Professor of Philosophy and Psychology and Philosophy Department Head, Carnegie Mellon University
CEP Faculty

David Danks

David Danks is Professor of Philosophy & Psychology, and Head of Philosophy, at Carnegie Mellon University. He is also an associate/adjunct of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CMU); Center for Advanced Study of Language (University of Maryland); and the Center for Philosophy of Science and Department of History & Philosophy of Science (University of Pittsburgh). Danks’s principal research lies at the intersection of cognitive science, machine learning, and philosophy of science, with particular interests in computational cognitive science, causation, and ethical challenges involving autonomous (learning) systems. He has received a James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award, and is the author of Unifying the mind: Cognitive representations as graphical models (MIT Press; 2014).

Much of Danks’s recent research has focused on ethical and policy dimensions of the interactions between people and autonomous systems, such as self-driving cars or complex cyber-systems. In particular, he has explored moral, organizational, and regulatory principles that can promote ethical action by realistic humans (not perfectly rational ones) who engage with, or are otherwise affected by, different types of present-day and near-future autonomous systems. This work thus involves theories of (i) human psychology and cognition; (ii) relevant technology (including machine learning and robotics); and (iii) generalizable ethical and policy frameworks. By bringing together all three domains, this research is able to directly connect with, and often propose, policy for specific autonomous systems. In addition, Danks has significant research interests in moral psychology, and particularly on the cognitive mechanisms underlying our moral evaluations and judgments.

Recent Publications

Wellen, S., & Danks, D. (in press). Adaptively rational learning. Minds & Machines. DOI: 10.1007/s11023-015-9370-1.

Danks, D., & Danks, J. H. (2016). Beyond machines: Humans in cyber operations, espionage, and conflict. In F. Allhoff, A. Henschke, & B. J. Strawser (Eds.), Binary bullets: The ethics of cyberwarfare (pp. 177-197). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Danks, D. (2015). Goal-dependence in (scientific) ontology. Synthese, 192, 3601-3616. DOI: 10.1007/s11229-014-0649-1.

Danks, D. (2014). A modern Pascal’s wager for mass electronic surveillance. Telos, 169, 155-161.

Danks, D. (2014). Unifying the mind: Cognitive representations as graphical models. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Danks, D., Rose, D., & Machery, E. (2014). Demoralizing causation. Philosophical Studies, 171(2), 251-277.

Kummerfeld, E., & Danks, D. (2014). Model change and methodological virtues in scientific inference. Synthese, 191(12), 2673-2693.

Danks, D., & Danks, J. H. (2013). The moral permissibility of automated responses during cyberwarfare. Journal of Military Ethics, 12(1), 18-33.