I began my career in computer science--specifically, in non-monotonic logic-based approaches to artificial intelligence. This research inspired an interest into the relationship between the simple models of reasoning we were developing and the (usually very different) ways that humans and animals actually solve problems. Pursuing this research, I studied to receive a PhD in Philosophy at Indiana University from 2004-2011.
In my current work, I focus on the relationship between learning and meaning. A failure to take learning seriously has impeded research in a number of areas. In the philosophy of representation, it has led to an emphasis on teleosemantic views that freeze meaning during some idealized period of learning or evolution. In comparative psychology, it has led to oversimplified dichotomies between cognition and association. And in computer science, it has led to an emphasis on brute-force search strategies that overlook the kinds of elegant simplifying assumptions that structure biological action and search.
I address these problems by offering approaches to mental content, cognition, and knowledge representation that take the latest empirical theories of learning as their starting point. While my main focus remains on cognitive science (especially animal cognition and artificial intelligence), these insights also ground solutions to more traditional philosophical problems. For example, in other papers I apply my views to the question of whether philosophical training has the right kind of structure to render our intuitions about thought experiments more reliable than those of novices, and in another recent paper I suggest that an investigation into the way that novices learn to become expert artists may illuminate the question of what it is for something to count as an artwork.
When I arrived at Indiana University, I quickly connected with Colin Allen. We began a discussion about how I could more directly use my background in artificial intelligence as a philosopher. Mathias Niepert soon joined in the discussion, which eventually culminated in the Indiana Philosophy Ontology Project.
I have also engaged in community service related to learning. During the summers of 2004 and 2005, I lived in Savusavu, Fiji as part of a Rotary International volunteer project, teaching computer studies courses at the high school level in two village schools. From 2008-2011, I volunteered with People and Animal Learning Services in Bloomington Indiana, a non-profit equitherapy provider for children and adults with cognitive, emotional, physical, and psychological disabilities.
Finally, I maintain an active interest in the history of psychology and computer science. I started the World Turing Petition as a show of solidarity for Graham-Cumming's effort in the UK. The petition received over 11,000 signatures (with many touching comments) from dozens of countries.
For hobbies, I enjoy racquet sports, cycling, running, photography, and reading Russian literature.