If you want to see a picture of me, click here
Many people consider me a Dutchman, though I lived for several years in Italy where I received excellent education not
only in the exact sciences but also in the humanities. Despite much criticism on the Italian educational system, I think it is
one of the best in the world. It gave me a humanist background on which I can still build today.
I've always known that I wanted to become a scientist, yet I did not always know in what science. At the age of 10, I was
convinced to become an astronomer. I went to several astronomical summer-schools at a very young age, and published my
first paper at the age of 15. For some time around the age of 16, I thought to become a philosopher, but then turned to
astronomy again. I studied Astrophysics at the University of Utrecht, next moved to the University of Rome (La Sapienza)
where I studied Letters and Mathematics. Finally, I thought that the real scientific challenges lie in the field of Artificial
Intelligence, in particular Computational Linguistics, which I studied in Amsterdam, where I also received my PhD. After
having been at the University of Leeds, at Xerox PARC (as a consultant), I became full professor in Artificial Intelligence at
the University of St Andrews in 2005, and a VICI-laureate at the University of Amsterdam in 2007.
My main interests are in computational models of human cognition, in particular of language, music and reasoning, but I
have also major interests in the history of the humanities. I have worked for several years on the Data-Oriented
Parsing model which learns how to process new input by combining fragments from previous input. This model creates
rule-like behavior without rules, and provides insight in the working of cognitive domains such as language, music, vision
and reasoning. Here is a recent paper on the DOP approach. And here is the DOP homepage with books and software. During
the last few years I also started to work on the history of the humanities, which turns out to be a goldmine when viewed from a
comparative worldwide perspective. There appears to be a surprising unbroken tradition in the humanities from Antiquity onwards
that can best be described as a quest for explanatory principles and empirical patterns (in linguistics, philology, art theory,
music theory, historiography, poetics, etc). I published a full monograph on the history of the humanities of which the English
translation will appear in 2011. More information can be found on this weblog.
I live with Daniela and our son Livio. We wrote, together with our friend Sergio, a book on the architectural history of
Amsterdam (my sole publication in Italian, apart from some translations of my favorite author Nescio into Italian). Besides
having a good time with Daniela, Livio and my friends, one of the things I enjoy most, is, playing the piano and the
theremin. I also enjoy chance photography and other aleatoric art. You can often see me walking around shopping malls
with my camera randomly taking thousands of pictures.
On a more personal note, I am known as an extremely talkative person. Daniela once proposed that my first name "Rens" is
an acronym for "Raramente E' Nel Silenzio", that is, "Rarely is he in silence".