Main Current project:
The (Turing-inspired) Meta-Morphogenesis (M-M) Project


Also known as "The Self-informing Universe" project
Biologically evolved forms of compositionality
For the SYCO-1 Symposium on Compositionality, Birmingham 20-21 Sept 2018
Alan Turing's 1938 thoughts on intuition vs ingenuity
(Unwittingly endorsing aspects of Kant's philosophy of mathematics in 1781??)
Video of a related 20 minute presentation at Eastside Gallery on 9th Nov 2018
Draft incomplete paper:
Super-Turing multiple-membrane machines,

hoping (eventually) to explain ancient human and non-human geometrical
and topological competences. Work in progress -- very slow progress.

Including the theory of "fundamental" and "derived/evolved" construction-kits:

(Disorganised) home page of Aaron Sloman (Personal details below).
     Sorry no interns    or    PhD Students
Being retired I can't be a main supervisor.
I am happy to talk to students who are interested in the topics I work on.
I can give informal advice and help, if required.

I still use the Poplog system and (sometimes) the Sim-Agent Toolkit.
Poplog Installation Update
Some elementary programming and AI video tutorials

My 1984 paper The structure of the space of possible minds
has recently received a lot of attention. I think it needs updating,
especially taking account of progress on the (Turing-inspired)
Meta-Morphogenesis (="Self-informing Universe") project
Comments and suggestions to A.Sloman[AT], please.
Anything used in the revision will be acknowledged.
Related, incomplete drafts:

Tutorial at Diagrams 2018 -- June 18th: 14:00-15:3 -- Edinburgh
Short paper for the main conference

2017: New online version of my 1962 Oxford DPhil Thesis
Knowing and Understanding
Relations between meaning and truth, meaning and
necessary truth, meaning and synthetic necessary truth

(A defence of Immanuel Kant's philosophy of mathematics,
including semantics for modal concepts NOT based on possible worlds. )

Available as html or pdf.

Tried creating a google group (PhilAIBioCompMath) but found the mechanisms so awful that I'll soon delete it.


Philosophy and Theory of Artificial Intelligence Conference
PTAI 2017 Leeds 3-5 Nov --- Programme
New Oct 2017: my extended abstract for PTAI conference
Huge but unnoticed gaps between current AI and natural intelligence

New March-Sept 2017
Gaps Between Human and Artificial Mathematics
Added 12 Aug: Web page and video for invited talk on
Why can't (current) machines reason like Euclid or even human toddlers?
(And many other intelligent animals)
Architectures for Generality & Autonomy Workshop (AGA 2017), 26th IJCAI Melbourne, August 2017

New Campus Development video October 2017
School of Computer Science      University of Birmingham
Recently re-furbished: "The Lapworth Museum of Geology and Biology"
(It calls itself "The Lapworth Museum of Geology" but much of it is about biological evolution.)

BICA Tutorial presented via at BICA 2017
Some deep, largely unnoticed, gaps in current AI, and what Alan Turing might have done about them.
Paper for ICCM 2017 (Warwick University, July 2017) with references added:

Background for my ICCM 2017 talk on 24th July:
Multiple Foundations for mathematics
(Mathematical, cognitive, physical, biological, metaphysical ... foundations)
Sunday talks == Monday talks == Tuesday talks
Keynote speakers == Dayan (Sunday), Haupt (Monday), Gallistel (Tuesday)
Programme (PDF) == Abstracts (PDF)
Two papers for AISB 2017 (Bath University April 2017):
[1] Computing and Philosophy Symposium (PDF) --- [2]Invited talk, Symposium on computational models of emotions. (PDF)


(Disorganised) home page of Aaron Sloman
(Personal details below)

Retired, honorary member of the School of Computer Science, mostly working on philosophy and the Meta-Morphogenesis (Self-Informing Universe) project.


John McCarthy - A Personal Memoir


Sorry no internships


I can't accept PhD Students

Ingrid Fadelli's December 2016 report: Will machines ever feel?
What do mirrors really do? (With Alastair Wilson, 2015)


Thoughts about the BBC Microbit, aimed for Sept 2015

Alan Turing died two years after publishing his 1952 paper on 'The chemical basis of morphogenesis'.
What might he have done if he had lived another 30 or 40 years?
My tentative, incomplete, answer:
-- The Meta-Morphogenesis (Self-Informing Universe) Project
---- AISB Convention 18-22 April 2017 Bath
---- Short progress report for Computing and Philosophy Seminar at AISB 2017(PDF)
---- Summary of invited talk for Computational Models of Emotions Workshop
...... Architectures underlying cognition and affect in natural and artificial systems

