We are happy to announce the “Neuromorphic, Natural and Physical Computing: Interdisciplinary Foundations (NNPC 2023)”, organized with generous support by the Volkswagen Foundation. The conference will take place the 25th – 27th of October 2023 in Hanover, Germany, and the deadline for submitting a 2-page abstract is March 31st
The general aim of NNPC 2023 is to boost interdisciplinary transfer of ideas and networking in the wider fields of non-digital computing. NNPC 2023 is a successor to the 2018 conference “Cognitive Computing: Merging Concepts with Hardware” (https://nnpc-conference.com/2018)whose very productive and motivating format will be kept, as well as the location and the generous funding conditions.
Each session is devoted to a specific theme. We encourage active engagement of attendants by requiring submission of a 2-page abstract on a subject relating to one of the session themes. These abstracts are peer-reviewed. From the accepted abstracts three are chosen for oral presentations and the remaining ones for posters. Importantly, novelty is not essential as our aim is to make knowledge to diffuse across boundaries of the scientific domains involved.
Four years ago, the pioneering conference Cognitive Computing: Merging Concepts with Hardware assembled a wide-spanning multidisciplinary audience to share and merge insights about non-standard concepts and technologies of computing. At least four traditions were brought together:
Work in these fields has enormously picked up speed in the interim, but it is still a plurality of traditions carried by a multitude of communities. We still lack unified concepts, shared terminology, transferable methods and common goals. After four years, it is a good time to take stock of progress that has been made, and to re-invigorate the effort of connecting our dispersed findings into a joint vision. We do not yet know how we will ultimately name our emerging field of generalized “computing” science. For the time being we will refer to it by calling out its main traditional anchors: Neuromorphic, Natural and Physical Computing (NNPC). In five sessions with much breakout times for personal exchange, we will explore
Each session will be commenced by a 1-hour invited keynotes and feature three 30-minute oral presentations selected from the submitted abstracts. In addition, we will invite three 1-hour plenary lectures that cross the session themes. This leaves much time for breaks and extensive poster sessions, a condition that will be creating a productive atmosphere for personal networking.
The physical substrates of NNPC will host dynamical phenomena that defy the principles of digital computing. Instead of relying on reproducible, stable binary switching, NNPC exploits dynamical processes that are stochastic, non-stationary, continuous-valued, un-clocked and spatially distributed. In order to enable a systematic, insightful design of NNPC systems, new conceptual frameworks and mathematical formalisms are needed. Suggestive topics:
Biological brains are so efficient because evolution has found ways to exploit a host of physiological and physical effects which neuronal tissue can offer. Extending this idea of “exploiting the physics” beyond brains, the strategy of what has been called “physical computing” or “in-materio computing” is to find ways to exploit for NNPC whatever physics can offer, opening up for effects that are inaccessible to neurophysiological substrates (and accessible to engineering and fabrication). Suggestive topics:
Biological brains are currently cited as the living proof that highly energy-efficient and “cognitive” computing beyond the limits of the digital paradigm are possible. This has led to the current dominance of the term “neuromorphic” when one wants to point to alternative computing technologies. However, there is also a long tradition of other non-digital computing proposals, which have been referred to by names like natural / physical / unconventional computing, and which have been pursued in various niches of CS, AI, Alife, theoretical physics and biology, and elsewhere. Our conference gives a forum for all alternative computing paradigms, neuromorphic and other sorts of “unconventional”. Suggested topics:
A key factor that empowered digital computing to become a world-changing technology is its scalability. Starting from concatenating bits into bitstrings and Boolean gates into Boolean circuits, arbitrarily compounded hierarchical data structures and program flows can be designed according to well-understood compositional principles. General principles of compositionality for non-symbolic information representations and arbitrarily extensible processing hierarchies for NNPC await their discovery. On the hardware side, only a few proposals for extensible multi-module neuromorphic architectures have been proposed (SpiNNaker immediately comes to mind) which present technical solutions for neural signal routing but are still limited with regards to functional and architectural diversity of the joinable modules. From a use case view, compositional principles for NNPC task specifications are likewise still restricted to specific, limited computational paradigms (as in the neural engineering framework or Act-R). Progress in general principles for scaling systems to arbitrary complexity is a key condition for the long-term sustainability of NNPC. Suggested topics:
Commercially or societally relevant scenarios for NNPC applications are still confined to niches. This is certainly due, on the one hand, to the early stage of NNPC research which is still mostly foundational and academic. But on the other hand, in our search for broad application scenarios we might be partly blinded by the urge to replace digital solutions in order to outwit the “End of Moore’s Law” and save energy. While this original motivation will remain strong and continue to call for NNPC solutions, other NNPC systems may turn out to be so different from digital systems that they cannot simply be plugged in where the latter are to be phased out. To the extent that NNPC systems become more brain-like (self-organizing, aging, with individual learning histories) they also become less computer-like. They may not be programmable in the accustomed way but need to be trained; they may not be identically reproducible but individual; they may not be re-bootable from some starting state but always-on (and might “die” if cut from energy supply). On the plus side, besides their energy efficiency they may boast an admirable robustness against variable or noisy input and physical damage; realize enormous data throughput rates; be bio-implantable; find creative un-premediated solutions for their tasks, and last but not least they may be un-hackable due to their individuality. All of this requires a thorough re-thinking of what an information-processing system is, what it can be used for, or what it can be doing all on its own. This is an interdisciplinary agenda which involves not only engineers but also psychologists, sociologists, economists and philosophers. Suggested topics:
To ensure maximum participation, all attendees are required to submit a 2-page abstract on a subject relating to one of the session themes. These abstracts are peer-reviewed. All accepted submissions will be granted an oral or poster presentation slot, and hosted publicly on the conference website upon agreement by the authors. Importantly, novelty is not essential as our aim is to make knowledge to diffuse across boundaries of the scientific domains involved.
For creating your abstract, please use the here provided word or latex template. Submissions in a different format or which do not respect the 2-page limit will not be considered for evaluation.
The venue, the Castle of Herrenhausen, a heritage of the Kings of Hannover – who for a long historical period were at the same time Kings of England – was transformed into an award-winning center for scientific events and is today administered and maintained through the Volkswagen Foundation. The Herrenhausen Gardens stretch across hectares of classical French gardening.
Some ideas for accommodation:
About the conference venue:
Here a link to the official website
Here the location:
Walking from the city center takes around 40 minutes, but it is a quite nice walk. Or use subway U4 or U5 from station Steintor in the city center, exit Schaumburgstraße.
About coffee breaks, lunch and dinner: all food will be provided during the conference on site and will exclusively be vegetarian. There is literally no excuse to leave the place and your colleagues until the conference is over.