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The University of Southampton

ALIFE conference to reveal artificial agents that learn better

Published: 25 July 2008

A new way to regulate the extent to which artificial agents rely on social learning will be presented by researchers at the first European conference on Artificial Life (ALIFE XI) which will be held in Winchester from 5-8 August.

Dieter Vanderelst, Rene Ahn and Emilia Barakova from Eindhoven University of Technology will present a paper entitled Simulated Trust: Towards robust social learning on Tuesday 5 August. They will describe how they have developed a mechanism which makes it possible for artificial agents to regulate their reliance on social learning.

According to the researchers, although social learning is a potentially powerful learning mechanism to use in artificial multi-agent systems, findings in the animal kingdom show that it is also possibly detrimental as it could lead to agents acting on second-hand information that might not be trustworthy.

The researchers' simulations have shown that this new proposed trust mechanism is effective in regulating the extent to which agents rely on social learning and causes considerable improvements in their learning rate. (A copy of the paper is available from Joyce Lewis at:

The newly-formed Science and Engineering of Natural Systems (SENSe) group within the University of Southampton's School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) is hosting this year's conference, which will take place at the University of Winchester West Downs Campus, involving 250 participants and more paper presentations than ever before.

"This is a critical time for Artificial Life," said Dr Seth Bullock at ECS, the conference chair. "The field is on the verge of synthesising living cells, a feat that the Artificial Life community could only dream of when it started out in the late 80s."

Keynote speakers include internationally leading experts such as Professor Stuart Kauffman, author of The Origins of Order, Professor Peter Schuster, editor-in-chief of the journal Complexity, Professor Eva Jablonka, author of Evolution in Four Dimensions (with Marion Lamb), and Professor Andrew Ellington, a leading pioneer in the new science of synthetic biology.

Professor Takashi Ikegami from the University of Tokyo will open the conference, speaking on work spanning self-organisation and autopoiesis in systems of birds, robots, children, flies, cells, and even oil droplets. The conference is unified by a focus on understanding the fundamental behavioural dynamics of embedded, embodied, evolving and adaptive systems.

For further information on the conference, please visit:

Notes for editors

  • For further information on the conference, please visit:

  • For further information about Dr Seth Bullock, please visit:

  • For information about SENSe, please visit:

  • With around 500 researchers, and 900 undergraduate students, the School of Electronics and Computer Science at Southampton is one of the world's largest and most successful integrated research groupings, covering Computer Science, Software Engineering, Electronics, and Electrical Engineering. ECS has unrivalled depth and breadth of expertise in world-leading research, new developments and their applications.

  • The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. It is one of the UK's top 10 research universities, offering first-rate opportunities and facilities for study and research across a wide range of subjects in humanities, health, science and engineering. The University has around 22,000 students and over 5000 staff. Its annual turnover is in the region of £325 million.

    The University is one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine, and has a strong enterprise agenda. It is home to a range of world-leading research centres, including the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, and the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies.

  • For further information and press registration at the conference, contact:

    Hélène Murphy, Media Relations Consultant to the School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, Tel: 07944 847570, Email: (away from 22-29 July).


    Joyce Lewis, Communications Manager, School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton (tel. 023 8059 5453; email

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