---- Fundamental and derived construction kits
        (for physics, chemistry, life and minds)
---- Construction kits as explanations of possibilities
---- From Molecules to Mathematicians
---- Entropy and evolution
---- Virtual machine functionalism

Marvin Minsky (1927-2016)
A brief personal tribute:
- - - - Recent Talks - - - -
July 2016: Philosophy and AI Tutorial at IJCAI New York
- - - -
Jun 2016:
Presentation at Workshop on Information and Information-Processing in Science:
Biology, Physics & Brain & Cognitive Sciences (Tel Aviv and Jerusalem).
What's information? An Answer from Physics, Biology, Mind-Science and Philosophy Online notes.
- - - -
Jan 2016: Invited talk at conference on "Computability 1936 - 2036"
Jerusalem Institute for Advanced Studies
- - - -
Dec 2015
Tutorial on Meta-Morphogenesis at SGAI: 15 December 2015:


Can AI researchers make a machine see a garden?

School of Computer Science - cncr
Those who are ignorant of philosophy are doomed to reinvent it .... badly. Those who are also ignorant of computation will make an even worse mess of philosophy. Those who know about computation will not necessarily avoid philosophical errors!

Alan Turing knew that a behavioural test for intelligence would be as silly as a test for being a Turing machine.

Impossible objects, vision, and mathematical cognition
(How did evolution produce mathematicians like Euclid?)
(Part of the Meta-Morphogenesis Project)

Directions for finding CS
Beware university web sites

Updated Nov 2018:
Jane Austen's theory of information (1813)
vs Claude Shannon's (1947).

This is a "low-tech" website built using html in a text editor, starting early 1990s and modified occasionally.

(a) trying to get help from drugs (as some do secretly)?     OR     (b) trying to get help from their gods (as many do openly)?
Does the fact that the latter are deceived make them innocent? Compare buying fake drugs!
Learn about analytical atheism and the "Brights" organisation

This page badly needs reorganisation
My web pages started soon after the internet began, around 1992. Available tools were very primitive for a long time, and later I was too busy to do anything about reorganising the pages. An attempt to get external funding to help reorganise it was unsuccessful.
So here it is (below), and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

Google Scholar List -- PhilPapers Entry -- Academia Entry -- Bham CogAff site -- PT-AI 2013 Presentation - why geometrical reasoning is hard for machines --
'Cybertalk' 2013 paper on Turing -- My Presentations On ''
Notes on Autism and Developmental Abnormalities
+ Meta-Morphogenesis tutorial AGI 2012, Oxford (Video updated 14th June, 2013) + Contents of 914 page book: Alan Turing: His Work and Impact (2013)
Abstract and Videos for Meta-Morphogenesis tutorial, AGI 2012,Oxford
Experimental Google Site

Come to Birmingham as students or as researchers to help us investigate, model and design information processing systems: in computers, in brains, in minds, in evolution, in science, and in society -- to build as challenges, to entertain, to help make the world a better place, and to help us understand what we (humans) are. petition banner -- Commercial Free Philosophy
Support Creative Commons --- Petition for libel law reform

Local Wordle For This Page



-- This is Aaron Sloman's web page - JUMP TO CONTENTS LIST - PhD Student Enquiries - Send me suggestions for AITopics Philosophy pages --
-- I have no funds for postdocs -- NO INTERNSHIPS --

Planned and Recent Talks
Abstract for invited talk at Philosophy and Theory of AI, Oct 2011, Thessaloniki
Invited talk Nancy France 19th July 2011
The biological bases of mathematical competences: a challenge for AGI, Mountain View, 5th Aug 2011 Video of presentation.
Philosophy as AI and AI as philosophy:Tutorial at AAAI, San Francisco, 8th Aug 2011
Functions and mechanisms of vision: Beyond James Gibson.

When asked to comment on impact in a reference:
What should I write if asked to act as an academic referee, and the invitation requests me to assess the impact of the candidate's work?


My expanded notes on this topic can be found here.
What follows is an older, simpler, response.
"I am not interested in impact, only quality of research, which does not always correlate with impact, since the latter is often subject to fashion and transient funding policies, etc. If you want a study of impact you would do better to consult a social scientist. Moreover high impact as measured by citations is often a consequence of making mistakes that many other people comment on.

Many great research achievements could not possibly be assessed for their impact until many years later, in some cases long after the death of the researcher (e.g. Gregor Mendel).

