Come to Birmingham as
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.
Directions for finding us.
WHAT'S MORE BLAMEWORTHY IN AN OLYMPIC ATHLETE:
(a) trying to get help from drugs (as some do secretly)?
to get help from their gods (as many do openly)?
analytical atheism and the "Brights" organisation)
What should I write if asked to act as an academic
the invitation requests me to assess the impact of the candidate's
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
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
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
NOTE ON SECURITY: for
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
It is clear that there were members of the previous government who
failed to understand these points. (One consequence is the
I don't know whether the current
coalition includes people who do understand the issues.
--JUMP TO CONTENTS LIST --
NO INTERNSHIPS -- NO LINKEDIN
Please do NOT email me offering to exchange links.
Anyone who wishes to can link to my web pages.
Universities do not engage in spurious advertising.
"Optimist" (my definition): "Someone who makes good things happen."
(My response when accused of being too optimistic about a proposal.)
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.
NOTE ON FORMATTING:
Adjust the width of your browser window to make the lines the length you
prefer. I do not presume to dictate line lengths for readers of what I
write, as so many web site designers do (including the BBC's). Feel free
to adjust font size also. Write and complain to web site designers who
tell you what resolution they have designed for and which browser they
want you to use. Tell them they should follow standards, e.g. http://www.w3.org/, not vendors or
hardware preferences. Join the fight to to abolish frames: they
interfere with use of bookmarks and 'back' buttons.
21 Jul 2010; 24 Aug 2010; 7 Oct 2010;
22 Oct 2010; 4 Nov 2010; 2 Dec 2010; 11 Jan 2011;
12 May 2011; 18 Sep 2011;5 Oct 2011; 24 Oct
2011; 5 Dec 2011; 21 Apr 2012; 6 Aug 2012; 19 Sep 2012;
4 Oct 2012; 25 Jan 2013; 4 Mar 2013; 22 Mar 2013; 29 Mar 2013; 22 May 2013;
5 Jun 2013; 24 Sep 2013; 28 Sep 2013
My email address is "A.Sloman@cs.bham.ac.uk".
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.
Made Fellow of
(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.)
1991-2005: Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science
Since 2005: Honorary Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive
(I.e. retired, but working full time.)
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
EMAIL address is above,
with a warning about use of it.
There is no need to address me as "Professor".
We use first names here.
If you send me Microsoft files, e.g.
Word or Powerpoint files I shall read them only using
LibreOffice roughly equivalent freely
available, open source, multi-platform packages which I use on linux
and unix platforms. So, before sending, please ensure that your file
works in OpenOffice or LibreOffice. (E.g. do not use proprietary
Microsoft fonts, e.g. Calibri and Arial Narrow.) Better still,
convert to a portable format, such as PDF before sending, since
there are PDF readers for all commonly used platforms. You have no
right to expect me to spend money and time to buy and use software
just to read your documents. At least OpenOffice is free and
runs on windows and other operating systems, so you can easily use
it to produce documents that are readable on many more platforms. It
also exports documents as PDF. I use only
systems on my desktop and laptop
computers, and free software for my work. PCs running
windows do not allow me to work as I wish. Some of the reasons are
When scientists discuss experimental observations,
they often, unfortunately, use language that evolved for informal
discourse among people engaged in every day social interaction, like
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
So we should ask questions like this if we wish to do
SOME PRELIMINARIES AND PERMISSIONS
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
but for some reason nobody has criticised universities for making the
same mistakes, like installing
a highly secure wireless network service
that many staff and students cannot access, on the basis of advice
This is a personal document
and should not be assumed to reflect the views of
The University of Birmingham
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.
I have tried to make this file
viewable with as
many browsers as possible. including
two plain text
browsers, in addition to
mozilla, though I have not had time
to test others.
Please do the same with your web pages. I am very grateful to
http://www.w3.org/ for their
(Should this be called my 'blog' ???)
Why don't people who preach and teach suicide bombing lead by
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.
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.
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.
An overview of some of my main research interests can be found
in my list of 'doings' over the years
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
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
contains the bulk of my publications, along with
related publications by colleagues and
Recently, however, I have also started putting things in
the CoSy papers directory.
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
instead of Internet Explorer and MS mail systems, try Mozilla
http://www.mozilla.org/, which has
improved beyond all recognition in the last few years, for browsing,
email, composing html pages, etc., or try
whose popularity as a fast, extendable, secure browser has grown at an
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
Chinese Halloween with Intel and Linux: Is this True?
POPLOG AND SIMAGENT TOOLKIT
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.
Following on from discussions at a
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 four 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.
WHAT IS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE?
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
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
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
This work, and everything else on my website, is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 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 thereof).