James’ research into consciousness and sensory perception is crossing the boundaries between philosophy and science, and is discovering pressing questions for humankind around artificial intelligence.
James teaches a first-year module on artificial intelligence at the University of Reading, which is informed directly by his research. James participated in a joint project alongside a Professor of Psychology at the University, exploring the theory that vision is action-based: the way artificial intelligence approaches vision suggests it has more in common with our motor actions than we’ve previously thought. James introduced questions about the potentials and limits of the theory, to get a better understanding of what could be achieved.
This research-led teaching enables students to be a part of his discoveries as his project evolves.
Through his teaching James stresses the importance of trying to understand which artificial systems really are intelligent like humans, and which might come to matter in the way that humans matter. A lot of things get called artificial intelligence – for example, driverless cars and computer-based systems for diagnosing diseases – but perhaps aren’t actually conscious.
James is exploring how we can tell when something has true consciousness: the difference between being something and stimulating it. These are going to be compelling questions for humans over the next few decades.
James hopes to continue to connect the philosophy and the science in his pursuit to understand a person’s conscious state. He is driven by wanting to understand how our brain does things, how we connect with the world, and how an understanding of consciousness can improve people’s lives.