I'll tell you what I think about the research quality: things like the depth, difficulty, and importance of the questions addressed, the originality, clarity, precision and explanatory power of the theories developed, and how well they fit known facts, as far as I can tell. If there are engineering products I may have some comments on their contribution to research. I shall not be able to evaluate their contribution to wealth or happiness."

Researchers and teachers should not allow themselves to be dictated to by managers following the latest managerial fashions.

It never ceases to amaze me that neither senior academics in universities, nor senior administrators in funding agencies, nor senior politicians, can see the huge wastefulness in trying to make major service organisations funded by the nation put substantial resources into behaviour that is comparable to a group of monkeys all struggling to be near the food at the top of a greasy pole.

Instead of contributing to all that wasted effort, they should be cooperating to produce a national system of research and education that, among other things, provides the best possible opportunities for all young minds with academic potential to be stretched to their limits, and (with international collaboration) pushes research frontiers in as many directions as possible: for we never know where new knowledge gems lie in wait.

If funds available nationally for research can't support all the academics needed for teaching then there should be a higher proportion of teaching oriented institutions (e.g. polytechnics), along with a weighted, dynamically adjusted lottery for research funding, as described here

-- 2012: The Alan Turing Year (Four papers on Turing )
-- Dec 2010, SGAI10 Workshop "Bio-inspired and Bio-Plausible Cognitive Robotics" Cambridge: (My Abstract) ( Slides (PDF))
-- Mary Pardoe's proof that angles in a triangle sum to a line. (180 degrees). Thoughts on P-geometry

-- Poster - "Computing: The science of nearly everything" (PDF), for Computing at School Conference 9th July.

-- RNID Campaign against background noise on broadcast speech programmes (especially factual programmes). --

For various reasons it is absolutely impossible to build systems that can be guaranteed to be perfectly secure. So researchers in the field must make clear to politicians, purchasers, research funders, and the general public that whatever systems they use, there is always a risk of security failure and all decisions to use such systems must take account of that risk, and the consequences and costs of security failure.
In some cases it may be better not to go ahead with a project whose success depends on a guarantee of perfect security, but to do something less ambitious -- e.g. aim for something less uniform, or less integrated.
It is clear that there were members of the previous government who failed to understand these points. (One consequence is the NHS IT fiasco)
I don't know whether the current coalition includes people who do understand the issues.

Centre for Computational Neuroscience & Cognitive Robotics

Please do NOT email me offering to exchange links. Anyone who wishes to can link to my web pages.

"Optimist" (my definition): "Someone who makes good things happen."
(My response when accused of being too optimistic about a proposal.)

New Scientist on work here on robotics and philosophy of mathematics -- with grossly distorted title.



Some recent things

Jan 2010: Starting to reorganise my papers chronologically -- Clark, Dennett, realised minds and brains -- Three aspects of embodiment -- Why virtual machines really matter -- for several disciplines (Or, Why philosophers need to be robot designers) and Cognitive scientists. -- Abstract (on virtual machines) for Workshop on Philosophy and Engineering WPE 2008. -- The well designed young mathematician (a baby robot). -- Linux laptop with USB t-mobile wireless dongle -- Linux laptop and external display -- Fedora vs Ubuntu (draft) -- igoogle is a very nasty piece of work. -- Architectural requirements for pride. -- "The Self" -- A bogus concept -- EXTENDED ABSTRACT for Complexity Conference (UIUC, May 2008) -- -- Talks since about 2000 -- Recent discussion papers -- Other recent presentations, e.g. tutorials. -- Recent papers -- Recent proposals and comments: academic, educational, political -- Why robot designers need to be philosophers (at COR-Lab Bielefeld) -- What evolved first: Languages for communicating, or languages for thinking (Generalised Languages: GLs) -- Predicting Affordance Changes -- Why theory tethering is better than symbol grounding -- 'Functions and Rogators' (1965) now online. -- Child robots become mathematicians and philosophers -- Dagstuhl talk in logic/probability/vision -- Research assessment vs research monitoring? -- Architectural and representational requirements for seeing processes and affordances -- Artificial vs biological companions (at AISB'08) -- Natural and artificial metacognition (for AAAI'08) -- Varieties of Atheism: analytical and others. -- Two kinds of dynamical system -- Requirements for Human-like Robots: Critique of nouvelle AI, Brooks, embodiment theorists --
Since much of my stuff is disorganised it may be easiest to find things using Google. Search either the school site or the world.
(Thanks to Dave Parker for help.)

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---I HAVE NO FUNDS FOR INTERNSHIPS-(Click for more information)---
---PhD Enquiries---

EMAIL: I have no clerical help, am swamped with email and am very disorganised. So I often plan to respond 'later' to a message, but never get around to it. If you think I haver forgotten to reply to a message you sent me, feel free to send a reminder.

