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Andrew Stout

From Santa Fe Institute Events Wiki

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CSSS contact info:

  • Polyhymnia #20, ext 4224
  • [my last name] @ cs.umass.edu
  • cell 413 695 3814 (reception is terrible)

I am a PhD student in Computer Science at the University of Massachusetts.

The general unifying theme of my research interests is to understand-by-building systems that continually adapt, building on previous adaptations, driven not (or not only) by external pressures, but by forces within the system: systems that display bootstrapping, unbounded, intrinsic adaptation. My driving interest is in discovering representations and algorithms for constructive, grounded, long-term, domain-general cognitive development in robots. I have a sustained secondary interest in evolutionary computation, self-organization, and artificial life.

I have a webpage, but it's pretty minimal...

When I'm not pursuing these interests, I enjoy ultimate frisbee and volleyball; I'm a news junkie and a religious watcher of The Daily Show; I'm in for some World Cup watching.


Dan's questions:

  1. What topics do you have some expertise in and would you be willing to help others learn them?
    • I'm a competent programmer, although not the code ninja a CS grad student ought to be: my go-to language is Python, I'm learning OCaml, I dabble in Matlab when forced to, and I have less recent experience with Java, C++, and others.
    • I'm comfortable at the Unix/Linux command-line.
    • My graduate background is in Machine Learning, if any of that will be useful. This semester I took a seminar that examined some ML applications of spectral graph theory, which I can imagine being of interest to others.
  2. What do you want to learn?
    • My formal training in complex systems science has been quite limited, so I'm looking forward to a rigorous treatment of the whole spectrum and finding out what the current state of the art and agenda are. I'm curious about agent-based modeling, network theory, biology, geosystems, economics, etc.
    • More specifically, I'm interested in acquiring tools for identifying phase changes and the "edge of chaos" in "learning space"--the fertile region between what an agent has already learned and what it is not yet ready to learn.
  3. Do you have any projects that would benefit from interdisciplinary approach?
    • In addition to the above, I've got a reproduction of Fontana's AlChemy system I've been having a little trouble with.
    • I'm interested in the role of motivation in learning, which is a topic that could no doubt benefit from conversations with psychologists or anyone else who thinks about such things.
    • And I'd love to find ways to apply my skills and ideas to problems people outside of my immediate field would care about.
  4. Do you have any ideas for what sort of project you would like to attack this summer?
    • Not really--I can imagine pursuing something related to one of the topics mentioned above, or something totally different.
  5. What's your favorite "big problem"?
    • Embodied Intelligence--understanding the mechanisms that allow humans and animals to use such a complicated body so effectively in such a complicated world. I'm particularly interested in this problem at the computational and algorithmic levels of analysis, although the implementational level is also very interesting, and I'm particularly interested in learning and cognitive development.
    • An obvious second "big problem" is self-organization and emergence in complex adaptive systems--that's why I'm coming to the CSSS, of course, and I don't think the second is unrelated to the first.
  6. If you were given the opportunity to see where we were in one hundred years with respect to progress on one problem/subject, what would it be?
    • Those mentioned in #5, naturally.
    • Although I am also very curious to see how we will deal with the many problems facing society today: alleviating the crushing poverty in much of the world, environmentally sustainable energy demands, combating {race|class|sex|tribal|...}-ism, etc.