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Profile: Aaron Sloman (University of Birmingham, University of Birmingham)
  1. Aaron Sloman, A New Kind of Liberal Education.
    Another book on how computers are going to change our lives? Yes, but this is more about computing than about computers, and it is more about how our thoughts may be changed than about how housework and factory chores will be taken over ... Thoughts can be changed in many ways. The invention of painting and drawing permitted new thoughts in the processes of creating and interpreting pictures. The invention of speaking and writing also permitted profound extensions of our abilities (...)
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  2. Aaron Sloman, Acquiring Orthogonal Recombinable Competences.
    It is conjectured that humans and some other altricial species instead use innate mechanisms for decomposing situations into components that can be explicitly learnt about, and stored in such a way that the competence can be re-used in combination with other learnt competences, in perceiving novel situations and performing novel actions.
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  3. Aaron Sloman, A Philosophical Encounter.
    This paper, along with the following paper by John Mc- Carthy, introduces some of the topics to be discussed at the IJCAI95 event `A philosophical encounter: An interactive presentation of some of the key philosophical problems in AI and AI problems in philosophy.' Philosophy needs AI in order to make progress with many difficult questions about the nature of mind, and AI needs philosophy in order to help clarify goals, methods, and concepts and to help with several (...)
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  4. Aaron Sloman, A (Possibly) New Kind of Euclidean Geometry Based on an Idea by Mary Pardoe.
    This file is http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/research/projects/cogaff/misc/p-geometry.html From time to time I shall use html2ps and ps2pdf to create a PDF version, better suited for printing: http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/research/projects/cogaff/misc/p-geometry.pdf The PDF version will probably have formatting flaws, and may not be up to date.
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  5. Aaron Sloman, Altricial Self-Organising Information-Processing Systems ∗.
    It is often thought that there is one key design principle or at best a small set of design principles, underlying the success of biological organisms. Candidates include neural nets, ‘swarm intelligence’, evolutionary computation, dynamical systems, particular types of architecture or use of a powerful uniform learning mechanism, e.g. reinforcement learning. All of those support types of self-organising, self-modifying behaviours. But we are nowhere near understanding the full variety of powerful information-processing principles ‘discovered’ by evolution. By attending closely to the (...)
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  6. Aaron Sloman, Blog.
    Here are some thoughts arising out of the fact that the University of Birmingham has recently gone through a re-branding exercise led by its administrators responsible for marketing, who failed miserably in marketing the exercise to staff and students within the University, as a result of which there is an online 'Save the Crest' petition that has attracted so many supporters that it made the national news The original version of this document referred to a web site at which the (...)
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  7. Aaron Sloman, Diversity of Developmental Trajectories in Natural and Artificial Intelligence.
    It may be of interest to see what can be done by giving a robot no innate knowledge about its environment or its sensors or effectors and only a totally general learning mechanism, such as reinforcement learning, or some information-reduction algorithm, to see what it can learn in various environments. However, it is clear that that is not how biological evolution designs animals, as McCarthy states.
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  8. Aaron Sloman, Evolution of Language and Creativity: Evolutionary Precursors to Communicative Language: Internal Languages.
    At the end of the seminar, I suggested that most researchers on language and its evolution (including Derek Bickerton I suspect, though I've only read snippets of his work), mistakenly ignore a host of other competences that are present in far more species.
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  9. Aaron Sloman, Examples of What Can Be Done with the Pop-11 RCLIB Package For 2-D Graphical Interfaces.
    RCLIB is a 2-D graphical interface package available as an addition to the Poplog software development system. "RC" stands for "Relative Coordinates": all the graphical commands are relative to a frame of reference, which can be changed without altering the commands, making it easy to draw the same thing in different parts of a display, using different sizes or orientations, and possibly stretched or sheared.
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  10. Aaron Sloman, Four Concepts of Freewill: Two of Them Incoherent.
    The discussion below could be extended by pointing out that there is a fifth notion of freedom which refers to what you are free to do within a context of a game, a system of laws, a moral regime etc. This notion of freedom is close to the notion of permission. It is worth noting that the law may forbid something without enforcing that proscription. So many people constantly do what they are not free to do in this sense.
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  11. Aaron Sloman, FET (Future and Emerging Technologies) FP7 CONSULTATION.
    The document starts The overall goal proposed here is to construct physically instantiated systems that can perceive, understand, and interact with their environment - but also evolve in order to achieve human-like performance in activities requiring context-specific knowledge. I posted the following comment on 15 Feb 2006..
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  12. Aaron Sloman, Graduation Speech, Sussex University (Expanded Version. See Section 3.) 21 July 2006.
    At the ceremony Ron Chrisley introduced me and my work with some kind words and ended with a reference to the claim on my website that I tend to upset vice chancellors and other superior beings. After Ron, I had to make a short speech. I had prepared a few bullet points to be projected on the screen to remind me of what I wanted to say, but for some reason they never appeared, so I talked from memory. I remembered (...)
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  13. Aaron Sloman, How to Put the Pieces of AI Together Again.
    Since the 1970s AI as a science has progressively fragmented into many activities that are very narrowly focused. It is not clear that work done within these fragments can be combined in the design of a human-like integrated system – long held as one of the goals of AI as science. A strategy is proposed for reintegrating AI based around a backward-chaining analysis to produce a roadmap with partially ordered milestones, based on detailed scenarios, that everyone can agree are worth (...)
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  14. Aaron Sloman, Is It Just Number of Users That Makes Windows PCs Vulnerable?
    It is often said that the only reason why so many mischief-makers or criminals develop viruses/worms/trojan-horses that attack PCs running Windows is that there are far more PCs running Windows accessible via the internet than any other operating system.
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  15. Aaron Sloman, Joined-Up Higher Education (a Letter to My Mp Lynne Jones).
    Maybe they have been made, but I missed them because I don’t read and listen enough, as most of my energies are focused elsewhere. Apologies if this is all old hat. Don’t feel you have to read on. In case others are interested, I shall put this on my web site at http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/˜axs/gov/ My main point is that it is just silly to talk so much about universities and top-up fees without putting universities in the context of a complete policy (...)
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  16. Aaron Sloman, Language, Architecture & Integration.
    • These ... have now been joined by ... dynamical systems theory which is being used to interpret brain dynamics on the one hand and language and cognition on the other.
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  17. Aaron Sloman, My Papers - and Other Things.
    I am populating this file from the bottom up. Later years are still empty. Try stuff in or before 1998 for a start. My Oxford DPhil Thesis (1962) is the oldest item available here.
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  18. Aaron Sloman, Message to Fellow Academics About to Publish.
    Note added 3 Nov 2009: Having received a number of email comments, I thought some future comments might as well be made public. If you would like to have a comment added here, please send it to me, and I'll consider adding it. Plain text or html only please -- no .doc files, pdf, etc.
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  19. Aaron Sloman, Orthogonal Recombinable Competences Acquired by Altricial Species.
    CONJECTURE: 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.
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  20. Aaron Sloman, Polyflaps as a Domain for Perceiving, Acting and Learning in a 3-D World.
    Test domains for AI can have a deep impact on research. The polyflap domain is proposed for testing complex AI theories about architectures, mechanisms and forms of representation involved in features of human and animal intelligence that evolved to enable perception, action, and learning in diverse environments containing things that we can perceive and manipulate, and many complex processes involving objects that differ in shape, materials, causal properties, and relations to one another. We need a test environment that is rich (...)
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  21. Aaron Sloman, Physicalism and the Bogey of Determinism.
    This paper rehearses some relatively old arguments about how any coherent notion of free will is not only compatible with but depends on determinism. However the mind-brain identity theory is attacked on the grounds that what makes a physical event an intended action A is that the agent interprets the physical phenomena as doing A. The paper should have referred to the monograph Intention (1957) by Elizabeth Anscombe (summarised here by Jeff Speaks), which discusses in detail the fact that (...)
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  22. Aaron Sloman, Reflections on Kinds of Value.
    NOTE: Neither the University of Birmingham nor the School of Computer Science is responsible for any of the views expressed here. I am grateful to both for continuing support and access to facilities. All my work is subject to a creative commons licence and may be freely copied, quoted, or used for any purpose, without charge.
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  23. Aaron Sloman, Simplicity and Ontologies The Trade-Off Between Simplicity of Theories and Sophistication of Ontologies.
    Often, when people discuss the role of simplicity in science, they do not notice the trade-off between simplicity of ontology and simplicity of theory using an ontology. Einstein appears to have been emphasising simplicity of ontology (basic elements), though he might have included theory as well (basic axioms/assumptions).
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  24. Aaron Sloman, SimAgent Demonstration Movies.
    Some of the movies were produced using techniques and scripts suggested by Mike Lees at Nottingham University where he is using SimAgent on a project directed by Brian Logan.
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  25. Aaron Sloman, Spatial Prepositions as Higher Order Functions: And Implications of Grice's Theory for Evolution of Language.