Ideas about improving computing teaching in schools using AI/Cognitive Science


Order is not significant: Alexandre Borovik's thoughts on mathematics. -- Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness -- Association for Advancement of Artificial Intelligence -- Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour -- International Society for Research on Emotions -- European Coordinating Committee for Artificial Intelligence -- British Computer Society Specialist Group on Artificial Intelligence. -- European Community Cognitive Systems, Interaction and Robotics Initiative. -- Cognitive Science Society -- The euCognition Network -- Grand Challenge 5: Architecture of Brain and Mind


BBC Radio 4 discussion 'Start the week', led by Andrew Marr, made the point that weaker nations cannot compete fairly with the rich ones, and so a global economy based on free market principles does not help everyone equally, and can do serious harm to poorer nations.

A related argument is usually ignored in countries like the UK, in which recent governments have followed a policy of applying a market economy to public service organisations (schools, universities, hospitals, etc) by transferring funds from ones lower down league tables to the ones nearer the top. This ignores the fact that the process of competition to select winners sits heavily on the shoulders of ordinary people who cannot easily take their business elsewhere, e.g. students and children who are not being taught well, sick people who are not being treated well, etc. So, like the decision to bomb a country to make things better, which disregards all the harm done to civilians in the process, attempts to use a market economy by setting targets and transferring resources to the public service institutions that do well, disregards the harm done to individual users of those institutions by the results of such competition.

The alternative is the unfashionable idea of (a) trying to ensure that the highest possible standards and rigorous selection processes are used when those organisations hire, or promote staff, or decide who has satisfied probationary requirements, and in addition (b) setting up monitoring and management systems and putting resources into the parts that need to do better rather than simply rewarding the ones that do well.

Our government's policy of transferring resources to the organisations that do well is like a policy of looking after a massive ocean platform or bridge by monitoring its support pylons and then putting resources into extending the ones that are doing well.

How to improve selection processes and how to do the monitoring and management needed to bring all up to a high standard are topics for another day. My argument here is that the notion that it can be done by a market economy is both bad management and cruel to the people for whom the services exist.

---I HAVE NO FUNDS FOR INTERNSHIPS-(Click for more information)---
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As I get older and the time left for reading and learning gets shorter, while the rate of production of research material in many disciplines, all around the world, continues to increase (including a significant proportion of very good stuff), my motivation for reading anything that is not freely available on the internet has been falling rapidly. I feel I no longer have time to go to get hold of paper books and journals that are not likely to provide anything more interesting than the many still unread freely and quickly available electronic materials, especially as when I read the latter I can change the font size to suit my long-sighted eyes, and I don't need to hold a tome in my hand, nor do I have to manually transcribe bits of text on which I want to make notes, or send comments, since I can use copy and paste, nor do I have to carry with me the paper documents I may want to read while travelling. I know that not everyone feels this way, but that's fine with me.

For the benefit of others who share this preference I have been making all my own publications freely available, including drafts that can be improved in response to critical comments. I see no reason why publications need to be frozen in a printed format.

See also The LiquidPub Project: Liquid Publications: Scientific Publications meet the Web
A brief explanation of why I now attach greater importance to putting my own research papers (including discussion notes, presentations, etc.) on the web than getting them into journals and conference proceedings can be found here. More thoughts here.

---------- Important Book Now Online: A.Trehub, The Cognitive Brain 1991----------


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This is Aaron Sloman's Home Page
PhD Enquiries

Last Updated:
21 Jul 2010; 24 Aug 2010; 7 Oct 2010; ... 2 Dec 2010; 11 Jan 2011; 12 May 2011; 18 Sep 2011; ... 5 Dec 2011; 21 Apr 2012; 6 Aug 2012; ... 25 Jan 2013; ... 29 Mar 2013; 22 May 2013; ... 28 Sep 2013; 13 Mar 2014; 22 Mar 2015; 16 Oct 2015; 23 Dec 2016; 5 Feb 2018
My email address is "". Please, where possible, send me email rather than paper. Paper wastes my time and usually gets lost in piles of other papers (I have no secretarial assistance).
PLEASE DO NOT SEND ME HTML EMAIL: SEND PLAIN TEXT ONLY. Find out how to fix your mailer settings.
Instead of sending me an unsolicited document as an attachment, please, if possible, merely send me a URL that specifies where I can fetch the document --- if I want to. (This does not apply to requested attachments, e.g. in applications or submissions.)
PLEASE do not send me marketing email of any kind. If I want to buy equipment, software, medicines, holidays, gadgets, etc. I know how to find out what is available. If YOU were sent email by everyone who thought you might be interested in what they sell, you would be swamped and annoyed. Don't do it to others. I should not have to take an 'unsubscribe' action to stop you harassing me.

