Benjamin A Spiegel


Photo credit @ison_laxman

Connect with me at bspiegel[at]cs[dot]brown[dot]edu

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Hi, I’m Ben

I’m a researcher and engineer focused on creating neurosymbolic AI systems that are both interpretable and generally intelligent. I graduated Brown University with an ScB in Computers and Minds, an Independent Concentration I designed that centers on Artificial General Intelligence. I’m currently a first-year PhD student at Brown in Computer Science advised by George Konidaris. I’m grateful to be supported by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

Research Philosophy

My research focus stems from a single hypothesis: language understanding is central to general intelligence. If we want to solve general AI, we need to solve language understanding, or language grounding. I (and my lab) thinks that the best way to do this is to ground language to structured decision-processes, like the ones used in Reinforcement Learning and Planning.

I believe that a highly principled approach to solving this problem involves incorporating the knowledge of the precursors to artificial intelligence: Linguistics, Psychology, and Philosophy. These fields are a major inspiration for my work, and I try to draw from them in a faithful manner. I expound my philosophy in my proposal for an Independent Concentration in Computers and Minds.

Academic Background

At Brown I’ve had the pleasure of working with George Konidaris, Ellie Pavlick, Michael Littman, and Stefanie Tellex. I’ve primarily worked with George and Ellie on language grounding research. Under their advisement, I completed an Honors Thesis during the ‘20-‘21 academic year which is available on arXiv. I have some other pre-prints up as well.

I co-created a group independent study course at Brown called Technofutures and Dystopias (public-facing syllabus available here).

Short Work History

In the past I’ve worked as a Computational Linguistics Research Intern at MeetKai and as a Software Engineer Intern for Workday. You can see my work history in detail on my LinkedIn page.

Outside Interests

Outside of academics I enjoy solving Rubik’s Cubes and other twisty puzzles, reading sci-fi, bouldering, playing and listening to music (I’m a bit of an audiophile, check out my gear page), and watching and writing comedy. I’m also a frequent reader of LessWrong (here’s my profile if you’re curious), an avid listener of the Making Sense podcast, and I do mindfullness meditation.