About the Research Archive

Here’s a quick overview of my general approach and a summary of the type of research papers collected in the archive.

Approach

Research experience in philosophy, cognitive science and complex systems influences my approach to work and to life in general. That childhood question what makes it go? has grown and acquired siblings like how do these two things relate to one another? and why does it feel like it does to be me? — and, perhaps most importantly, what if…? Trying to understand questions like these isn’t just interesting; it’s fun!

As an academic, I studied puzzles about the brain, consciousness and phenomenal experience. As an industrial researcher in the Complex Systems Laboratory at British Telecommunications, I explored machine cognition, artificial evolution, novel computation and quantum decoherence. Later, as a senior manager, business strategist and consultant, the same spirit of enquiry informed my work on navigating the complexities of financial markets.

These pages include papers, unfinished ‘work in progress’, conference information and related details mainly from my time as a researcher in industry.

Research Summary

My research work with BT began in 1997, when I joined what was then the Artificial Life Group of BT Laboratories to apply my PhD work in cognition to advanced fields relevant to BT’s business aspirations. Drawing on algorithmic information theory, cognitive neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and related fields, I researched fundamental principles of organisation underlying the emergence of complex cognition — even consciousness — in the natural world. Supplementary projects were many but included interactive decoherence theory (how does classical behaviour emerge from a quantum substrate?) and analogue computation (how do the capabilities of analogue and digital systems compare?). My first book, completed with BT’s support in 1997 and published in 1998, was Mind Out of Matter (Kluwer Academic publishers, ISBN 0-7923-5103-7). It outlines my information theoretic approach to consciousness and cognition and addresses fundamental philosophical puzzles about the relationship between mind and body. I organised an international workshop in April of 1998 on engineering cognitively sophisticated robots.

Later work de-emphasised cognition somewhat in order to spend more time on evolutionary theory and fundamental issues in evolutionary computation, including the application of information theoretic tools to help understand the process by which an evolving population ‘learns’ about its environment.

Throughout my time in research, I was frequently called upon to act as a ‘professional skeptic’, performing due diligence on various claims made by companies and individuals making unsolicited approaches to BT about business opportunities in a wide range of computing and communications technologies — claims which (despite sometimes receiving positive coverage in the professional press) were all too often little more than scientific-sounding snake oil.

This article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser on .

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