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Home Pic oct 2018 -Oct 2018
- 2016: (small) (bigger) (biggest)
Vadim Drawing[<- Click to enlarge]
Drawing by Vadim Kulikov at a Summer School in Edinburgh, August 2015.
Oxford interview Pic Dec 2012
---- Picture Dec 2012 (Enlarge)

(Still from 2012 interview AGI conference oxford. Interview transcript here.)
Picture 9 Sep 2010
Jonathan's photos (May 2006)

Portraits by G Bachellier, on Internet Try this example.

Picture by Teoman Irmak

Made Fellow of WIF in 2004??
(Not sure what that implies, or why I was chosen. Note added 2007: Asking a question about whether the WIF is a hoax in my 'Short CV' resulted in my being informed that I am no longer a Fellow. That was later rescinded.)
Aaron Sloman
School of Computer Science
The University of Birmingham
Birmingham, B15 2TT
England, UK (Use email[plain text] not paper please.)
1991-2005: Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science
Since 2005: Honorary Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science.
(I.e. retired, but working full time.)
(More a philosopher than a computer scientist, but mainly trying to do science informed by philosophy and engineering, especially what we've learnt since 1950 about the science and engineering of information-processing systems, most recently attempting to pull it all together within the Meta-Morphogenesis project.)

Honorary DSc, University of Sussex, 2006 with funny hat.
Elected Fellow of: AAAI 1991, AISB 1997, ECCAI 1999. Alan Turing Institute (2018)

Short CV/Biography
Longer (disorganised) CV/Biography (PDF) --- Google Scholar Publication List
I was born (1936) in Que Que, Southern Rhodesia, now Kwe Kwe, Zimbabwe (annotated map)
Overview of my doings
TALKS (since about 2000)
Cognition/Affect Project (since around 1991, and earlier papers since DPhil, 1962)
Miscellaneous papers and discussion notes
DPhil Thesis Oxford 1962 (now online as PDF and TXT): Knowing and Understanding
A defense of Immanuel Kant's views on Relations between meaning and truth, meaning and necessary truth, meaning and synthetic necessary truth
Some people who influenced me.

EMAIL address is above, with a warning about use of it.
Phone numbers:
Office: +44-121-414-4775
Fax: +44-121-414-4281
There is no need to address me as "Professor". We use first names here.

google's choice of pictures (Warning: I am not the only Aaron Sloman.)

If you send me Microsoft files, e.g. Word or Powerpoint files I shall read them only using OpenOffice or LibreOffice roughly equivalent freely available, open source, multi-platform packages which I use on linux and unix platforms.

I use only unix/linux systems on my desktop and laptop computers. PCs running windows do not allow me to work as I wish. Some of the reasons are explained in the files mentioned below. I suspect Apple machines would be better but I have always disliked Apple's design decisions when I tried using Macs.

I have now moved this rant into a separate file here.
For some hunches about what Microsoft may be doing see the last section of this file.

There is no need for a school or university to imprison young minds in a Microsoft universe:
we should teach them to fly in many directions, and design new systems for the future. But for that they need computers with powerful multi-paradigm development environments, not what they currently get before coming to University. Fortunately that seems to have started to change in UK schools since around 2012. Unfortunately there still seems to be little understanding of the importance of teaching bright young learners to use the techniques of symbolic AI. Computer education, like many other aspects of education, can be impacted by bad fashions.
There is much talk now of basing research evaluation on research and contract income.
People should be reminded of what Roger Needham said when he chaired
the computing panel for the UK Research Assessment Exercise:
'We are interested in the quality of the strawberries, not the amount of manure.'

