Tom Burns is an Australian writer and aspiring neuroscientist. He holds degrees in science and bioethics and is a PhD student at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University, Japan. Among other outlets, his byline has graced The Diplomat, Huffington Post, The Australian, and Al Jazeera. Follow him on Twitter @tfburns and read his blog www.tfburns.com.
His current research involves building and evaluating simulated neural networks and artificial intelligence systems. He is interested in how these systems can autonomously learn and develop, as well as how they can approximate the functions of biological brains. One of his long-term academic goals is to understand the nature of consciousnesses.
In 2013, he completed a Bachelor of Science with Honours at Monash University. His thesis focused on how humans perceive non-linguistic sounds and how these perceptions relate to a sound’s mathematical or statistical features. In 2014, Tom took a sea change from science to pursue his interest in philosophy and ethics, completing a Master of Bioethics. As part of this course, he produced a thesis which analysed the ethics of proposed euthanasia legislation in Australian jurisdictions.
He was awarded the Monash-World Health Organization Bioethics Fellowship in 2015, which led to him spending three months at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. There he contributed towards bioethical analysis of the Ebola epidemic response in West Africa.
In late 2015 he began a Master of Philosophy by Research at Monash University. His thesis focused on electrophysiological signals from neocortex in response to stimuli and trauma, specifically in rat barrel cortex.