Erik J. Larson

Fellow, Technology and Democracy Project

Erik J. Larson is a Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project at Discovery Institute, author of The Myth of Artificial Intelligence, and Science and Technology Editor at The Best He works on issues in computational technology and intelligence (AI). He is presently writing a book critiquing the overselling of AI. He earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from The University of Texas at Austin in 2009. His dissertation was a hybrid that combined work in analytic philosophy, computer science, and linguistics and included faculty from all three departments.

Larson’s Ph.D. dissertation served as the basis for the writing of a provisional patent on using hierarchical classification techniques to locate specific event mentions in free text. His work on supervised machine learning methods for information extraction and natural language processing (NLP) helped him found a software company in 2007 dedicated to research and development on classifying blogs and other web text online. Larson wrote several successful proposals to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and was awarded over $1.7 Million in funding to perform cutting-edge work in AI. His company was based in Austin, Texas and Palo Alto, California.

In addition to founding and heading the company, Larson has over a decade of experience as a professional software developer and a scientist in NLP, a central field in artificial intelligence. He worked on the famous “Cyc” project at Cycorp, a decades-long effort to encode commonsense into machines led by Carnegie Mellon and Stanford professor, and AI pioneer, Douglas Lenat. Cycorp is best-known as a company dedicated to engineering the world’s first commonsense knowledge base, and Larson’s experience as an engineer at Cycorp has proven invaluable in his ongoing attempt to understand the challenges AI systems face in the real world. Larson has also held a position as a research scientist at the IC2 Institute at The University of Texas at Austin, where he led a team of researchers doing work on information extraction techniques for free text, a project funded in part by Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Laboratories. He has held the title of Chief Scientist in an AI-based startup whose first customer was Dell (Dell Legal), Senior Research Engineer at AI company 21st Century Technologies in Austin, worked as an NLP consultant for Knowledge Based Systems, Inc., and has consulted with other companies in Austin, helping to design AI systems that solve problems in natural language understanding.


The Myth of Artificial Intelligence

Why Computers Can’t Think the Way We Do
Futurists insist that AI will soon eclipse the capacities of the most gifted human mind. What hope do we have against superintelligent machines? But we aren’t really on the path to developing intelligent machines. In fact, we don’t even know where that path might be.

Rethinking Deep Blue

Why a Computer Can't Reproduce a Mind
The recent hysteria over the defeat of world chess champion Gary Kasparov by IBM computer Deep Blue has provided fresh fuel for the debate over whether computers can be intelligent and, yes, even exhibit the other qualities of mind — consciousness, sensation, emotion and the like.

Looking for the Mind

Review of The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory by David J. Chalmers (Oxford University Press, 1996)
Perhaps one of the most exciting trends in current philosophy of mind is the renewed interest in what David Chalmers calls the really hard problems of consciousness.