David S. Touretzky
Residence United States Nationality American Field artificial intelligence, computational neuroscience Institution Carnegie Mellon University Alma Mater Rutgers University, B.A., 1978
Carnegie Mellon University, Ph.D., 1984
Notable Prizes Distinguished Scientist, Association for Computing Machinery, 2006
David S. Touretzky is a research professor in the Computer Science Department and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition at Carnegie Mellon University. He received a BA in Computer Science at Rutgers University in 1978, and earned a Master's degree and a Ph.D. (1984) in Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. Touretzky has worked as an Internet activist in favor of freedom of speech, especially what he perceives as abuse of the legal system by government and private authorities. He is a notable critic of Scientology.
Touretzky's research interests lie in the fields of artificial intelligence, computational neuroscience, and learning. This includes machine learning and animal learning, and in particular neural representation of space in rodents (e.g., in the hippocampus) and in robots. In 2006 he was recognized as a Distinguished Scientist by the Association for Computing Machinery.
Criticism of Scientology
Since the late 1990s, Touretzky has worked to expose the actions of the Church of Scientology. He sees the actions of the organization as a threat to free speech, and he has taken a prominent part in Internet-based activism to oppose it, also appearing regularly as a critic in radio and print. He has also worked to expose what he sees as dangerous and potentially life-threatening treatments provided by Narconon, the Scientology-based drug rehabilitation program. He maintains a Web site entitled Stop Narconon, which archives media articles critical of the program. Dr. Touretzky's research into Narconon was a primary source of information for a series of San Francisco Chronicle newspaper articles criticizing Narconon on June 9 and June 10, 2004 that ultimately led to the organization's program being rejected by the California school system in early 2005.
Free speech activism
David Touretzky is an Internet free speech activist. He has supported several movements in what he perceives as abuse of the legal system by government and private authorities:
- In 2000, Touretzky testified as an expert witness for the defense in Universal City Studios et al. v. Reimerdes et al., a suit brought by seven motion picture studios against the publishers of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly (the case name refers to Shawn Reimerdes, an unrelated defendant who settled prior to trial.) The suit concerned the publication of DVD decryption software known as DeCSS, which the plaintiffs asserted was illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Dr. Touretzky testified as an expert in computer science on the expressive nature of computer code, and convinced the court that code was indeed speech. Touretzky also created an online gallery of various renditions of the DeCSS software. Readers sent in their own renditions of the decryption algorithm, including a mathematical description, a haiku, and a square dance.
- In reaction to the federal prosecution and eventual imprisonment of 18-year old political activist Sherman Austin for hosting bomb-making instructions entitled Reclaim Guide on his web site, Dr. Touretzky provided a mirror on his Carnegie Mellon website for more than two years.
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