David Danks Reappointed Head of Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Philosophy
“David has done a great job leading not only the Philosophy Department, but also advancing several key initiatives at the university level that focus on the intersection of humanity and technology,” said Richard Scheines, Bess Family Dean of the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “Along with Illah Nourbakhsh, for example, David co-directs the university’s efforts that are funded by the K&L Gates Endowment for Ethics and Computational Technologies. I am very happy that he has agreed to continue as head of Philosophy.”
Danks, the L.L. Thurstone Professor of Philosophy and Psychology, has raised the visibility of his department, which emphasizes interdisciplinary research that directly impacts the real world in areas as wide-ranging as computer science, math, statistics, psychology, bioethics and human rights.
As part of his work on ethical and social impacts of new technologies, Danks has provided research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to study AI through new courses like “AI, Society and Humanity,” which encourages students to explore AI and automation by integrating a range of disciplinary perspectives, including ethical, psychological, design, economic and technological perspectives.
Danks recently was named co-director of the new Center for Informed Democracy and Social Cybersecurity, which will be funded by a $5 million investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. He also serves as the chief ethicist of the Block Center for Technology and Society. In 2017, the Carnegie Corporation of New York named Danks an Andrew Carnegie Fellow to explore human trust in the age of autonomous technologies. The $200,000 fellowship is the most generous stipend for humanities and social sciences research available.
Prior to his first term as department head, Danks received a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to expand a study on learning causal structure from time series data, such as the data gathered in neuroimaging research. In 2008, he received a prestigious James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award and became the first to outline a new cognitive architecture based on graphical models that aims to explain how different types of thinking are done by a single mind. The findings were published in the book, “Unifying the Mind: Cognitive Representations as Graphical Models.”
Danks joined the department in 2003. He also holds appointments in CMU’s Department of Psychology, the Center for Causal Discovery, the Center for Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC), the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy, and the Carnegie Mellon Neuroscience Institute.
Pictured above: David Danks teaches his course “AI, Society and Humanity.”