CIE 2021 Annual Conference (Virtual): Can technological Ecosystem Maintenance and Monitoring Units (EMUs) be justified?

PLENARY SPEAKER: Associate Professor Alan Dorin, Monash University.

We are pleased to announce that registration is now open for the 2021 CIE Annual Conference (Virtual) to be held on Thursday, 14th and Friday, 15th October 2021.


The use of technology to monitor and manage natural and agricultural ecosystems is increasing at a rapid rate. Electronics may improve our understanding of biodiversity and provide socio-economic benefits, but this same technology can also undermine conservation efforts, damage habitat and drive people into poverty.

How can we help to ensure EMUs embedded within ecosystems generate more global benefit than harm? How can we ensure they preserve the aesthetic and cultural value of their environment? Does it matter if technology is used to kill or harm organisms? Which organisms should we destroy? And which should we save? Why? How do we make such decisions?

Even in cases where technology is apparently being used to passively monitor animal behaviour to improve our understanding, and potentially offer solutions to conservation problems, is it ethical to operate a computationally expensive deep-learning algorithm on a super-computer in the USA, in order to track the movement of a single insect on a flower in Australia?

How do we justify the consumption of energy this entails? How do we weigh up the costs of the machine’s manufacture and disposal against the gains it potentially offers us for improved pollination and biodiversity?

In this talk I will explore examples that expose the complex relationships between the world’s living systems and our use of technology in ecology.


Alan Dorin is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University where he leads the Computational and Collective Intelligence group. He researches the ways in which technology assists discovery in the ecological sciences and in human creativity.

Through his work in Artificial Life and ecological simulation, Alan explores the key attributes of organisms that enable them to live in complex environments. This knowledge is used to improve horticulture, and to assist us in understanding and maintaining natural ecosystems.

Alan promotes exploration of the relationships between technology and human endeavour by nurturing curiosity and encouraging students to form their own bridges between disciplines. He is co-editor in chief of the Artificial Life journal.

For more information click HERE.

As a courtesy, we request that when connecting to the seminar/talk that you mute your microphone unless you are required to speak, this would ensure that the sound from the speaker to the audience is not disrupted by feedback from your microphone.

Thanking you in advance!