3rd Summer School - Creativity and Evolution

Lake Como Summer SchoolThe third ESSENCE Summer School on the subject of Creativity and Evolution (in games, language, robots, life and art) will run from Monday September 5th until Friday September 9th, 2016. The School will be held at Villa del Grumello, at the borders of lake Como (Italy).

The school will feature a combination of plenary lectures and hands-on ateliers. The plenary lectures will be delivered by international experts in the domains of artificial intelligence, linguistics, evolutionary biology and complex systems science. The four parallel ateliers will take place in smaller groups, in which the participants will acquire the skills to explore novel methods for studying creativity and evolution.

The School is primarily of interest to PhD students, but the School is also open to undergraduate/postgraduate students and researchers with an interest in the subject area. The application is closed now.

About the Summer School

Creativity is the ability to come up with a novel solution to a non-trivial problem. We see creativity in all domains of human knowledge, not only in the arts where it is clearly manifested, but also in science, engineering, economics and business. Can we develop scientific models of creativity that might inspire all of us to be more creative or foster more creativity in organisations? Can we develop artificial systems that exhibit some form of creativity? How can we stimulate creativity in humans?

Psychologists traditionally draw on observations of human creativity to develop and test theories. This remains a fruitful approach, but lately, new methods have lead to exciting breakthroughs. One approach uses the power of the web to stimulate creativity in large groups and then studies how the resulting collective dynamics leads to more creative problem solving using the techniques of complex systems science.

Another novel method uses computer simulations of software agents playing language games with each other. The agents are given software components which invent new concepts, new words, compositional semantics and new grammatical constructions. This has already lead to highly intriguing, concrete and testable models of language creativity. A third approach explores the new opportunities given by more powerful and cheaper sensors, actuators and processors, as well as 3d-printing, to boost the development of evolutionary robotics.

In nature, the most creative process is undoubtly evolution by natural selection. Although this can explain the survival of the fittest there is still a lack to understand the 'arrival of the fittest', i.e. by what mechanisms species can find solutions to the survival problems they face, without an intelligent designer. Exciting new developments have been happening lately in biology and they suggest yet another method to study creativity. Finally, an approach has recently been developed to apply this evolutionary dynamics to understand better the brain processes underlying creativity, particularly insight problem solving.

This summerschool, a successor to earlier very successful schools held in Erice (2006, 2007) and Cortona (2009, 2013), brings together researchers in complex systems science, biology, computer science,  and linguistics. The school will be a combination of lectures by international experts and ateliers where participants acquire the skills to explore one of the novel methods for studying creativity. The scientific and engineering tracks are augmented with tracks in which participants can exercise their creativity in the artistic domain.


ESSENCE is a Marie Curie Initial Training Network funded under the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme (agreement no. 607062) that runs from November 2013 to October 2017. It is a four-year research training network that will build a European research base for the study of evolving semantic in natural and artificial communication. ESSENCE investigates how meaning emerges and evolves through communication among intelligent systems. We develop methods that enable software agents, sensors, and robots to autonomously negotiate meaning among themselves. Our methods are inspired by the capabilities of humans to understand each other despite differences in their individual viewpoints.

The network supports 15 young scientists at the doctoral and post-doctoral levels who investigate different aspects of the overall research theme in close collaboration with industry and a number of leading academic institutions across Europe. The fellows are supervised by leading experts from at least two institutions. They spend extended periods of time visiting other institutions within the network, including secondments with industrial and governmental organisations.

In addition to scientific training, which includes work on doctoral theses, publications, and participation in conferences and workshops, the network provides training in a broad range of transferable skills, such as project management, technical writing, and entrepreneurship. ESSENCE features an extensive programme of training, dissemination, and outreach events.

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Marie Curie Initial Training Network (2013-2017)