Preprogrammed:

Innateness in Neuroscience and AI

Online Symposium

September 9th 2021


Rethinking innateness once more

Present from birth, independent from experience, unlearned. Universal, heritable, evolved. Genetically encoded, hardwired, preprogrammed.

The concept of innateness has many meanings – it was many times claimed to be hazy, not well-defined, and useless. Yet it is still there: used in next reincarnations of the nature-nurture debate, political and social discussions and – most recently – in debates over the future of AI. Many of us claim that without taking innateness in consideration we will not understand the brain, we will not be able to change our society and we will not develop the real artificial general intelligence.

Is it true? Why is the concept of innateness still so viable? Can we precisely define it, and does it really matter if we can’t? How should it be used in neuroscience, psychology or AI? What are the relationships between evolution, genes and development? Should we keep the concept of innateness, abandon it – or just modify it?

Our symposium is aimed to try to answer those questions. With our speakers – philosophers, psychologists, neroscientists and AI researchers – we will try to map different meanings of innateness in different fields, discuss if those meanings are compatible and what are implications of it; we will think how this concept can be used and what are the limits of its usefulness.

We will conclude our meeting with an online discussion.

Invited speakers:

  • Iris Berent (Northeastern University)
  • Paul Cisek (University of Montreal)
  • Thomas Dietterich (Oregon State University)
  • Alison Gopnik (UC Berkeley)
  • Gregory Kohn (University of North Florida)
  • Melanie Mitchell (Santa Fe Institute)
  • Clement Moulin-Frier (INRIA)
  • Sebastian Risi (University of Copenhagen)
  • Richard Samuels (Ohio State University)

The Symposium will take place 9:30 AM – 6:45 PM EST. The exact schedule of the symposium will be published here at the beginning of June.

Registration form