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avatar for Bryan McCann

Bryan McCann

Stealth AI Startup
Cofounder | CTO
Previously, I was a Lead Research Scientist at Salesforce Research in Palo Alto where I worked on Deep Learning and its applications to Natural Language Processing. My job was mostly to advance the field of NLP and make difficult new directions seem possible and worthwhile to others in the field. I started as an IC, but increasingly began to collaborate until eventually I led my own NLP team.

My deep learning research started with an exploration of transfer learning, which led to contextualized word vectors. Descendants along this line include ELMo and BERT.

Then I turned towards unified text-to-text approaches to multitask learning, culminating in a call to action with the natural language decathlon, which has notable descendants in T5 and GPT-2/3.

Afterwards I branched out into many different directions: explainable NLP, controllable text generation, protein generation with language modeling techniques, and a good deal of summarization as well.

My philosophical research started with questions about meaning, existence, and aesthetics that I studied while pursuing a philosophy degree at Stanford University. My best work in this area at that time was a defense of conceptual analysis that repositioned it as a useful tool for learning rather than as a means of discovering truth.

My foray into deep learning for NLP changed my views on meaning many times over the years, and my philosophical side ventured into the philosophy of science -- a good deal of Popper, Kuhn, and all the rest.

I'm also an avid reader of literature and essays. Italo Calvino is my favorite writer at this moment and has captured what it feels like to think like me more than any other. Proust is second, and a handful of other authors have at various times better represented past versions of myself.

I dabble in poetry and regularly write essays on philosophy, literature, and how they relate to what I learn in research, but so far I only share these pieces by reading aloud.

I read books on Set Theory, Topological Analysis, and other such topics for fun, cover to cover, doing all the exercises. I feel a great appreciation for the beauty of mathematics and have more than once been brought to tears of joy in understanding fundamental concepts in various areas -- most recently while contemplating just outside St. Peter's Basilica.

My other primary hobby is Latin. I read it and never write down translations, but Latin phrases often inspire entire essays and evenings.


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