Greetings from London!

Hi all!

I’m John Gearig, a Roger M Jones fellow from 2020, who decided to defer one year. I studied as an undergraduate and master’s student at Michigan in electrical and computer engineering, and am excited to have the chance to study a topic that’s long interested me— philosophy.

As an undergraduate I declared a minor in philosophy, taking a variety of courses and solidifying my interest in the subject. Now, I’m very fortunate to study at the London School of Economics (LSE) in their master’s course in Philosophy of Science. I’ll live in London through August of 2022 while working on my dissertation over the summer. Generally, I’m interested in where machine learning and philosophy overlap. Recently, there’s been an exploding interest in machine learning ethics and algorithmic transparency, which I hope to study further and write my dissertation on.

So far, my life here has felt like a blur. I landed in London 36 hours before school started, as my student visa was delayed and I went to NYC to track it down and try to expedite it. Thankfully, I was able to attend my classes in person from the start of the term, but there was no time buffer to get settled in and explore. I had to enroll in 4 units (where each unit spans both terms and a half unit is a 10-week course). I’m living in East London, in the Borough of Tower Hamlets, in the district of Spitalfields. I chose to live in one of the University accommodations. It’s a beautiful area– close to the biggest skyscrapers in the city, but proximate to a number of cute markets, quiet lanes, and cool alleys. I have great views from my room and kitchen.

The cadence of graduate school looks like this. Each of my courses has a 1-hour lecture early in the week, which is generally recorded or taught synchronously via zoom. For each class, we’ll normally get assigned 3 readings which generally are journal articles of analytic philosophy, chapters from books, or encyclopedia articles. The majority of the time and effort is spent reading (20 pages of analytic philosophy takes a long time to read). Then, we’ll have a 90-minute in-person seminar with the professor, where we’ll talk about the reading, argue and ask questions. In the meantime, we’re supposed to explore and do independent reading for topics that interest us.

Thankfully, in the middle of the term, there is a reading week. A bit like thanksgiving break and fall break combined, it’s a week of no classes to allow students time to catch up in courses, write papers, and have a break. I went to Lisbon, Portugal with my girlfriend, and spent a few days exploring London. This was my time to finally catch up, slow down, and enjoy the city.

Now, it’s time for the second half of the term!