    What evolved first: Languages for communicating, or languages for thinking (Generalised Languages: GLs)? (PDF) http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/research/projects/cogaff/talks/#glang Presented to Language and Cognition Seminar, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham. 19th Oct 2007..
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  26. Aaron Sloman, Some Thoughts About League Tables and Public Service Organisations.
    The implication is that the majority of universities (i.e. the ones lower in the tables) are inferior. A consequence of this is that whether such pronouncements are accurate or not they will influence decision-making in various quarters in such a way as to attract resources (through good student applications, good job applicants, funding allocations) towards a small subset of the organisations, thereby amplifying differences that already exist, or, in some cases introducing real differences in quality where previously the alleged differences (...)
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  27. Aaron Sloman, The Biological Bases of Mathematical Competences: A Challenge for AGI.
    Evolution produced many species whose members are pre-programmed with almost all the competences and knowledge they will ever need. Others appear to start with very little and learn what they need, but appearances can deceive. I conjecture that evolution produced powerful innate meta-knowledge about a class of environments containing 3- D structures and processes involving materials of many kinds. In humans and several other species these innate learning mechanisms seem initially to use exploration techniques to capture a variety of useful (...)
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  28. Aaron Sloman, The Design-Based Approach to the Study of Mind (in Humans, Other Aniamls, and Machines).
    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? Similar comments can be made about the terminology used in many philosophical discussions about minds, cognition, language, and the relationships between evolution and learning.
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  29. Aaron Sloman, The iSoft Affair: Open Letter to My MP About Government IT Procurements (Originally Sent August 2006).
    Updates Open Letter to my MP: Lynne Jones Why large IT development projects are problematic The mathematics of searching for a design Richard Feynman wrote: Getting requirements right from the start is impossible Are problems unique to IT projects? Physical constraints Implications for Government policy What can be done? Some suggested prerequisites: requirements for openness A precedent for this proposal: The internet How the internet grew Implications for government policy (continued) Are some projects exceptions? Concluding Comment NOTE: Related comment..
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  30. Aaron Sloman, Two Kinds of Obesity: Physical and Mental.
    What most people seem not to have noticed is that there's another kind of obesity, a sort of 'mental obesity' which may be causing as much harm to the nation's health -- its mental and intellectual health.
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  31. Aaron Sloman, The Mythical Turing Test.
    I propose to consider the question, "Can machines think?" This should begin with definitions of the meaning of the terms "machine" and "think." The definitions might be framed so as to reflect so far as possible the normal use of the words, but this attitude is dangerous, If the meaning of the words "machine" and "think" are to be found by examining how they are commonly used it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the meaning and the answer to (...)
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  32. Aaron Sloman, Two Notions Contrasted: 'Logical Geography' and 'Logical Topography' Variations on a Theme by Gilbert Ryle: The Logical Topography of 'Logical Geography'.
    On re-reading Appendices III and IV of my Oxford DPhil thesis "Knowing and Understanding Relations between meaning and truth, meaning and necessary truth, meaning and synthetic necessary truth", (1962), online here, I found to my surprise that several of the topics discussed below had been discussed in those two Appendices, and that the distinction between logical topography and logical geography was made in Appendix IV, discussing conceptual analysis, even though I did not use these words.
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  33. Aaron Sloman, The Not So Super Virgin Media (Netgear) Superhub.
    THIS IS NOT AN OFFICIAL DOCUMENT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM OR THE SCHOOL OF COMPUTER SCIENCE. NEITHER THE UNIVERSITY NOR THE SCHOOL HAS ENDORSED THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED HERE.
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  34. Aaron Sloman, "The Self" -- A Bogus Concept.
    A PDF version (automatically generated) which may be slightly out of date is also available http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/research/projects/cogaff/misc/the-self.pdf..
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  35. Aaron Sloman, Why Computing Education has Failed and How to Fix It.
    A related note on why European (and other) research plans will fail because of the lack of a suitable lower level education system Unjamming the education pipeline: Thoughts on educational prerequisites for an ambitious European research initiative.
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  36. Aaron Sloman, Why Scientists and Philosophers of Science Should Teach Intelligent Design (ID) Alongside the Theory of Evolution.
    This document explains, from the viewpoint of a philosopher/scientist atheist, why intelligent design should be taught alongside standard evolutionary theory. I have been very disappointed by things I have read by scientists recommending suppression of this topic, and even in one case arguing that the worst arguments in favour of ID should be collected together and refuted, which is a prescription for scientific dishonesty. An honest attack would present the best arguments, as cogently as possible, before exposing their flaws. (Something (...)
