A nice picture of Ken Haase

I am an engineer-scientist-philosopher trying to understand the complex evolving ecology which is human understanding and to implement systems which expand and enhance insight and understanding. Trained in philosophy and artificial intelligence and inspired by the complex dynamic cycles of the natural world, I build systems which learn and understand in order to help people better manage and grasp the complex universes of information we depend on. This practice includes a lifelong fascination with creativity: the means by which mind evolves to better align an unlikely world which it half understands.

A picture of the Haase family in 1968.

My mother immigrated to the US from the Netherlands in 1960, and an affinity with the larger world has led me to spend many years living and working in Finland, Germany, Belgium, and Ireland. My father was active in the civil-rights movement in the 1960s as Treasurer of the Alexandria Chapter of the NAACP, the founder of a CORE chapter, and one of the few white marshals for Martin Luther King's 1963 March on Washington. My brother, Bruce, lives in Amsterdam with his domestic partner Eelco and is in charge of event marketing for Canon Europe, where his fluency in Dutch and Japanese (as well as English and a few other languages) comes in handy.

Given this background, I find myself a "diversity junkie" who believes that a range of perspectives and experiences makes for individuals and organizations that are both wiser and more adaptable. This comes in part from the teaching of Gregory Bateson, who describes mind and culture using the models of complex ecologies, where diversity and experimentation are crucial for adapting to environmental stresses. In feeding this habit, I have been blessed by an appropriately diverse pantheon of inspiring personal mentors, especially including Marvin Minsky, Jerry Lettvin, Thomas Kuhn, and Alan Kay.

A picture of MIT

Academically, I've spent most of my life at MIT, starting in mathematics, drifting into philosophy, and ending up in computer science for my Master's and PhD degrees at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. My bachelor's thesis (in philosophy) was about self-descriptive representation languages (my program wrote some of the thesis's appendices) and my master's thesis was about efficient logical type inference for use in an automated mathematical discovery system. My PhD thesis started out as being about automated discovery programs and ended up looking at the limits and evolution of representations in such programs. The chief advisors of this work were Marvin Minsky and Thomas Kuhn, who taught me the importance of simultaneously balancing skepticism and openness in my work.

A picture of the MIT Media Laboratory.

For many years, I was a professor at the MIT Media Laboratory, working on semantically rich metadata and radically case-based representations. This work included infrastructure work on very large knowledge bases, linguistic work on fast robust shallow parsing, development of knowledge and language based information retrieval, and devising highly efficient (amortized linear time) analogical matching algorithms to support case-based knowledge representations. I was blessed by a succession of brilliant students who managed to learn enough from me to do things I could not (the goal of having students, in my opinion). One product of this period was FramerD, an open-source object database designed to support large pointer-intensive data sets such as semantic networks and other knowledge structures.

Professionally, I have been a software developer, a designer of physical and virtual interfaces (at Atari), a researcher, a research manager, a professor, an entrepreneur, and a laboratory director. As well as being passionate about technology which expands understanding, I find joy in enabling and encouraging the creativity of others and helping them to apply that creativity to problems that they and the world care about.

A picture of the European Union Flag

In 1997, I began working to found new centers of creativity in Europe. These efforts included the European Media Laboratory in Heidelberg, the Brussels-based StarLab (a bright wacky blip of the dotcom era in Europe), and (most recently) a year as acting director of Media Lab Europe in Dublin, Ireland. Since 1997, I have also been a part-time professor of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Tampere in Finland.

A logo for the beingmeta company

My company, beingmeta, inc. is creating technologies for helping individuals and organizations work better by expanding and augmenting human access to information. It was was founded in 2001 to commercialize my work at MIT and has spent the last four years hardening and extending the semantic and linguistic capabilities created at MIT, while engaged in pilots of search and knowledge management applications with a number of companies. The company's technology portfolio includes high performance knowledge systems, natural language analysis tools, and a platform for consistent, interlingual, inter-individual metadata creation.

Spiritually, I am a convinced Quaker who has at times been blessed by the chance to spend some time with the poor and homeless. I spent some time on the live-in staff at Haley House, the Boston Catholic Worker House, and ran a morning shift feeding homeless men for seven years. In my spiritual life, I particularly find that continuing attention to mystery reminds me of how incomplete and partial are my understanding of both the world and my own life. My spirituality seeps out in my poetry and in my strategic thinking, whether corporate or academic.

A stringray over a grassy patch in Culebra, one of the Spanish Virgin Islands off of Puerto Rico

An avid reader of science fiction since literacy, I am excited about creating those speculative worlds which I have known for my entire life. While I dream of visiting alien worlds on other planets, I find immediate fascination in weightless exploration of the aquatic alien ecologies of our own globe (scuba diving). From the science fiction theme, I also see my own work moving toward a future where human and machine minds strive together, becoming something aware, conscious, and greater than this single disconnected mind can imagine.

I live in Dorchester, Massachusetts with my wife Margaret Benefiel (a professor, minister, and spiritual director for individuals and organizations), a feline extermination contractor (Ziggy) and a canine life-work balance consultant (Cocoa).