Research Interests

Luc Steels’ research over the past decade has focused on developing theoretical models of language evolution, setting up experiments in which a population of robots autonomously develops their own communication systems with properties similar to human languages.

Three main aspects evolve the explanation of the origins and evolution of language: social, cultural and biological. The social aspect should give us answers to the question why humans started to talk. The cultural aspect should answer how new language forms arise in language and keep on changing over time. The biological aspect addresses the question how the biological foundations for language may have arisen. So far the former experiments use exclusively a process of cultural evolution. The recent contribution at the Institute for Evolutionary Biology is to complete the picture by looking at the biological evolution of the cognitive foundations needed for language.

Keywords: Origins of Language, Computer Simulations, Artificial Intelligence.


Reviewer & Evaluator Activities

Co-founder and past president of the following Associations: BAAI (Belgian AI Association), ECCAI (European AI association), ELA (Evolutionary Linguistics Association)- current president.

Past Member of Science Advisory Board: GMD (Gesellschaft fuer Mathematik und Datenverarbeitung, Germany, now Frauenhofer Institut), DFKI (Deutsche Forschungscentrum fuer Kuenstliche Intelligenz, Germany), Electrum (National Swedish Institue for Computer Science) and SIKS (Dutch AI graduate school), Chairman Assessment Commission Dutch Universities Computer Science (2007), Member Belgian Science Foundation Computer Science Commission. I am member of the New York Academy of Sciences (from 1996), Elected Member Flemish Academy of Belgium (from 2009), Elected Member European Academy (Academia Europea) (from 2009).

Reviewer and Evaluator for ESPRIT, FP4, FP5, FP6 EU projects, and for US NSF, EU ESF, French, Dutch and Belgian national science foundations.

Regular Reviewer: Nature, Science, Plos One, Cognitive Science, Artificial Life, Artificial Intelligence, Cognition, Adaptive Behavior, Robotics and Autonomous Systems, a.o. I am also regular reviewer and programme committee member for AAAI, IJCAI, EKAW, MAAW, ECOOP, ICMAS, ISMICK, SAB, ECAL, ALIFE, EVOLAN, and other conferences.

Past Conference Chairman: ECAI (Brighton, 1986), AISB (Manchester, 1991), Computational Intelligence (Milan, 1989), European Knowledge Acquisition workshop (Hoegaarden, 1994), Nato ASI On Autonomous Agents (Trento, 1993), Summerschools on Semiotic Dynamics (Erice, 2004 and 2006) and on Evolutionary Linguistics (Cortona, 2009).

Co-founder of the following Journals: Evolution of Communication Journal (now Journal of Interaction Studies), AI Communications (now the largest European AI journal). Co-editor of the series Computational Models of Language Evolution (Language Science Press, Berlin

Member of the Editorial Board of the following Journals: Journal of Complex Systems (Hermes), AI Applications, Artificial Life Journal (MIT Press), Adaptive Behavior Journal (Sage Publications, London), Journal of Universal Computer Science (Springer), Journal of Genetic Programming and Evolvable Machines (Kluwer), Cognitive Science Quarterly (Hermes), In Cognito (Grenoble), Artificial Intelligence Abstracts (until 1991), Cognitive Technologies (Springer), Knowledge Engineering Review, and Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research (JAIR).