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  37. Aaron Sloman, Why Some Machines May Need Qualia and How They Can Have Them (Including a Demanding New Turing Test for Robot Philosophers.).
    Many debates about consciousness appear to be endless, in part because of conceptual confusions preventing clarity as to what the issues are and what does or does not count as evidence. This makes it hard to decide what should go into a machine if it is to be described as 'conscious'. Thus, triumphant demonstrations by some AI developers may be regarded by others as proving nothing of interest because the system does not satisfy *their* definitions or requirements specifications.
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  38. Aaron Sloman, Could a Child Robot Grow Up to Be a Mathematician and Philosopher?
    Some old problems going back to Immanuel Kant (and earlier) about the nature of mathematical knowledge can be addressed in a new way by asking what sorts of developmental changes in a human child make it possible for the child to become a mathematician.
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  39. Aaron Sloman, How an Animal or Robot with 3-D Manipulation Skills Experiences the World.
    We look at how the ability to experience grows as an architecture grows itself along with growing the ontology used to experience, understand and act in the environment.
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  40. Aaron Sloman, How to Select Research Proposals.
    Discussions on the UKCRC and CPHC email lists about research funding, including mention of the high proportion of research time and funding budgets that goes into writing and assessing proposals recently provoked me into reviving an idea that always seems to produce shock and horror, even though I think that (with suitable refinements) it could be an excellent way to fund research, namely, using a properly designed lottery.
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  41. Aaron Sloman, Misrepresenting Einstein's Views on Religion.
    There are many religious scientists who misrepresent or misquote Einstein in support of their claim that there is no conflict between science and religion, and who, deliberately or out of ignorance, fail to point out that what Einstein meant by 'religion' is totally different from what most people mean, and moreover that he regards the ordinary kinds of religion as possibly only for inferior minds and inferior cultures.
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  42. Aaron Sloman, Phd and Internship Enquiries.
    I get a steady stream of enquiries about internships and a growing stream of enquiries about the possibility of doing a PhD with me. I don't answer letters from people who say they have read my home page and really want to work with me and then reveal by what they write that they have NOT read my web page and know nothing about my work. I cannot take on internship students but..
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  43. Aaron Sloman, 'Political Correctness' and the Need to Criticise Religion.
    Adjust the width of your browser window to make the lines the length you prefer. This web site does not attempt to impose restrictions on line length or font size.
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  44. Aaron Sloman, Questions About Emotions.
    In December 2005 I was invited by a well known researcher, Carrol Izard, on emotions to contribute to a discussion by answering a few questions as briefly as possible. He asked for 'one-liners', but I was not able to comply with that condition. However, the answers were short for me!
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  45. Aaron Sloman, Reponse to Questions About Jeff Hawkins.
    and who has recently founded a company Numenta to develop 'a new type of computer memory system modeled after the human neocortex'. With science writer Sandra Blakeslee he wrote a book On Intelligence . I confess the book is still on my (very long) 'to be read' list, though I have read and heard quite a lot about it.
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  46. Aaron Sloman, Some Thoughts on Personal Security.
    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). Feel free to adjust font size also.
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  47. Aaron Sloman, Virtual Machine Functionalism: The Only Form of Functionalism Worth Taking Seriously in Philosophy of Mind.
    Most philosophers appear to have ignored the distinction between the broad concept of Virtual Machine Functionalism (VMF) described in Sloman&Chrisley (2003) and the better known version of functionalism referred to there as Atomic State Functionalism (ASF), which is often given as an explanation of what Functionalism is, e.g. in Block (1995). -/- One of the main differences is that ASF encourages talk of supervenience of states and properties, whereas VMF requires supervenience of machines that are arbitrarily complex networks of causally (...)
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  48. Aaron Sloman, VARIETIES OF ATHEISM What is Analytical Atheism?
    William James wrote about varieties of religious experience (See http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/JamVari.html) but I don't know of anyone who has documented the varieties of atheism. Unlike James I don't here attempt to collect data about what atheists say and do, and how they came by their atheism. This is, instead, an analytical paper describing how various sorts of atheistic position can arise in opposition to various sorts of theistic position. Clarity about this could help to make debates about atheism and theism more (...)
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  49. Aaron Sloman, What Are Emotion Theories About?
    findings from affective neuroscience research. I shall focus mainly on (a), but in a manner which, I hope is..
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  50. Aaron Sloman (2013). What Else Can Brains Do? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36 (3):230-231.
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