Participants

Participant Group
Kevin Laland

Kevin Laland

Cluster:
Agential Behavior and Plasticity in Evolution
Project:
Exploratory mechanisms, agency, and evolution
Role:
Subaward Principal Investigator

Kevin Laland is Professor of Behavioural and Evolutionary Biology at the University of St Andrews, and prior to that held positions at UCL, UC Berkeley and Cambridge Universities. His principle academic interests are in the general area of animal behaviour and evolution, with a specific focus on: (i) animal social learning, innovation and intelligence, (ii) niche construction, inclusive inheritance and the extended evolutionary synthesis, and (iii) human evolution, particularly the evolution of cognition. He has published c. 300 scientific articles on these topics, been the recipient of more than £17m in grant income, and authored 12 books, including Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony. How Culture Made the Human Mind (Princeton UP 2017), and Niche Construction: The Neglected Process in Evolution (with John Odling-Smee and Marc Feldman, Princeton UP, 2003). Laland is an Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology.

Richard Watson

Richard Watson

Cluster:
Agential Behavior and Plasticity in Evolution
Project:
Evolution and organismal goal-directedness, Exploratory mechanisms, agency, and evolution
Role:
Subaward Principal Investigator

Dr Richard Watson studies evolution, learning, cognition and society and their unifying algorithmic principles. He studied Artificial Intelligence and Adaptive Systems at Sussex University, then PhD Computer Science at Brandeis in Boston. His current work deepens the unification of evolution and learning - specifically, with connectionist models of learning and cognition, familiar in neural network research – to address topics such as evolvability, ecological memory, evolutionary transitions in individuality (ETIs), phenotypic plasticity, the extended evolutionary synthesis, collective intelligence and 'design'. He has also developed new computational methods for combinatorial optimisation (deep optimisation), exploiting a unification of deep learning and ‘deep evolution’ (i.e. ETIs). He is author of "Compositional evolution" (MIT Press), was featured as "one to watch in AI” in Intelligent Systems magazine, and his paper “How Can Evolution Learn” in TREE, attracted the ISAL award 2016. He is now Associate Professor at the University of Southampton.