Research

For the academic year 2021-2022, I will be working in the Käte Hamburger Kolleg (KHK) “Cultures of Research” at the RWTH University in Aachen, Germany. My research project is called “Cognitive complexity and enculturated artificial intelligence” and it combines studies on computational complexity with research on the development of human cognitive capacities, with the aim of pursuing the feasibility of building artificial agents with human-like intelligence.

The starting point of my project is that our cognitive abilities are the result of processes of enculturation that transform our basic biological faculties through the cultural transmission of cognitive practices. Human cognitive competences differ between cultures since they are tied to specific cultural practices, making both the ontogeny and phylogeny of human cognitive capacities tied to particular cultural settings. Human intelligence is a social, cultural phenomenon and the theoretical framework we use must be sensitive to the social and cultural factors. In my previous work, I have researched the enculturated development of cognitive capacities when it comes to mathematics. In this project I take the framework of enculturation and apply it to questions of artificial intelligence (AI), simulation and machine learning. While the development of AI is not necessarily aimed at simulating human intelligence, in many applications it is developed in close connection to our best understanding of human cognition. This leads to several fundamental questions concerning the connection between machine intelligence and human intelligence:

  • What do we consider to be the kind of human intelligence that we want to simulate with AI?
  • How do we account for cultural differences in intelligence (and what is considered to be intelligence) in AI research?
  • How should considerations of complexity and computational tractability be included in developing AI and machine learning?
  • What is the relation between the notion of computational complexity (relevant to AI) and the notion of cognitive complexity (relevant to humans)?

These types of questions form the foundation for my research project, in which I aim to gain a better understanding of what intelligence is, and how it can be artificially produced.

In addition to this project, my research interests also include many aspects of the philosophy of mathematics. My Ph.D. thesis focused on mathematical truth, mainly from the viewpoint of the discussion on Gödel and Tarski. Since then I have moved on to studying the cognitive basis of mathematics, with focus on arithmetic and numerical cognition. Recently, I have become increasingly interested in the culture-specific aspects of the development of mathematical knowledge, both in phylogeny and ontogeny.

In a recent research project, I have studied the complexity of problem solving processes in mathematics. In this research, I combine results from the research on computational complexity with the cognitive sciences. In addition, I have worked on the subject of mathematical explanations in science.

Next step is to move onto geometrical cognition, which I will tackle in a future project (2022-2024), funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation.