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John Zerilli

Research Fellow


John Zerilli
Ph.D. (A.N.U.) (2017)
M.A. (Syd.) (2011)
LL.M. (Camb.) (2009)
John qualified as a lawyer before clerking for the President of the New South Wales Court of Appeal. After a short spell as instructing solicitor to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and two years as a solicitor in private practice, he went to Cambridge to undertake the Cambridge LL.M. John also submitted a dissertation in theoretical biology and philosophy of science at the University of Sydney. Called to the bar in 2011, he left a year and a half later when, having turned down an offer to pursue graduate biology in Milan at the European School of Molecular Medicine, he decided to undertake doctoral studies at the Australian National University in cognitive science and philosophy (working with Kim Sterelny and Tori McGeer). His dissertation was entitled Neuroplasticity, Neural Reuse, and the Language Module, which revisits the notion of a cognitive module in light of recent advances in neuroscience, and evaluates the prospects of a hardwired and dedicated “language module.” His thesis was submitted in August 2017.
Since then, John’s interests have shifted increasingly towards artificial intelligence and computer science, and the legal and ethical challenges posed by emerging predictive technologies. He is currently Research Associate in the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge.
John was the recipient of a Cambridge Commonwealth Trust scholarship to undertake the Cambridge LL.M. (2008), wrote the highest-ranking thesis of his year at Cambridge (2009), and won the Lucy Firth Prize (valued at $1000) for best publication in philosophy at Sydney University (2010). He has published numerous articles, canvassing law, political economy, philosophy, and cognitive science, and three books, of which the two most recent will be released in 2020 (The Adaptable Mind, with Oxford University Press; and A Citizen's Guide to Artificial Intelligence, with MIT Press). His published work appears in such journals as Philosophy of Science, Synthese, and Philosophical Psychology.

Selected Publications
• 2021. A citizen’s guide to artificial intelligence (as lead author, with: Danaher, J. et al.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
• 2020. The adaptable mind: What neuroplasticity and neural reuse tell us about language and cognition. New York: Oxford University Press.
• 2020. Explaining machine learning decisions. Philosophy of Science (forthcoming).
• 2020. Algorithmic sentencing: Drawing lessons from Human Factors research. In: Principled sentencing and artificial intelligence, ed. J. Ryberg, J. Roberts & J. de Keijser. New York: Oxford University Press.
• 2020. Artificial intelligence and machine learning: Technical considerations (as lead author, with Weller, A.). In: The law of artificial intelligence, ed. M. Hervey & M. Lavy. London: Thomson Reuters/Sweet & Maxwell.
• 2019. Neural redundancy and its relation to neural reuse. Philosophy of Science 86(5): 1191-1201.
• 2019. Algorithmic decision-making and the control problem (as lead author, with: Knott, A., Maclaurin, J. & Gavaghan, C.). Minds and Machines 29(4):555-578. (
• 2019. Government use of artificial intelligence in New Zealand (with: Gavaghan, C., Knott, A., Maclaurin, J. & Liddicoat, J.). Wellington: New Zealand Law Foundation.
• 2019. The use of algorithms in the New Zealand public sector: A preliminary assessment (with: Liddicoat, J., Gavaghan, C., Knott, A. & Maclaurin, J.). New Zealand Law Journal [2019]: 26-30.
• 2018. Neural reuse and the modularity of mind: Where to next for modularity? Biological Theory 14(1): 1-20.
• 2018. Transparency in algorithmic and human decision-making: Is there a double standard? (as lead author, with: Knott, A., Maclaurin, J. & Gavaghan, C.). Philosophy and Technology 32(4): 661-683. (
• 2017. Multiple realization and the commensurability of taxonomies. Synthese 196(8): 3337-3353.
• 2017. Against the “system” module. Philosophical Psychology 30(3): 235-250.
• 2014. A minimalist framework for comparative psychology. Biology and Philosophy 29(6): 897-904.
• 2013. The Romantic roots of economic rationalism. Arena Journal 41-42: 7-27.
• 2012. The economic imperative. Exeter: Imprint Academic.
• 2008. Accident in the equitable jurisdiction. Journal of Contract Law 24: 112-131.
• 2007. The critical role of theory in practice. Legal Education Review 17: 103-117.
• 2006. Mitigation in a claim for contract damages. Australian Law Journal 80: 799-801.

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