Home | John Thornton

John Thornton

BBus, BSc(Hons), PhD(Griffith)

Adjunct Associate Professor
Institute for Integrated and Intelligent Systems
Griffith University

email: j.thornton@griffith.edu.au

Honorary Reader
Department of Informatics
University of Sussex

Current Activities: As of March 2015 I retired from my full-time position at Griffith University and am now an adjunct staff member with Griffith's Institute for Integrated and Intelligent Systems and an Honorary Reader at Sussex University's Department of Informatics. I remain actively engaged in teaching, research and publishing and currently supervise two PhD students in the Cognitive Computing Unit at Griffith, while lecturing part-time at Sussex (teaching Adaptive Systems in 2017 and 2018). In addition, I am involved with the Free University Brighton where I run the two-part Philosophy of Consciousness course as part of the Philosophy freegree.

Research: My research lies broadly in the domain of cognitive science, encompassing both artificial intelligence and phenomenological philosophy. Currently, I am working on machine learning algorithms that model the functioning of minicolumns in the neocortex, and on developing an understanding of how these models can be related to the phenomenology of conscious experience. To further this research I formed the Cognitive Computing Unit in 2011. Our work in the Unit has been particularly inspired by the ideas of Jeff Hawkins, and his emphasis on sequence prediction as the fundamental engine of neocortical function. In this context, I am working with two PhD students, Linda Main and Ben Cowley, on developing more effective algorithms for Hierarchical Temporal Memory systems. My PhD and early research mainly concentrated on developing local search techniques for constraint satisfaction, satisfiability and temporal reasoning.

Text Book: In 2007 I published The Foundations of Computing and the Information Technology Age through Pearson Prentice Hall (ISBN 9780733988486). The book develops a new perspective on the development of information technology, placing it within the broader context of the evolution of scientific and technological thinking. After providing an overview of the history of computing (until the end of WWII), the book examines the connections between the development of computer technology and the rationalisation of control that lies behind the phenomenon of modern global civilisation. The text then examines how scientific, technological and computational concepts have come to dominate our understanding of life on earth and develops a broader and more inclusive perspective that once again places the reality of human consciousness at the centre of existence.
To purchase a copy: The book can now only be ordered online from Pearson Education Australia.