Abstract. The surprising power of computational ideas for precipitating progress in other sciences, often called "the algorithmic lens" has manifested itself in these past few decades in virtually all sciences: natural, life, or social for example, in statistical physics through the study of phase transitions in terms of the convergence of Markov chain-Monte Carlo algorithms, and in quantum mechanics through quantum computing. Almost a decade ago, ideas and methodologies from computational complexity revealed a subtle conceptual flaw in the solution concept of Nash equilibrium, which lies at the foundations of modern economic thought. In the study of evolution, a new understanding of century-old questions has been achieved through surprisingly algorithmic ideas. The main focus of this talk will be on current work in theoretical neuroscience suggesting that the algorithmic point of view may be useful in the central scientific question of our era, namely understanding how behavior and cognition emerge from the structure and activity of neurons and synapses.
Biography. Christos H. Papadimitriou is the C. Lester Hogan Professor of Computer Science at UC Berkeley. Before joining Berkeley in 1996, he taught at Harvard, MIT, NTU Athens, Stanford, and UCSD. He has written five textbooks and many articles on algorithms and complexity, and their applications to optimization, databases, control, AI, robotics, economics and game theory, the Internet, evolution, and the brain. He holds a PhD from Princeton, and eight honorary doctorates. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the US, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Engineering, and in 2013 the president of Greece named him commander of the order of the phoenix. He has also written three novels: "Turing", "Logicomix" (with Apostolos Doxiadis) and "Independence" (2017).