Short Bio

I am a Professor in the Computer Science Department at the University of Southern California (USC) and Director for Cognitive Architecture Research at USC's Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT).  I was at USC's Information Sciences Institute (ISI) for twenty years, most recently as its Deputy Director.  Prior to coming to USC in 1987, I was an Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Psychology at Stanford University from 1984 to1987, and a Research Computer Scientist at Carnegie Mellon University from 1983 to 1984. I received a B.S. degree in Mathematical Sciences (with distinction) from Stanford University in 1976 and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University in 1978 and 1983, respectively.
From 1983 until 1998, I was a co-PI of the Soar Project, a multi-disciplinary, multi-site attempt to develop, understand, and apply a cognitive architecture capable of supporting general intelligence. Research on Soar spanned areas such as machine learning, problem solving and planning, production systems, intelligent agents, virtual humans, multi-agent systems, knowledge-based systems, neural networks, and cognitive modeling. The most significant applications were intelligent automated pilots and commanders for synthetic battlespaces, as deployed in Synthetic Theater of War '97 (STOW-97).
From 1998 until 2007 my focus shifted to exploring new directions in computing and related fields for ISI, such as blending entertainment and computing for military training (where I helped to found ICT); virtual organizations of robots, agents and people; responding to the unexpected; high performance computing, scalable distributed computing, and computational science; biomedical informatics; automated construction (where I was Deputy Director of the Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies – CRAFT);  and technology and the arts.
I was elected a Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) in 1994, the Cognitive Science Society in 2014, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2017.  I also won both the Kurzweil Award for Best AGI Idea (2011) and the Kurzweil Award for Best AGI Paper (2012) .  I have served as Chair of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Special Interest Group on Artificial Intelligence (SIGART), Councillor and Conference Chair of the AAAI, and Program Co-Chair of the National Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-92).

Discussions and Interviews

An August 2012 panel discussion among David Brin (an award-winning science fiction writer), Mat Kaplan (the moderator) and me on AI and the Future at KPCC can be found at video.

Part one of an August 2013 interview of me by Adam Ford (founder and president of H+ Australia) on AI and the Future (and Sigma) can be found at video.  Part two can be found at video.

A September 2013 interview of me by Luke Muehlhauser (executive director of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute) on Cognitive Architecture (and related topics) can be found at blog.

Current Research Activities

Developing Sigma (Σ), an attempt to build a functionally elegant, grand unified cognitive architecture/system – based on graphical models and piecewise continuous functions – in support of virtual humans and intelligent agents/robots.  Work to date has focused on memory and learning; decision making and problem solving; reflection and Theory of Mind; perception, localization and mental imagery; language and speech; and affect and attention.  More on this effort can be found here.  A short published overview of Sigma can be found at 2013 AISB paper, and a much longer and more detailed – as well as more recent – one at 2016 JAGI paper.  A 2.5 hour tutorial was given on Sigma at AGI '14.  Both the video and the slides are available on their web site.  More recent 3-3.25 hour tutorials were given at AAMAS '16 and IVA '16.  Information about them, including the slides and hands-on tutorial instructions (for the AAMAS tutorial), can be found here and here.  A public release of Sigma is available under a BSD 2-clause open-source license.  Information on the release and how to set it up can be found here.  Also included in this release is an on-line tutorial that covers some of the basics of using Sigma for building agents.

Reflecting on the nature and structure of computing.  The book On Computing: The Fourth Great Scientific Domain (MIT Press) proposes that the computing sciences are on a par with the physical life and social sciences, while introducing a relational approach to understanding computing, its structure, and its connections with these other domains.  The MIT Press catalog page for the book is here, and it is available from Amazon (with one truly dreadful customer review) here.  Positive professional reviews can be found in Nature, Computing Reviews, and JASIST (logins may be required).




Department of Computer Science
Viterbi School of Engineering     
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089
Office: SAL 238
Phone: (213) 740-4780; Fax: (213) 740-7285

Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT)

12015 Waterfront Dr.
Playa Vista, CA 90094

Office: 306
Phone: (310) 448-5341; Fax: (310) 574-5725