• Eran Agmon (Columbia University):
  • Martin Biehl (Araya Brain Imaging)
  • Christopher L Buckley (University of Sussex)
  • Simon McGregor (University of Sussex)
  • Nathaniel Virgo (Earth-Life Science Institute):
  • Olaf Witkowski (Earth-Life Science Institute):


Eran Agmon is a postdoctoral scientist at Columbia University, where he develops molecular models of biomembranes, and uses them to investigate the mechanisms of cell viability, cell death, and the origins of life. He received his PhD under Randall Beer, in the Cognitive Science Program and The School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University. For his Phd, he developed a spatial model of chemical concentration dynamics that supported the emergence of protocells, and applied complex systems tools for their analysis. This work established a framework for studying emergent individuals and their adaptive interactions with the environment, which he continues to pursue in systems of increased chemical realism.

Martin Biehl studied physics at HU Berlin and TU Wien. Elective courses in artificial intelligence, theoretical neuroscience, and robotics led him to the question of how the systems studied in these subjects can be formally described as phenomena occurring in the spatially (more or less) homogenous theories of physics. This became the topic of his PhD thesis under Professor Daniel Polani at the University of Hertfordshire. During his time as a PhD student he was a JSPS short term fellow with Professor Takashi Ikegami at the University of Tokyo and a visiting researcher with Professor Nathaniel Virgo at the Earth-Life-Science Institute Origins Network (EON) of the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Currently, he continues his research into agency at Araya Brain Imaging in Tokyo.

Christopher L Buckley is a lecturer in neural computation at the University of Sussex and a visiting researcher at the Riken Brain Science Institute in Tokyo. His research interests lie at the intersection between neuroscience and embodied artificial intelligence. In particular he is concerned with how an appreciation of brain/body/environment interactions should impact on our understanding of neural circuits and brain function. Recently he has been involved in developing a setup that allows optogenetic imaging of neural activity in larval zebrafish behaving in virtual realities. This setup allows recordings from all neurons across the fish brain during active behaviour and has the potential to provide a unique insight into the neural basis of embodied cognition.

Simon McGregor is a complex adaptive systems scientist at the University of Sussex who studied Computer Science, Social & Political Science, Evolutionary & Adaptive Systems, and Artificial Intelligence at Cambridge and Sussex, and conducted postdoctoral research in robotics (at Hertfordshire) and simulated ribozyme reaction networks (at Sussex). His current research focus is on how statistical (information-theoretic, Pearlian and Bayesian) formalisms – including the so-called “free energy framework” – can be used to characterise the precise senses in which physical systems exhibit apparently rational behaviour; he is also interested in the conceptual implications of these characterisations, and their relations to statistical mechanics. Dr McGregor was the organiser of the “Philosophical and Mathematical Conceptions Of Agency” Workshop at SAB 2016.

Nathaniel Virgo is a multidisciplinary scientist using techniques from artificial life and physics to study the origins of life. His central question is how life-like phenomena such as metabolism, learning and evolution can arise in abiotic systems, and in chemical systems in particular. Agency is one such life-like property that needs to be understood and explained. Nathaniel is currently an assistant professor at ELSI, the Earth-Life Science Institute in Tokyo, and the executive director of the ELSI Origins Network, a large science grant that employs several people to work on the origins of life. He was a co-organiser of the “Biological Foundations of Enactivism” workshop at ALife XV in Cancun, 2016.

Olaf Witkowski is an EON research scientist at the Earth-Life Science Institute in Tokyo, and a visiting member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He also is a founding member at YHouse­ ­— a nonprofit interdisciplinary institute focused on awareness, artificial intelligence and complex systems. He received his PhD under Takashi Ikegami, from the Computer Science Department of the University of Tokyo. His current research aims to understand the computational foundations of cognition and the origins of life, using mathematical models of emergent phenomena, large-scale computer simulations of complex systems, and connectionist machine learning.