Sina Fazelpour

fullsizerender-1I’m a PhD candidate at the Philosophy Department of the University of British Columbia as well as a researcher at The W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics. My main research interests lie in the philosophy of science (counterfactuals and explanation), ethics of science and technology (algorithmic fairness and transparency), formal social epistemology (diversity and division of cognitive labour), and cognitive modeling. I am particularly interested in epistemic and ethical implications of modeling and design choices. Currently, I am examining this issue through a series of case studies pertaining to models of human counterfactual reasoning, models of benefits of diversity and measures of algorithmic fairness.

Prior to philosophy, I did a bachelor degree in electrical and biomedical engineering at McMaster University, and a masters in medical biophysics at the University of Toronto, during which I also worked as a researcher at the department of diagnostic imaging at the SickKids hospital in Toronto. Aside from academic work, I enjoy football (or soccer if you prefer) and literature. Some of my translations and poems have appeared in The Antigonish Review, Frogpond, and Haiku 21: an anthology of contemporary English-language haiku.


News 

  • On July 30, I will be giving a talk at The W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics titled “Diversity, Trust, Conformity: A Simulation-Based Study of Demographic Diversity’s Epistemic Impact”
  • Between July 21 – 24, 2019, I will be attending The Summer Institute on AI and Society, co-convened by CIFAR, the AI PULSE program at UCLA School of Law, and the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute, will be attending in Edmonton.
  • I will be attending the DGL Workshop at Caltech June 10-12, 2019. I will be presenting work from a joint project with Zack Lipton.
  • Starting from October 2019, I will be a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University working with David Danks on characterizing and mitigating the potential harms of algorithmic-based decision making.

Research

Publications

Steel, D., Fazelpour, S., Crew, B. & Gillette, K. (forthcoming) Information Elaboration and Epistemic Effects of Diversity. Synthese.
Abstract: We suggest that philosophical accounts of epistemic effects of diversity have given insufficient attention to the relationship between demographic diversity and information elaboration (IE), the process whereby knowledge dispersed in a group is elicited and examined. We propose an analysis of IE that clarifies hypotheses proposed in the empirical literature and their relationship to philosophical accounts of diversity effects. Philosophical accounts have largely overlooked the possibility that demographic diversity may improve group performance by enhancing IE, and sometimes fail to explore the relationship between diversity and IE altogether. We claim these omissions are significant from both a practical and theoretical perspective. Moreover, we explain how the overlooked explanations suggest that epistemic benefits of diversity can depend on epistemically unjust social dynamics. Link.

Steel, D., Fazelpour, S., Gillette, K. Crew, B. & Burgess, M. (2018). Multiple diversity concepts and their ethical-epistemic implications. European Journal for Philosophy of Science.
Abstract: A concept of diversity is an understanding of what makes a group diverse that may be applicable in a variety of contexts. We distinguish three diversity concepts, show that each can be found in discussions of diversity in science, and explain how they tend to be associated with distinct epistemic and ethical rationales. Yet philosophical literature on diversity among scientists has given little attention to distinct concepts of diversity. This is significant because the unappreciated existence of multiple diversity concepts can generate unclarity about the meaning of “diversity,” lead to problematic inferences from empirical research, and obscure complex ethical-epistemic questions about how to define diversity in specific cases. We illustrate some ethical-epistemic implications of our proposal by reference to an example of deliberative mini-publics on human tissue biobanking. Link.

Ransom, M., Fazelpour, S., & Mole, C. (2016). Attention in the predictive mind. Consciousness and Cognition.
Abstract: It has recently become popular to suggest that cognition can be explained as a process of Bayesian prediction error minimization. Some advocates of this view propose that attention should be understood as the optimization of expected precisions in the prediction-error signal (Clark, 2013, 2016; Feldman & Friston, 2010; Hohwy, 2012, 2013). This proposal successfully accounts for several attention-related phenomena. We claim that it cannot account for all of them, since there are certain forms of voluntaryattention that it cannot accommodate. We therefore suggest that, although the theory of Bayesian prediction error minimization introduces some powerful tools for the explanation of mental phenomena, its advocates have been wrong to claim that Bayesian prediction error minimization is ‘all the brain ever does’. Link

Fazelpour, S., & Thompson, E. (2015). The Kantian brain: brain dynamics from a neurophenomenological perspective. Current Opinion in Neurobiology.
Abstract: Current research on spontaneous, self-generated brain rhythms and dynamic neural network coordination cast new light on Immanuel Kant’s idea of the ‘spontaneity’ of cognition, that is, the mind’s capacity to organize and synthesize sensory stimuli in novel, unprecedented ways. Nevertheless, determining the precise nature of the brain-cognition mapping remains an outstanding challenge. Neurophenomenology, which uses phenomenological information about the variability of subjective experience in order to illuminate the variability of brain dynamics, offers a promising method for addressing this challenge. Link

Hojjat, S. P., Fazelpour, S., & Shirani, S. (2007). Multiple description coding of video using phase scrambling. In IEEE Pacific Rim Conference on Communications, Computers and Signal Processing.
Abstract: In this paper, we proposed a method to decrease the effects of data loss in communication of a video sequence using phase scrambling. Phase scrambling is used to spread the data of each pixel of a video sequence over all pixels of the scrambled video. In our experiments we studied the effects of different loss patterns. The results obtained by employing this method shows great improvements compared to cases of data loss without exploiting phase scrambling. This technique can be readily used in transmission of video segments over unreliable networks. Link

Teaching

Teaching Awards

In 2017-2018, I was awarded the The Don Brown Graduate Teaching Awards.

Course instructor

2018-2019: COGS 300: Understanding and Designing Cognitive Systems, Cognitive Systems Program, University of British Columbia (Syllabus + Labs)

2017-2018: COGS 300: Understanding and Designing Cognitive Systems, Cognitive Systems Program, University of British Columbia

2016-2017: PHIL 125: Introduction to Scientific Reasoning, Philosophy Department, University of British Columbia

Teaching Assistant

I was a teaching assistant for various courses at different levels, including introduction to philosophy, ethics, symbolic logic, biomedical ethics, philosophy of law, philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Philosophy Department, University of British Columbia. Winter 2014-Fall 2017.

Teaching Training

  • Certificate Program in Advanced Teaching and Learning at University of British Columbia.
  • Instructional Skills Workshop, UBC Graduate Pathways to Success.

Contact

Mailing Address
Sina Fazelpour
University of British Columbia
Department of Philosophy
1866 Main Mall, E370
Vancouver BC  V6T 1Z1
Canada

Office
Room 228,
The W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics, Located in Leonard S. Klinck Building
6356 Agricultural Road
Vancouver BC V6T 1Z2
Canada

Email Address
sina.fazelpour(at)alumni.ubc.ca