Past Event

The Philosophy of Deep Learning

March 24, 2023 - March 26, 2023
5:00 PM - 6:00 PM
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New York University (Room 101), 19 West 4th Street, New York

Event Description

The conference will explore current issues in AI research from a philosophical perspective, with particular attention to recent work on deep artificial neural networks. The goal is to bring together philosophers and scientists who are thinking about these systems in order to gain a better understanding of their capacities, their limitations, and their relationship to human cognition.

The conference will focus especially on topics in the philosophy of cognitive science (rather than on topics in AI ethics and safety). It will explore questions such as:

  • What cognitive capacities, if any, do current deep learning systems possess?
  • What cognitive capacities might future deep learning systems possess?
  • What kind of representations can we ascribe to artificial neural networks?
  • Could a large language model genuinely understand language?
  • What do deep learning systems tell us about human cognition, and vice versa?
  • How can we develop a theoretical understanding of deep learning systems?
  • How do deep learning systems bear on philosophical debates such as rationalism vs empiricism and classical vs. nonclassical views of cognition.
  • What are the key obstacles on the path from current deep learning systems to human-level cognition?

A pre-conference debate on Friday, March 24th will tackle the question “Do large language models need sensory grounding for meaning and understanding?”.

Event Speakers

  • Cameron Buckner, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Houston
  • Rosa Cao, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University
  • Ishita Dasgupta, Research Scientist at DeepMind
  • Nikolaus Kriegeskorte, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Columbia University
  • Brenden Lake, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Data Science at New York University
  • Grace Lindsay, Assistant Professor of Psychology at New York University
  • Tal Linzen, Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Data Science at New York University
  • Raphaël Millière, Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience at Columbia University
  • Nicholas Shea, Professor of Philosophy at the University of London

Pre-Conference Debate Speakers

  • Jacob Browning, Postdoctoral Associate at New York University
  • David Chalmers, University Professor of Philosophy and Neural Science at New York University
  • Yann LeCun, Chief AI Scientist at Meta
  • Ellie Pavlick, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Brown University

Event Information

Free and open to the public; event registration is now full. However, the conference will be live-streamed on Please visit the event website for additional information or email [email protected] with any questions. 

This event is hosted by the Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience at Columbia University and the Center for Mind, Brain, and Consciousness at New York University. 

Visitors must adhere to New York University's COVID-19 vaccination requirements

New York University provides reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. Requests for accommodations should be submitted to [email protected] at least two weeks before the event.