- Name: Philipp Wicke
- Number of lab members or colleagues (excluding PI): 1
- Location: University College Dublin
- Graduation Date: 2021
Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?
My name is Philipp Wicke and I’m a researcher at the University College Dublin in Ireland. My research is highly interdisciplinary, but overall related to the theme of natural and artificial cognition and creativity. While my PhD is on embodied storytelling using robots and AI systems, my involvement as Head of AI Applications at the NGO AI for People is centered around how we can create responsible, helpful and ethical AI systems. At the same time, I’m collaborating with a variety of researchers on different topics: I’m giving guest lectures on AI and metaphors at the VU Amsterdam, I’m researching on gesture theory, embodied theories of mind and I’m interested in visual creativity for which I am investigating the computational and cognitive aspects of Emoji 😊.
All of those interests emerge from my foundational education during my undergraduate in Cognitive Science at the University Osnabrück. In this program, I learned the fundamentals of Neuroscience, Artificial Intelligence, Linguistic, Psychology and Philosophy of Mind that put me on my current interdisciplinary track. During the undergrad I did an internship at the University College Dublin, which concluded with my Bachelor thesis on “Ideograms as Semantic Primes: Emoji in Computational Linguistic Creativity”. Furthermore, I did an internship at Dauwels lab at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, where I investigated the prediction of optimal brain surgery in epileptic patients.
Ultimately, I decided for a PhD that was leaning closer to Artificial Intelligence than Neuroscience. But I’ve always kept Neuroscience close to my interpretations and perspective. Through various interns, which I have managed and guided in our research lab, I got involved in AI for People for which I’ve hosted a coding class and an interactive online workshop.
Soon, I’ll hopefully conclude my PhD with my thesis and defense. Eventually, I’m looking to transform my research into a position that can give me the freedom to work on all the interdisciplinary topics that I’m interested in, whether that will be in academia or not.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My studies of cognitive science showed me how little we understand about human cognition. And even more so about human creativity. Since I enjoy drawing, painting and writing myself, I’ve observed the huge gap between reasoning, computation and rule-based thinking on the one side and creative, uncontrolled, impulsive thinking on the other side. Using human cognition to understand human cognition might not be sufficient, yet I believe understanding creativity is a key to that. How about computational reasoning? Can we create an algorithmic, statistical model of cognition using a machine? Those questions have led me (and many others) to the inevitable question of whether a machine can think or not. And the key for me here was to realize that it might not need a thinking machine to have a creative machine (or model), but that it first takes a creative machine to have a thinking one.
All those thoughts on thinking, creative machines have led me (and many others) to the argument that a machine, or quite literally, a computer itself is not enough, but that such system has to be embedded, embodied, enacted and extended with(in) its environment (I’ve elaborated this thought here).
Another core concept of human cognition and creativity is language, which I’ve only come to appreciate late after my actual studies of linguistics while reading some opinions from the late Wittgenstein, Chomsky, Turing and my supervisor Tony Veale. Threading the needle through language, creativity, embodiment and artificial intelligence has led me to my PhD topic, which on paper is titled “Embodied Story-Telling: Augmenting Symbolic Narrative Generation with embodied gesture and emotion in a robotic agent”.
Working on the edge of the latest trends in Artificial Intelligence made me highly aware of all its ethical implications. Therefore, I got involved in AI for People to share my knowledge with others and w