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June 2, 2023

Seminar on Applied Category Theory

Posted by David Corfield

I’m hosting a small symposium next Tuesday, 6 June, on Applied Category Theory, featuring our very own John Baez. Here’s the announcement.

The language of Category Theory has been under development since the 1940s and continues to evolve to this day. It was originally created as a formal language to capture common mathematical structures and inference methods across various branches of mathematics, and later found application outside of mathematics. By introducing arrows to mediate between objects, the language is designed to represent anything that can be perceived as a process - including processes of inference and physical processes.

The first applications of Category Theory outside of mathematics and logic were to physics and to computer science. There was also an early application in biology by Robert Rosen.

But over the past decade we have seen researchers under the banner of Applied Category Theory take on a variety of novel subjects, addressing topics which include:

causality, probabilistic reasoning, statistics, learning theory, deep neural networks, dynamical systems, information theory, database theory, natural language processing, cognition, consciousness, systems biology, genomics, epidemiology, chemical reaction networks, neuroscience, complex networks, game theory, robotics, and quantum computing.

In this hybrid seminar at the Centre for Reasoning, University of Kent, we will be hearing online from two leading practitioners. All are welcome to attend.


  • In person: KS23, Keynes College, University of Kent, Canterbury

  • Online: MS Teams link


UK time (UTC +1), Tuesday 6 June

  • 15.30-15.50 David Corfield (Kent), Introduction: Applied Category Theory from a Philosophical Point of View

  • 15.50-16.50 Toby St Clere Smithe (Topos Institute, Oxford), Understanding the Bayesian Brain with Categorical Cybernetics

  • 17.00-18.00 John Baez (UC Riverside), Applied Category Theory

Posted at June 2, 2023 7:59 AM UTC

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4 Comments & 0 Trackbacks

Re: Seminar on Applied Category Theory

This was a nice meeting! Thanks for organising it.

Posted by: Joseph Grant on June 7, 2023 1:57 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Seminar on Applied Category Theory

were they recorded? are they available online?

Posted by: Parth Patel on June 8, 2023 12:21 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Seminar on Applied Category Theory

Yes, they were recorded and they are now available here.

Thanks for running this, David!

Posted by: John Baez on June 8, 2023 4:41 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Seminar on Applied Category Theory

That was a lot of fun. Thanks, John, for your talk and for putting up the videos.

Given how you end with concerns for the ethical application of ACT, I hope Dominic Orchard, who was in the live audience, gets in touch. He’s working also as co-director of the Institute of Computing for Climate Science at the University of Cambridge. The modularity of the modelling you described ought to be highly relevant there too.

As you introduced your topic, the crazy idea that category theory should apply everywhere along the chain of disciplines, I was wondering how we might lessen the surprise at this thought (after the event). Must there not be some kind of common universal basis to thought and the workings of the world being captured by category theory?

I was trying to get across in my talk that it’s not helpful to see category theory as the latest formalism, as some first-order theory taking place in some version of set theory, but rather to take it as primitive, to see things directly through its lens. Maybe it shows up in very high-end mathematics first because that’s where efficiencies of thought were most needed to make progress, but this would be quite compatible with its usefulness everywhere.

Posted by: David Corfield on June 9, 2023 11:24 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

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