Over the past two decades, biological knowledge has grown at an unprecedented rate, giving rise to new disciplines such as systems biology, testimony of the striking progress of modeling and quantitative methods across the field. During the same period, highly speculative ideas have matured, and entire conferences and journals are now devoted to them. Synthesizing artificial cells, simulating large-scale biological networks, storing and making intelligent use of an exponentially growing amount of data (e.g., microarrays), exploiting biological substrates for computation and control, and deploying bio-inspired engineering are all cutting-edge topics today.
ECAL '11 leveraged this remarkable development of biological modeling and extended the topics of Artificial Life to the fundamental properties of living organisms: their multiscale patternforming morphodynamics, their autopoiesis, robustness, capacity to self-repair, cognitive capacities, and co-adaptation at all levels, including ecological ones. Bringing together a large interdisciplinary community of biologists, computer scientists, physicists, and mathematicians, the conference gave them a moment to reflect on how traditional boundaries between disciplines have become blurred, and to revisit in depth what constitutes "life."
About the Editors
Paul Bourgine is the honorary director of RNSC, the French National Network of Complex Systems, former director of the CREA laboratory at Ecole Polytechnique, and founder of the Complex Systems Institute, Paris. He is also a co-founder of the CECOIA conferences in economics and artificial intelligence (1986), the ECAL conferences in artificial life (1990), the ECCE conferences in cognitive economics (2004) and the ECCS conferences in complex systems science (2005).
Marco Dorigo is a research director of the FNRS, the Belgian
National Funds for Scientific Research, and co-director of IRIDIA, the artificial intelligence laboratory of the Université Libre de Bruxelles. He is the inventor of the ant colony optimization metaheuristic. His current research interests include swarm intelligence, swarm robotics, and metaheuristics for discrete optimization. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Swarm Intelligence, and an Associate Editor or member of the Editorial Boards of many journals on computational intelligence and adaptive systems. Dr. Dorigo is a Fellow of the ECCAI and of the IEEE. He was awarded the Italian Prize for Artificial Intelligence in 1996, the Marie Curie Excellence Award in 2003, the Dr. A. De Leeuw-Damry-Bourlart award in applied sciences in 2005, the Cajastur "Mamdani" International Prize for Soft Computing in 2007, and an ERC Advanced Grant in 2010.
René Doursat is a researcher/lecturer in computer science and Alife, currently at CNRS and Ecole Polytechnique, Paris. After a detour through the Bay Area's software industry, he returned to academia in 2004, first as a visiting professor at the University of Nevada, then at the Complex Systems Institute, Paris, which he directed for two years. He founded the field of "Morphogenetic Engineering" to reconcile self-organization with architecture in artificial systems inspired by biological development.