## Applied Category Theory Seminar

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
Classification 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.

Talk slides: Social contagion modeled on random networks.

• 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.

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

Talk slides: The pi calculus: towards global computing.

• 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.

### 12 Responses to Applied Category Theory Seminar

1. ishicrew says:

https://arxiv.org/abs/1811.04502 that has a graph similar to the one on the first slide of ‘what is climate change’. and that is c/o of the Koch funded Mercatus center of GMU. (S Kaufmann of SFI is a co-author). Duncan Watts and Granoveter, and S Strogatz are well known amongst simpletons like me, who live in the world of social contagion. I didn’t think we’dget any winter here any more but we already had one snow, and it was 22 F the other morning, and subzero in some areas i am familiar with.

2. John Baez says:

I just added another talk to our schedule!

#### February 5, 2019: Jade Master – Backprop as functor: a compositional perspective on supervised learning

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.

Her talk will be based on this paper:

• Brendan Fong, David I. Spivak and Rémy Tuyéras, Backprop as functor: a compositional perspective on supervised learning.

3. John Baez says:

I’m giving the first talk on Tuesday January 8th. With luck we’ll make a video, but you can already see my talk slides here:

4. John Baez says:

Daniel Cicala has contributed a title and abstract for his talk:

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.

5. John Baez says:

Christina Vasilakopoulou has given an abstract for her talk:

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.

Her talk will be based on this paper:

• Patrick Schultz, David I. Spivak and Christina Vasilakopoulou, Dynamical systems and sheaves.

but she will focus 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.

6. Check out the video of my talk, the first in the Applied Category Theory Seminar here at U. C. Riverside.

• Great video. Because of the political situation here, which seems to foreclose discussion except within very narrow boundaries, both of which strongly support one form or the other of economic growth, either unlimited population growth (no Wall) or unlimited capital growth (Wall plus increased energy production/use), it’s pretty hard to make arguments which don’t get shouted down immediately.

However, there are some people who have put out some good work on this, from the perspective of an organic farmer/permaculturist – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIBIO1vywP4 – from the younger generation, to the perspective of an evolutionary biologist – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOMLdefHGA8 – from the older generation.

The trouble is that people like this, who get away from the accepted narrative, get shut down in quick order. So there’s that difficulty, and that’s only addressed by universities recapturing their original role as places where free thought and debate can take place.

7. John Baez says:

Jonathan Lorand’s talk slides are available now! He’s talking tomorrow:

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:

8. Last week Jonathan Lorand spoke at the Applied Category Theory Seminar here at UCR. Check out the video of his talk above, and also his talk slides.

9. John Baez says:

This week’s talk:

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.