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Encounters #4: Predictability

1 February, 6pm   

Consider a system that affects our life: if we can predict how it evolves, we can take better informed decisions on how to manage its impacts. This applies to natural sciences and to social sciences. The challenge is that systems’ evolutions can be predicted only for a limited future time. This evening, we will discuss our understanding of predictability of weather and climate, and predictability in cognitive science.

Simona Bordoni – How can we make reliable predictions of future climate when we cannot predict weather ten days in advance?

While weather forecasts have become increasingly more accurate in the past decades, prediction skills 10-to-15 days in advance remain limited. Climate is the average weather over a longer period of time, and its evolution is primarily a response to boundary conditions. Because of this, we can still say something meaningful about it will be evolving. I will discuss the key differences between weather and climate, potential and limits of their predictability, and prospects for future progress.

Howard Bowman – Prediction in the Brain

The idea that the brain is a prediction engine can be traced back, at least, to Helmholtz in the 19th Century. However, this view has become more prominent this century, as a result of attempts to explain non-classical receptive fields and the introduction of predictive coding. However, a criticism of predictive coding is that it becomes unfalsifiable. I will explain these ideas in the context of human perception and the question of how “interpreted” is our conscious experience.


Simona Bordoni (Università di Trento) is Full Professor of Atmospheric Physics at the University of Trento. She has a PhD in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences from UCLA, and worked at NCAR and at Caltech. Her research lies in the area of atmosphere and climate dynamics, with a focus on the interaction of large-scale circulations and the hydrological cycle.

Howard Bowman (School of Psychology, University of Birmingham) is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Birmingham and Professor of Cognition & Logic at the University of Kent. He is also Honorary Professor at the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, UCL. He works in cognitive and clinical neuroscience, with particular focus on theories of temporal attention and conscious perception. He is also the inventor of the Fringe-P3 method, which has been proposed as a countermeasures resistant concealed knowledge test.

Please find the whole programme, with details HERE