----JUMP TO CONTENTS LIST---- ----WHO I AM----- -----CHAT WITH POP-11 ELIZA-----


When scientists discuss experimental observations, they often, unfortunately, use language that evolved for informal discourse among people engaged in every day social interaction, like this:
  • What does the infant/child/adult/chimp/crow (etc) perceive/understand/learn/intend (etc)?
  • What is he/she/it conscious of?
  • What does he/she/it experience/enjoy/desire?
  • What is he/she/it attending to?
Instead we should understand that we are talking about a complex system with many concurrently active parts that work together more or less harmoniously most of the time but can sometimes come into conflict. These parts are organised in an information-processing architecture that maps onto brain mechanisms in complex, indirect ways that are not well understood.
So we should ask questions like this if we wish to do deep science:
  • Which parts of the architecture are involved?
  • What are their functions?
  • What kinds of information do they acquire and use?
  • How do they do this?
  • What is the total architecture in which they function?
  • How is the information represented? (It could be represented differently in different subsystems).
  • What kinds of manipulations and uses of the information occur?
  • What mechanisms make those processes possible?
  • How are the internal and external behaviours selected/controlled/modulated/coordinated?
  • How many different virtual machine levels are involved and how are they related (e.g. physical, chemical, neural, subsymbolic, symbolic, cognitive,...)?
For more on the "design-based approach" see the information in this file. Further details can be found in The Cognition and Affect Project and our papers and presentations in the CoSy project .


Alongside the innate physical sucking reflex for obtaining milk to be digested, decomposed and used all over the body for growth, repair, and energy, there is a genetically determined information-sucking reflex, which seeks out, sucks in, and decomposes information, which is later recombined in many ways, growing the information-processing architecture and many diverse recombinable competences. Our educational system and other factors (e.g. mind-binding cultures) often interfere with this process, unfortunately.
A big mistake made by governments and educational theorists is to assume that there's a right order in which to grow the architecture, etc. A system building a complex structure may have to assemble different substructures in a sequence that is opportunistic and idiosyncratic. Educational systems that do not allow for this can do a lot of damage through excessive regimentation, e.g. based on use of 'targets'.

For more on this see This web page.


Anyone in the universe has my permission to use freely any information about me on this web site or any web site created by me (subject to obvious restrictions regarding identity theft and use of information for criminal purposes). There are some universities in the UK that have apparently been advised by lawyers (who make their living by trying to prevent themselves from being sued for giving less than totally pessimistic advice?) that if they don't get written permission to do what everyone around the world is already doing freely they may get into legal difficulties. So we all end up wasting yet more time asking and giving permission, on paper even in the 21st century, whilst universities elsewhere in the world just get on with the job instead. Because administrators in UK Universities do not understand risk management there is now a huge amount of waste caused by giving undue weight to over-cautions recommendations of people who do not understand requirements for doing excellent teaching and research, but do know how to read legal documents in the most pessimistic possible way.
Is anyone costing all the waste of tax-payers' money that results from all these pessimistic legalistic restrictive practices?
There has been public criticism of the waste caused by risk-averse schools, but for some reason nobody has criticised universities for making similar same mistakes, slavishly following advice from auditors who are not interested in teaching or research.

This is a personal document and should not be assumed to reflect the views of The University of Birmingham or The School of Computer Science though of course there is considerable overlap, especially with the latter. I am glad to be in a university that respects academic freedom.

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Slides (Mostly PDF -- no powerpoint) for recent or forthcoming talks. are available here:
Talks given, latest first
Other recent or updated presentations


(Should this be called my 'blog' ???)
Experimental twittering .

Why don't people who preach and teach suicide bombing lead by example?
At a time when far more knowledge than ever before needs to be acquired before anyone can either contribute to extending knowledge or effectively deploying knowledge, our previous government (Labour) tried (a) to reduce the length of many university degree courses to two years and (b) to increase the proportion of people attending university courses to 50%, at a time when university courses need to be more intellectually challenging than ever before in the history of mankind.

Instead of this madness we need a joined up education policy taking account both of the diversity of employment opportunities in our world and the diversity of human talents, providing multiple post-school educational trajectories along with well-designed slipways for people who start on a track that is not suited to their capabilities and interests. Is anyone listening?

(Soon, in the interests of social justice, they will be wanting 50% of the population to be members of the national olympic team, 50% of violinists to be employed by major orchestras, and 50% of pianists to be invited to play concertos with them?)
[Written during the rule of Labour]
Why do UK government ministers, most recently the ex Armed Forces Minister Bill Rammell (and often the ex Prime Minister, Gordon Brown) respond to criticisms of their policies, whether in education, health or military matters, by boasting about how much money they have spent in the last N years? Do they really not have any understanding of the differences between the role of money and the role of deep analysis of problems combined with careful research and experiment to find good solutions? (Merely trying to find out what voters want does not provide information about how to achieve what they want.) Insofar as many of those ministers have university degrees, I suppose that is just another manifestation of the inadequacies of the educational policies of previous governments, alongside the inadequacies of the processes of selection of ministers?
There are four concepts of freewill (two of them incoherent and the other two compatible with determinism).

Why Asimov's "laws of robotics" are unethical.
What is information? A partial answer.
(The universe is made of matter, energy and information, all interacting.)

