We’re going to have a seminar on applied category theory here at U. C. Riverside! My students have been thinking hard about category theory for a few years, but they’ve decided it’s time to get deeper into applications. Christian Williams, in particular, seems to have caught my zeal for trying to develop new math to help save the planet.
We’ll try to videotape the talks to make it easier for you to follow along. I’ll also start discussions here and/or on the Azimuth Forum. It’ll work best if you read the papers we’re talking about and then join these discussions. Ask questions, and answer any questions you can!
Here’s how the schedule of talks is shaping up so far. The talks are on Tuesdays 3:34–5:00 pm in Room 268 of Skye Hall, the mathematics building at U. C. Riverside.
January 8, 2019: John Baez
Mathematics in the 21st century
Abstract. The global warming crisis is part of a bigger transformation in which humanity realizes that the Earth is a finite system and that our population, energy usage, and the like cannot continue to grow exponentially. If civilization survives this transformation, it will affect mathematics – and be affected by it – just as dramatically as the agricultural revolution or industrial revolution. We should get ready!
Talk slides: Mathematics in the 21st century.
Also try these slides and videos from related talks:
January 15, 2019: Jonathan Lorand
Problems in symplectic linear algebra
Abstract. In this talk we will look at various examples of classification problems in symplectic linear algebra: conjugacy classes in the symplectic group and its Lie algebra, linear lagrangian relations up to conjugation, tuples of (co)isotropic subspaces. I will explain how many such problems can be encoded using the theory of symplectic poset representations, and will discuss some general results of this theory. Finally, I will recast this discussion from a broader category-theoretic perspective.
Talk slides: Problems in symplectic linear algebra.
• Jonathan Lorand, Classifying linear canonical relations.
• Jonathan Lorand and Alan Weinstein, Decomposition of (co)isotropic relations.
January 22, 2019: Christina Vasilakopoulou
Systems as wiring diagram algebras
Abstract. We will start by describing the monoidal category of labeled boxes and wiring diagrams and its induced operad. Various kinds of systems such as discrete and continuous dynamical systems have been expressed as algebras for that operad, namely lax monoidal functors into the category of categories. A major advantage of this approach is that systems can be composed to form a system of the same kind, completely determined by the specific way the composite systems are interconnected (‘wired’ together). We will then introduce a generalized system, called a machine, again as a wiring diagram algebra. On the one hand, this abstract concept is all-inclusive in the sense that discrete and continuous dynamical systems are sub-algebras; on the other hand, we can specify succinct categorical conditions for totality and/or determinism of systems that also adhere to the algebraic description.
Christina Vasilakopoulou’s talk was based on this paper:
• Patrick Schultz, David I. Spivak and Christina Vasilakopoulou, Dynamical systems and sheaves.
but she focused more on the algebraic description (and conditions for deterministic/total systems) rather than the sheaf theoretic aspect of the input types. This work builds on earlier papers such as these:
• Dmitry Vagner, David I. Spivak and Eugene Lerman, Algebras of open dynamical systems on the operad of wiring diagrams.
January 29, 2019: Daniel Cicala
Social contagion modeled on random networks
Abstract. A social contagion may manifest as a cultural trend, a spreading opinion or idea or belief. In this talk, we explore a simple model of social contagion on a random network. We also look at the effect that network connectivity, edge distribution, and heterogeneity has on the diffusion of a contagion.
• Mason A. Porter and James P. Gleeson, Dynamical systems on networks: a tutorial.
• Duncan J. Watts, A simple model of global cascades on random networks.
February 5, 2019: Jade Master
Backprop as functor: a compositional perspective on supervised learning
Abstract. Fong, Spivak and Tuyéras have found a categorical framework in which gradient descent algorithms can be constructed in a compositional way. To explain this, we first give a brief introduction to backprogation and gradient descent. We then describe their monoidal category Learn, where the morphisms are given by abstract learning algorithms. Finally, we show how gradient descent can be realized as a monoidal functor from Para, the category of Euclidean spaces with differentiable parameterized functions between them, to Learn.
• Brendan Fong, David I. Spivak and Rémy Tuyéras, Backprop as functor: a compositional perspective on supervised learning.
February 12, 2019: Christian Williams
The pi calculus: towards global computing
Abstract. Historically, code represents a sequence of instructions for a single machine. Each computer is its own world, and only interacts with others by sending and receiving data through external ports. As society becomes more interconnected, this paradigm becomes more inadequate – these virtually isolated nodes tend to form networks of great bottleneck and opacity. Communication is a fundamental and integral part of computing, and needs to be incorporated in the theory of computation.
To describe systems of interacting agents with dynamic interconnection, in 1980 Robin Milner invented the pi calculus: a formal language in which a term represents an open, evolving system of processes (or agents) which communicate over names (or channels). Because a computer is itself such a system, the pi calculus can be seen as a generalization of traditional computing languages; there is an embedding of lambda into pi – but there is an important change in focus: programming is less like controlling a machine and more like designing an ecosystem of autonomous organisms.
We review the basics of the pi calculus, and explore a variety of examples which demonstrate this new approach to programming. We will discuss some of the history of these ideas, called “process algebra”, and see exciting modern applications in blockchain and biology.
“… as we seriously address the problem of modelling mobile communicating systems we get a sense of completing a model which was previously incomplete; for we can now begin to describe what goes on outside a computer in the same terms as what goes on inside – i.e. in terms of interaction. Turning this observation inside-out, we may say that we inhabit a global computer, an informatic world which demands to be understood just as fundamentally as physicists understand the material world.” — Robin Milner
• Robin Milner, The polyadic pi calculus: a tutorial.
• Robin Milner, Communicating and Mobile Systems.
• Joachim Parrow, An introduction to the pi calculus.
February 19, 2019: Kenny Courser
Category theory for genetics
Abstract. Rémy Tuyéras has developed a categorical framework aimed at handling various commonly studied subjects from the theory of genetics. Some of these include alignment methods, CRISPR, homologous recombination, haplotypes, and genetic linkage. In this talk, I will introduce the foundations on which this framework is built and give a few examples related to DNA and RNA sequencing which are able to be described in this environment.
• Rémy Tuyéras, Category theory for genetics.