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Dr Hugh Lawson-Tancred

Associate Research Fellow

Hugh Lawson-Tancred graduated from Balliol College, Oxford with a double first in Literae Humaniores. He also taught classical philosophy at Birkbeck for several years in the 1980s and 90s.

Hugh is the Ethics Coordinator of the Society for Data Miners, which is currently drafting a code of ethics for the data analytics profession. He has also worked extensively on practical natural language processing and deep learning applications.

He is currently researching the philosophical interpretation of distributional corpus-based accounts of lexical semantics. Deep learning approaches are achieving increasingly subtle mathematical models of human language, and these challenge not only traditional symbolic theories of concept formation, but also many variants of neoconnectionism, such as the conceptual spaces account. These developments also put pressure on the conventional functionalist assumption that the analysis of conceptual processing can in principle be cleanly separated from its physical embodiment in biological or artificial hardware.

Hugh's other interest is in the ethics of data analysis. He is currently working on two issues: the problem of deanonymisation as a result of the combined use of separately derived datasets and the problem of the ethical cost of data collection, analysis and storage. Companies standardly assess the effort to expend on processing a body of data in terms of the likely information yield. However, it might also be appropriate to factor in a dimension of ethical cost, in terms of the increasing risk of breaching privacy through the actual process of analysis. Philosophically, this has a bearing on the concepts of implicit consent of the data subject and indirect responsibility of the data practitioner.

Selected publications:

1986 Aristotle, De Anima: On the Soul, Allen Lane
1988 Material for the Philoponus commentary on De Anima II in the series
The Ancient Commentators on Aristotle, ed. R. Sorabji, Duckworth
1992 Aristotle, The Art of Rhetoric, Allen Lane
1998 Ancient Greek Philosophy II: Aristotle, in Philosophy: A Guide Through the Subject 1, ed. A.C. Grayling, OUP
1998 Aristotle, The Metaphysics, Allen Lane
1998 Plato's Republic and the Greek Enlightenment, BCP, Duckworth