Some thoughts on league tables (and BBC's 'The Trap')
A defense of elitism (the good kind of elitism).
Why Computing Education has Failed and How to Fix it
Comments on the NHS IT disaster and suggestions for an alternative approach.
Two kinds of dangerous obesity -- one not yet fully appreciated
(Intellectual obesity caused by addiction to junk information.)
Mind-binding (through religious indoctrination) is even worse than foot-binding
Notes on academic freedom, including the freedom to be 'disloyal'.
How to fund research (using a lottery mechanism),
Some thoughts on re-branding.
Warning to academics about to publish (Re: copy-editors)
Some personal thoughts on university management.

Letter to Lynne Jones MP about Government proposals for top-up fees

My local MP (now retired) Lynne Jones (who has close links with the University of Birmingham, including a BSc in Biochemistry and a PhD) has consistently opposed the Government proposal to allow universities to charge top-up fees, as well as opposing other misguided policies and the war on Iraq.
In January 2004 I wrote a letter expressing support for her objections to top-up fees, arguing that the proposal is a botched stealth tax to help fund some universities and not others, and should instead be replaced by a coherent comprehensive policy on higher education. The letter is available, in PDF format, here with comments received from people who have read it.

18 Mar 2004: Comment on University action regarding web-sites

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Audio interviews

Online audio interview answering questions by Anders Nissen for Danish Broadcasting Corp about the UK Grand challenge proposal on 'Architecture" of Brain and Mind'

Audio discussion broadcast on Deutschlandradio on 'Emotional Computers' online (mostly in German), chaired by Maximilian Schönherr. The audio link is on the right, under 'AUDIO ON DEMAND'. Click on 'Emotionale Agenten'.

Other online interviews about AI, ALIFE, emotions, etc.

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I was Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science, but am now formally retired, though still doing full time research while tolerated by my School.

In accordance with UK academic practice my job ended in September 2002, i.e. at the end of the academic year in which I turned 65. However I was re-employed on a temporary nominal contract which ended in September 2005, while I continued to work full time mainly as a researcher, helping with some management and a little teaching.

I also look after the Free Poplog system and some other software tools used for teaching and research in AI.

For the next few years I expect most of my energy to be taken up by The EC-funded CoSy project

My original appointment here in 1991 was primarily a research appointment, though I helped with teaching related to the development of new undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science, including helping to plan the new undergraduate degrees combining AI with Psychology, Mathematics, Computer Science, or Arts subjects.

I formally retired as an employee of the university in September 2005, but continue to do research almost full time, helping my department with occasional undergraduate lectures and some admin.


1. The Cognition and Affect project directory, contains many of my papers written since I came to Birmingham in 1991 and a few written while I was at Sussex, along with papers by colleagues and students. Many of my recent publications and technical reports are there. Since 2005, some have been installed in the CoSy publications directory.

2. Browsable discussion notes and some old papers, Including a summary of some of my research activities,

3. Papers and presentations related to CoSy

4. Previous posts and academic qualifications

5. Short CV -- Longer (disorganised) version (PDF)

6. List of talks and presentations since 2001.

7. Recent Grants

8. For more details see my-doings file.

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An overview of some of my main research interests can be found in my list of 'doings' over the years and here.

My work includes cross-disciplinary research on the analysis of evolvable virtual-machine information-processing architectures for human-like minds (avoiding the objections to most varieties of "functionalism"). In particular I try to show that many of our ordinary mental concepts, e.g. "consciousness", "emotion", "belief", "desire", "intention", "intelligence", and other cognitive and affective concepts are partly confused `cluster concepts' which can be clarified and refined (not eliminated) if we think of them as implicitly referring to an architecture which supports a variety of types of states and processes.

Getting clear about ways of extending and improving the concepts, and avoiding endless disputes at cross purposes, requires investigating architectures capable of explaining many kinds of normal adult human capabilities and comparing them with other architectures, e.g. for new-born infants, many kinds of animals, and many possible kinds of robots and software agents. This leads to an analysis of neighbourhoods in `design space' and `niche space' and ways in which the evolution of human minds (and other animal minds) can be analysed in terms of interacting trajectories in these two spaces.

In particular there are many more detailed ideas, some of which are being developed within the CoSy Project.

Papers expounding these ideas are also being produced within the Cognition and Affect Project. Our software tools supporting our research and teaching are mentioned in the next section.

Architectures for human-like systems

This directory contains the bulk of my publications, along with related publications by colleagues and students. Recently, however, I have also started putting things in the CoSy papers directory.

