing systems

Giacomo Indiveri: Institute of Neuroinformatics, University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland. Email: giacomo [at] ethz [dot] ch URL:
Themistoklis Prodromakis: Center for Bio-Inspired Technology, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Imperial College London, United Kingdom. Email: t [dot] prodromakis [at] imperial [dot] ac [dot] uk

Conventional neuro-computing architectures and artificial neural networks have often been developed with no or loose connections to neuroscience. As a consequence, they have largely ignored key features of biological neural processing systems, such as their extremely low-power consumption features or their ability to carry out robust and efficient computation using massively parallel arrays of limited precision, highly variable, and unreliable components. Recent developments in nano-technologies are making available extremely compact and low-power, but also variable and unreliable solid-state devices that can potentially extend the offerings of availing CMOS technologies. We propose to use this event to discuss possible architectures for implementing neural processing architectures using CMOS and emerging nano-technologies that exploit similar strategies and principles used by the nervous system towards implementing robust and reliable computation using low-power and inhomogeneous components. We aim to identify the most suitable models, circuits, and nano-technology solutions for building real-time neural processing systems that can be useful in both basic and applied research.

Invited Speakers:
Sue Denham (susandenh [at] googlemail [dot] com)
Eleni Vasilaki (e [dot] vasilaki [at] sheffield [dot] ac [dot] uk)
Tentatively agreed:
Piotr Dudek (p [dot] dudek [at] manchester [dot] ac [dot] uk)
Leslie Smith (l [dot] s [dot] smith [at] cs [dot] stir [dot] ac [dot] uk)

Perliminary programme:
Morning session: 9:00 to 13:00. We will give a 20-minute presentation each.

Afternoon session: round-table discussion to identify common research themes of interest and possible ways to enhance synergies in this field. We aspire doing this by having posters from our students hanging in the background, to view and discuss during the coffee breaks.

Emergent social behaviours in bio-hybrid systems

JoséHalloy: Universite Paris Diderot, jose [dot] halloy [at] univ-paris-diderot [dot] fr
Thomas Schmickl: Karl-Franzens-University Graz,
thomas [dot] schmickl [at] uni-graz [dot] at,
Stuart P. Wilson: University of Sheffield,
s [dot] p [dot] wilson [at] sheffield [dot] ac [dot] uk,

This symposium will explore the emergence of biohybridsocieties comprising living systems (i.e., organisms) and embodied artificial systems (i.e., robots). Biohybrid societies research is a new science, which poses exciting new questions at the interface between computational biology, biomimetic and bio-inspired robotics, swarm robotics and swarm intelligence, and artificial intelligence and artificial life. How can livingand artificial systems self-organise to generatecomplex aggregate behaviours? By what processes can mixed societies maintain group-level homeostasis? How might organisms and robots compete and/or cooperate in order to achieve common goals? What can biohybrid societies research reveal about the organisation of natural social systems? How can control over the individual be used to exert control over the group?By what laws mightbiohybrid societies emerge, develop, and evolve? Biohybrid societies research also raises important ethical questionsaboutpotential benefits to and impacts upon animal welfare, aboutthe safety of biohybrid systems, and about the potential impacts of biohybrid technologies for e.g., agriculture, entertainment, and health. With these questions in mind, the symposiumwill feature invited talks tackling ‘core’ themes, as well as exploratory short-talks at open invitation, a poster session, and a structured panel discussion addressingbroader concepts and potential impacts.

Confirmed speakers
Terence Deacon - title TBC.
Chrisantha Fernando - "Darwinian Neurodynamics"
Andrew Adamatzky -  "Advances in Physarum Machines"
Thomas Schmickl  - "From Biology & Robots to Biohybrid Systems"
Roderich Groß
"Collective Behavior: Minimalism, Evolution and Science Automation"
José Halloy - "Biological and technological challenges of social bio-hybrid systems of animals and robots generating collective intelligence"


Societal Impacts of Living Machines

Tony Prescott: University of Sheffield, t [dot] j [dot] prescott [at] sheffield [dot] ac [dot] uk
Michael Szollosy: University of Sheffield, m [dot] szollosy [at] sheffield [dot] ac [dot] uk

To consider the societal impacts of advances in Living Machine technologies and the ethical and legal issues that arise from these. The symposium will consider impacts on the human welfare, positive and negative, of developments in areas such as assistive robotics, military and surveillance robotics, companion robots, physical and neural prosthetics.

Plenary Speakers:
Luciano Floridi (University of Hertfordshire)
Learning by Building: The Impact of Living Machines on our Understanding

Shorter talks:
Mark Bishop (Goldsmiths College, London) Mechanical bodies; mythical minds; monstrous dangers?

Joanna Bryson (University of Bath) In group or out group? The role of living machines in human society
Madeleine de Cock Buning (University of Utrecht) Living Machines and law: towards a sustainable normative framework
David Levy (
Intelligent Toys Ltd) Lovotics and sex with robots
Michael Szollosy (University of Sheffield) A psychoanalytic perspective on fear of automata
Tony Prescott (University of
Sheffield) AI and runaway human intelligence
Paul Verschure (University Pompeu Fabra & ICREA Barcelona) Pain and the Machine: How a robot's pain will assist us in alleviating human suffering
Steve Wright (Leeds Metropolitan University) Challenging The Impacts of Self-deciding Living Machine Technologies on Privacy and Freedom