The 2013 Stanlislaw Ulam Memorial Lecture Series:
Complexity and the Biology of Computation
We like to think of the biosphere and the silico-cyber world as separate creations. In a series of three lectures over three nights, SFI’s Stephanie Forrest, a professor of computer science at the University of New Mexico and a leading researcher at the intersection of biology and computation, reveals surprising commonalities between computers and networks and organisms and ecosystems, then describes new research that further blurs the distinction.
Three lectures, three nights...
Lecture I - Tuesday, September 10, 7:30 p.m.
Software Engineering: Evolving Computer Programs
Software – used today for everything from shopping and banking to streaming movies – shapes our daily experience. The software industry contributes billions of dollars annually to the U.S. economy and employs millions of Americans. Programmers like to think of software as the carefully crafted product of intelligent design. In reality, large software systems evolve inadvertently through the actions of many programmers, often leading to unanticipated, and costly, consequences. In the first of three lectures, Stephanie Forrest reveals what software really is and describes how concepts from biology, including Darwinian evolution, can vastly improve the way we think about, make, and debug software.
Lecture II - Wednesday, September 11, 7:30 p.m.
The Complex Science of Cyberdefense: Computer Immunology
Threats are ubiquitous in complex systems: biology is rife with viruses, parasites, and bacteria; social networks abound with bullies; and international relations are stymied by rogue nations. In the second of three lectures, Stephanie Forrest proposes that understanding how complex systems generally resolve threats might suggest ways to address threats in cyberspace. Observing that biological defense systems solve essentially the same problem, she then explains how concepts from immunology are being adapted for the computational realm, and considers how the cyber world’s interrelationships with economics, social interactions, and politics may complicate the future of cyberdefense.
Lecture III - Thursday, September 12, 7:30 p.m.
Modeling Computer Networks from Chips to the Internet
The Internet is, perhaps, the largest and most complex human artifact ever created, encompassing billions of technologies, organizations, and human users worldwide. It operates simultaneously on several interacting time scales – from slow processes, such as hardware development, to data transport occurring at the speed of light. In the third of three lectures, Stephanie Forrest highlights the networks that comprise the Internet and describes modeling strategies that have, in recent years, helped us characterize the current network and predict and improve its future state. She then considers the extremes, from biological concepts that can be adapted to examine communication on a chip to simulations that help us study how social, economic, and political forces intersect with technology to shape the Internet’s future.
Stephanie Forrest is a professor of computer science at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque; a Jefferson Science Fellow on assignment to the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C.; and an External Professor and member of the Science Board of the Santa Fe Institute.
Lectures are free and open to the public. Seating is limited.
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