A three year project funded by the Leverhulme foundation on Evolvable virtual information processing architectures for human-like minds started in October 1999, and ended in 2003.
Details are available at

The 4 year EC-funded CoSy project started in September 2004
Details are available at

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Free open source goodies
I use Linux for all my work. There's a growing variety of free versions suited to different kinds of individuals and organisations with different needs, for commercial users there are commercial versions with professional support available. Two myths spread by vendors of proprietary software about free software are the myth that it cannot be used to make money, refuted by the success of Red Hat and others, and the myth that the licensing is a source of serious problems.
For a free open source alternative to Microsoft Office see, and instead of Internet Explorer and MS mail systems, try Mozilla, which has improved beyond all recognition in the last few years, for browsing, email, composing html pages, etc., or try firefox whose popularity as a fast, extendable, secure browser has grown at an amazing rate.
The associated free open source email client is thunderbird. For a free open source calendar tool try Mozilla calendar or sunbird. Actually I don't use either the proprietary or the open source WYSIWYG tools when preparing my quirky slide presentations, for reasons explained here.
Chinese Halloween with Intel and Linux: Is this True?


The Poplog system used for our teaching and research used to be an expensive commercial product, but is now available free of charge, along with many utilities, teaching packages and our SimAgent toolkit.

Note: "POPLOG" is a trade mark of the University of Sussex.

For an introduction to the SimAgent toolkit see:

Some examples of our graphical interface tools can be found here:
There are also video examples of programs using the SimAgent toolkit here (including a simulated sheepdog herding sheep, and a simulated mother and baby scenario modelling 'attachment' processes):

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This page provides links to various newspaper and journal reports on our work (e.g. on how machines can have emotions) and some which were broadcast on radio or television.

1971, 1981, 1985, 1995, 2001, 2005

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Following on from discussions at a CPHC conference in Manchester in 2001 on whether there should be a UK strategy for research in CS and related disciplines I wrote a draft paper outlining five different types of research goals requiring different (but overlapping) evaluation criteria. It is in this file, including comments and modifications from others:
Comments and criticisms welcome.


In June 1998 I was involved in a conference for careers advisers in UK schools, talking about what AI is. The notes I prepared for attendees are available at:
This includes an attempt to explain what Artificial Intelligence is (both its scientific and its engineering aspects) and also a list of UK universities at which I believe it is possible to obtain a degree in AI or Cognitive Science. It will be updated from time to time.

I was on a panel set up by the Quality Assurance Agency for UK Universities, to produce a "benchmarking" document to guide assessors of university degrees in computing. I produced a document attempting to characterise AI for that panel. It can be found here:

A major source of information about AI is provided at the web site of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence

See also the survey: "AI's greatest trends and controversies", edited by Haym Hirsh amd Marti A. Hearst, in IEEE Intelligent Systems and their applications, Jan/Feb 2000 pp 8--17, available online at

The Natural Computation group in this School has a home page, concerned with various kinds of mainly biologically inspired techniques.

Some relevant WWW and FTP pointers on AI and Cognitive Science.


General information about the School of Computer Science.
Overview of research in the School.
General information about the University of Birmingham.

The school's FTP directory.

For information on the Cognition and Affect Group at the University of Birmingham see: the Project Overview.


This explains why Alison spends most of her time out map-making or running around in the countryside with others in strange attire. Further details here (HOC). and here and at boc06 (on the right). and event at worcester beacon in 2005

Ben Sloman (1967 - 2002), photographed here in 1997 died of cancer on 2nd February 2002 shortly after moving from HP Research Labs to help start up Elixent, his most important achievement. A tribute to him used to be on the Elixent web site. The web site has disappeared since Elixent was bought by Matsushita Electric (Panasonic). Brian Williams kindly drew my attention to an archived version here.

Picture of ladybirds found mating in our kitchen

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cc-license Creative Commons License

This work, and everything else on my website, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
If you use or comment on my ideas please include a URL if possible, so that readers can see the original, or the latest version.

This file is maintained by Aaron Sloman
Email: A.Sloman AT

Note to advertisers: please do not send me copies of your bulk unsolicited email, including junk mail advertising sites offering free sex and pornography, financial offers (bogus or otherwise), health treatments (bogus or otherwise), special offers of food, vacations, computing equipment, conferences all over the world totally unrelated to my work, or anything else. You are wasting your time if you do. As a matter of principle, I NEVER buy anything advertised by bulk unsolicited email, and I report spammers to service providers.
Here are some anti-spam sites.
Reading Email Headers (tutorial)
FAQ and tutorial on spam

Please tell your friends to look at this, after looking yourself:

Reflections on Internet and WWW

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