The Symposium on Biological and Computational Perspectives on Intelligent System, like its predecessor in 1998, is motivated at the high level by the challenges of understanding neurobiological systems as machinery evolved for making valuable decisions under uncertainty. We have worked over the last year to organize a meeting that would bring together a set of passionate people drawn from the biological and the computational sciences to discuss questions about systems that sense, learn, perform inference, and make decisions under inescapable uncertainties—whether the systems are built upon a biological substrate or are based on computational representations and algorithmic procedures. We hope that the meeting will stimulate real-time discussions and insights, as well as to catalyze longer-term syntheses and efforts that bring together biological and computational perspectives on shared questions. The program overall takes invertebrate neurobiology as a valuable focus of attention—a focus aimed at better understanding invertebrate intelligence, as well as at making progress on vertebrate intelligence. Our intuition is that vertebrate intelligence, including the capabilities we know as human intelligence, likely leverages key innovations implemented within “older,” and potentially simpler and more transparent neurobiological fabric.
When we organized a conference under the same title seven years ago, we were uncertain but optimistic that valuable things might come out of an attempt to weave together the brightest minds in neurobiology, with scholars in computer science, decision science, statistics, and control theory. Given the multiple influences that the 1998 meeting had, we have learned that our optimism was well founded. We hope that this meeting will have similar positive interdisciplinary influences on addressing the challenges of understanding intelligent systems.
Eric Horvitz and Dennis Willows
Microsoft Research and