Whitehead Lectures in Cognition, Computation and Culture

Goldsmiths' Departments of Computing and Psychology organise regular lectures by guest speakers throughout the academic year encompassing diverse aspects of cognition, computation and culture. All are welcome to attend.

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For enquiries related to the lectures, please contact Karina Linnell or Jamie A Ward.

Summer 2023

Emergence in the human brain: theory, practice, and opportunities

Fernando Rosas (University of Sussex)

21 Jun 2023, 5pm - book here Free on-campus talk - IGLT, Whitehead Building (Zoom link available on request)


Emergence is a profound subject that straddles many scientific scenarios and disciplines, including how galaxies are formed, how flocks and crowds behave, and how human experience arises from the orchestrated activity of neurons. At the same time, emergence is a highly controversial topic, surrounded by long-standing debates and disagreements on how to best understand its nature and its role within science. A way to move forward in these discussions is provided by formal approaches to quantify emergence, which give researchers frameworks to guide discussions and advance theories, and also quantitative tools to rigorously establish conjectures about emergence and test them on data. This talk presents an overview on the theory and practice of these formal approaches to emergence, and highlights the opportunities they open for studying the relationship between the brain and the mind. The talk presents illustrative examples of the application of principles of emergence to practical data analysis, discussing several key interpretation issues and avenues for future work.


Fernando Rosas works as lecturer at the University of Sussex and research fellow at Imperial College London and the University of Oxford. His work is focused on the development of conceptual and computational tools to better understand the collective dynamics of complex systems. His background includes studies in mathematics, physics, philosophy, and music composition.

Possibility Architectures: Exploring Human Communication with Generative AI

Simon DeDeo (Carnegie Mellon University and Santa Fe Institute, USA)

24 May 2023, 5pm


What we mean is given not just by what we say, but the things we could have said but didn't. More than that: as we navigate the possibilities before us, we conjure, at a distance, the ones we will later encounter. These emergent architectures, the product of cultural evolution, are crucial to understanding human communication. They appear as everything from verbal tics and cliché to higher-level figurative constructs such as irony, metaphor, and style. They sculpt possibility space on different timescales in ways that answer to cognitive bottlenecks and resource constraints, and social demands ranging from empathetic collaboration to self-censorship. Applying information-theoretic tools to the outputs of GPT-2, ChatGPT, and BERT, we reveal basic patterns in these possibility architectures. Functional, "Bauhaus" prose from the New York Times, for example, arranges possibilities in dense but predictable ways that are very different from the ill-defined Levy-flights of dream journal and the Gothic structure of Cormac McCarthy's *Stella Maris*. Our work reveals new scientific possibilities for Generative AI, and new insights into what — for now — makes us uniquely human.


Simon DeDeo is a cognitive scientist. He is an Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and External Faculty at the Santa Fe Institute, and leads the Laboratory for Social Minds. https://santafe.edu/~simon