Autonomous Learning

How a machine can autonomously learn about itself, its environment and how to control them.

Self-organization of robotic behavior

I study how coherent and complex behaviors can emerge from generic objective functions.


Welcome to my web page about my scientific identity.


I am leading a research group on Autonomous Learning at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tübingen.

Before joining the MPI in Tübingen, I was postdoc fellow at the IST Austria in the groups of Christoph Lampert and Gašper Tkačik after being a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences in Leipzig. I am interested in autonomous learning, that is how an embodied agent can determine what to learn, how to learn, and how to judge the learning success. I am using information theory and dynamical systems theory to formulate generic intrinsic motivations that lead to coherent behavior exploration – much like playful behavior. Furthermore, I develop methods to quantify autonomous behavior in robots and animals using information theory and manifold learning. Recently, I am also working on machine learning methods particularly suitable for internal models and learning from sequences.

Current research projects and publications can be found on the website of my group:

For my older work check out our website of the research network for self-organization of robot behavior for publications, software, videos etc.

Ralf Der and I published a book: The Playful Machine.

Short Curriculum Vitae



List of my publication (including some papers of my colleagues without me), or take a look at my google scholar page.

More detailed information of recent publications can be found here:




Conference Visits
HAL 10: Haskell Workshop in Leipzig
Workshop: Information Theory in Artificial Life on ECAL 2015
Workshop: Information Theoretic Incentives for Artificial Life on ALIFE 2014
Workshop: Conceptual and Mathematical Foundations of Embodied Intelligence
Conference Visits

Conference Visits

I am collecting here some notes and highlights of some conferences I visited.

The first one where I started to prepare some notes was ICLR 2017. You can find pictures of posters and some notes here.


HAL 10: Haskell Workshop in Leipzig

HAL 10: Haskell Workshop in Leipzig

Haskell is a modern functional programming language fostering the rapid development robust and correct software.

Since 10 years we organize in Leipzig and Halle (Germany) an annual workshop called HAL on theory and application of Haskell. Big thanks to Johannes Waldmann for his major efforts in Organization.

See webpage for more details.

4. und 5. Dezember 2015, HTWK Leipzig


Workshop: Information Theory in Artificial Life on ECAL 2015

Workshop: Information Theory in Artificial Life on ECAL 2015

Information Theory in Artificial Life

Monday 20th July 2015, 10:00 – 13:00

In the workshop “Information Theory in Artificial Life” we will discuss how Information Theory can be used to generate, motivate, understand and quantify the behaviour and other processes in artificial agents and life-like systems. Information Theory provides a language to express the required concepts and quantities in a general way, allowing to transfer them between different domains. For further details and information on how to submit and participate see our website. If you have any questions please send us an email at

Organised by:  Georg MartiusChristoph SalgeKeyan Ghazi-Zahedi, and Daniel Polani

Workshop: Information Theoretic Incentives for Artificial Life on ALIFE 2014

Workshop: Information Theoretic Incentives for Artificial Life on ALIFE 2014

Satellite Workshop of ALife 2014 (14th International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems)

New York, 30th of July 2014

Workshop: Conceptual and Mathematical Foundations of Embodied Intelligence

Workshop: Conceptual and Mathematical Foundations of Embodied Intelligence

February 27 – March 01, 2013


Abstract: In the last few decades, an overwhelming number of case studies produced the evidence that intelligent behavior of naturally evolved agents efficiently involves the embodiment as part of the underlying control process. Nowadays, there is no question that the exploration and exploitation of the embodiment represent important mechanisms of cognition. The shift from the classical view to the modern embodied view, also referred to as the cognitive turn, not only framed a novel way of thinking about intelligence but also identified a number of fundamental principles that intelligent systems obey. Well known examples are the principle of cheap design, morphological computation, and information self-structuring. Although there is general consensus on the intuitive meaning of such principles, the field of embodied intelligence currently lacks a formal theory. We think that the mathematical foundations of the core concepts have to be advanced and unified, in order to be able to realize and better understand cognitive systems that exploit their embodiment in an autonomous and completely intrinsic way. Information theory, dynamical systems theory, and information geometry already turned out to be useful in this regard. However, there is much more, and also much more to do.

Summarizing, the goal of the workshop is to identify the core concepts and to advance the theoretical foundations of embodied intelligence.

Invited speakers:

  • Randall D. Beer (Indiana University, USA): Information and dynamics in brain-body-environment systems
  • Paul Bourgine (École Polytechnique, France): Paradigms and models of embodied intelligence
  • Karl Friston (University College London, United Kingdom): Embodied inference and free energy
  • David Krakauer (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA): Agents and their artefacts: a natural history of ex-bodiment
  • Thomas Metzinger (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Germany): Body-representation and self-consciousness: from embodiment to minimal phenomenal selfhood
  • Kevin O’Regan (Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, France): A theoretical basis for how artificial or biological agents can construct the basic notion of space
  • Frank Pasemann (Universität Osnabrück, Germany): Neurodynamics in the sensorimotor loop
  • Daniel Polani (University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom): The role of information in formation of cognitive organization
  • Helge Ritter (Universität Bielefeld, Germany): Manual intelligence and embodiment
  • Jürgen Schmidhuber (Istituto Dalle Molle di Studi sull’Intelligenza Artificiale, Switzerland, and Technische Universität München, Germany): Optimal AI – neural network ReNNaissance – theory of fun
  • Naftali Tishby (The Hebrew University, Israel): Information flow in sensation & action and the emergence of [reverse] hierarchies

Organizers: Nihat AyRalf DerKeyan Ghazi-ZahediGeorg Martius