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Academic Report: Rolf Pfeifer
Published:2014-07-11 Hits:1451

Reporter: Rolf Pfeifer

TopicA Scientist’s Odyssey in a Globally Networked Society – on robots, embodiment, and academic life

Date: July 29th ( Tuesday) 10:00-12:00

Lacation: 3-200 SEIEE



I’m a storyteller – I tell scientific “stories” about robots and intelligence. I could make up a story to give coherence to my scientific life, in which everything is logical, but it would be pure fiction. Serendipity is an absolutely essential factor in innovation and it is very different from pure chance. My answer to the question about my academic goals is: “I want to create an atmosphere,” a stimulating environment in which young researchers feel inspired and safe so that they can try things – crazy ideas, and it has to be interdisciplinary, and it must be highly international, which gives the workplace a very special ambiance. If the mood is right, ideas will emerge almost automatically. And we need critical mass, a major task to write all the required proposals. Relaxing and fun is an important part of it, which is why our laboratory has sometimes been called the “party lab”. It’s an essential ingredient of creativity. As the lecture covers a lot of “territory”, it will be in two parts of 45 min each. 


Rolf Pfeifer, Master’s degree in physics and mathematics and Ph.D. in computer science (1979) from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland. Three years as a post-doctoral fellow at Carnegie-Mellon and at Yale University in the US. Currently: Deputy Director of the NCCR Robotics, the "National Competence Center for Research in Robotics" in Switzerland. Research interests: embodied intelligence, biorobotics, morphological computation, and educational technology. Authored books: "Understanding Intelligence", MIT Press, 1999 (with C. Scheier), "How the body shapes the way we think: a new view of intelligence," 2007 (with Josh Bongard) MIT Press (popular science style), "Designing intelligence - why brains aren't enough" (short version - with Josh Bongard and Don Berry, e-book), and "La révolution de l'intelligence du corps", 2012 ("The revolution of embodied intelligence"; with Alexandre Pitti) (in French). Lecture series: “The ShanghAI Lectures”, a global mixed-reality lecture series on embodied intelligence, broadcast in 2013 from the University Carlos III in Madrid, Spain, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, and the University of Zurich, Switzerland, in cooperation with other universities from around the globe.
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