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Holidays - Neural Networks and Genomics

Celebrating 20 years of neural networks!

IJCNN2007 marks the 20 year anniversary of the International Joint Conferences on Neural Networks. Please do contribute to and participate in this event and celebrate this important milestone of the neural networks community with us!

Thank you, and we look forward to seeing you in Orlando!

General Chair
Jennie Si
Arizona State University
Program Chair
Ron Sun
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Past activities:

A list of most of my participation in current and past conferences is provided below. Note that all conferences were paid out of my after-tax wallet and vacation time, with air travel support from my employer only once during all of those years (i.e. committment dedication .
  1. International Joint Conference on Neural Networks (IJCNN) - co-sponsored by the International Neural Network Society (INNS) and IEEE-Computational Intelligence Society (IEEE-CIS). Typically there are ~600-700 attendees from around the world (in 2006: roughly 37% Americas & Aust/NZ; 33% Far East & India; 26% Western Europe; 4% Mid East & other). I have attended most years starting with the IJCNN?? Baltimore Maryland USA conference. For several years I have reviewed papers, and additionally I have spent a huge amount of time helping out with the conference organisation. Links below show organising committee members:
    1. IJCNN07 Orlando Florida USA - Publicity Chair, Guest Editor for the Neural Networks Special Issue
    2. IJCNN06 Vancouver BC Canada - International Liaison
    3. IJCNN03 Portland Oregon USA - International Liaison
  2. BioNorth conference in Ottawa, Ontario - I attended this conference for several years when I lived in Ottawa (~2000 through 2005)
  3. Organisation of several Computational Intelligence (and solar-climate) seminars at Natural Resources Canada.

Selected comments on past activities:

(Dec04 Xmas letter)

As I explained last year, I have two types of vacation – most importantly to visit my family all over Canada, then to attend the International Joint Conference on Neural Networks (IJCNN) annual conferences. I also try am very interested in genetics, but can only afford to attend the local annual BioNorth general biotechnology conference (given a host of other spending priorities).

I'm a "Program Co-Chair" for this conference, meaning my nights and weekends that were freed up from less overtime for work are now jammed full of work to help organize the IJCNN05 conference. In other words, it's summer vacation all year long! I find that it's definitely far more scientifically interesting that anything we do in our research labs at work, or I wouldn't be doing this for my vacation!...

(Dec03 Xmas letter)

I have two types of vacation – most importantly to visit my family all over Western Canada, then to attend the International Joint Conference on Neural Networks (IJCNN) annual conferences. I also try am very interested in genetics, but can only afford to attend the local annual conference (given a host of other spending priorities).

"...Our advice is to start your research immediately, run as fast as you possibly can, and never slow down. In a very short time you will hear the starter's pistol fire in the distance behind you, releasing the largest intellectual land rush of all time...[Hecht-Nielson]"

"Given that computer code is used to program computers, then Mindcode is use to ...[Howell]" - the idea is to look carefully at data, procedures, operating systems, and unknown higher-level abstractions coded in the "junk" DNA). The implications are that much more of what you think may be "assisted" by pre-existing structures than you currently think is the case...

Another implication of genetics (not limited to the above concept) is that the "nature vs nurture" debate is probably pure junk, and even perfectly exact DNA cannot reproduce the same brain – the number of synapses vastly outnumber DNA base pairs (1015/ 3*109 ~ 106). Statistical variations in early brain growth (ontogeny) (before learning really kicks in, and certainly for part of the early learning period) mean that, even at a very over-simplistic conceptual level, three processes must be considered! Past identical-twin studies vastly over-estimate the role of the environment, but not of genetics. But it would be extremely difficult to quantify differences due to ontogeny – as this would require detailed three-dimensional determination of neural structures/ synapses.

So remember, as a conclusion to this section, the next time that you are planning a vacation:

"...The purest form of art, beauty and sheer fun, is mathematics...[Howell]"

My favourite saying from this conference, though, was from three or four years ago, when a scientist from San Diego (who used to be at McMasterU in Hamilton) gave a presentation on aging related diseases. Progress in understanding aging, he said, has been extremely rapid in the last five years, surprising the experts in the field. Anyways, he concluded his talk by saying:

"...Sometime in the not-so-distant future, someone may be giving you a presentation on the same topic [aging]. It is quite possible that he could finish it by saying "You know, we may be the last generation to die." [approximate quote of - I forget his name]"

Boy, was I ever excited, and could only hope that I would make the cutoff point! Imagine my surprise upon learning that not everyone thinks that eternal (or even 500 year) life is necessarily desirable. I explored these reactions in more detail in an unscientific survey, and got some beautiful explanations and viewpoints.

original 27Jan07
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