This is an archive of the original site and you may encounter broken links and/or functionality

About: Born Southern Rhodesia,1936, went to school then university in CapeTown from age 11, degree in maths and physics 1956, went to Oxford to continue with mathematics, was seduced by philosophy and did a DPhil defending Kant's philosophy of mathematics, became a lecturer in philosophy in 1962, learnt about programming and artificial intelligence in 1969 and decided that trying to build fragments of working minds was the best way to make progress in most areas of philosophy, helped by a year in Edinburgh AI department having my brain re-wired. Returned to Sussex University and helped to introduce undergraduate education in programming and AI, including helping to develop the Poplog toolkit for teaching and research in AI, later sold by Systems Designers, then ISL, now free and open source here: with examples of teaching materials here:, and some (amateurish) online video tutorials here

Was a founder member of COGS (School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences) at Sussex, then went to Birmingham in 1991, where the School of Computer Science was happy to employ a philosopher. Continued trying to understand minds, what they are, how they evolved, how they vary (within and between species), how they develop and why it's essential to regard them as complex information processing systems. Have been collaborating with biologists studying animal cognition as well as psychologists and roboticists.

I have also been engaged with ComputingAtSchool (CAS), which during 2012 started growing at an amazing speed and will eventually transform education in the UK as primary school kids start learning to design, program, test and analyse working systems, and thereby learn to think computationally.

Recently found a way to organise all this within the Meta-Morphogenesis project Some of the ideas are closely related to work in developmental neuroscience by Annette Karmiloff-Smith, as I've tried to explain here:

Apologies for length. Blame it on age.

So few topics on the list of areas offered for selection match my interest that I fear I may have been invited in error.

Professional role Retired. Honorary professor of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science (including philosophy)

Organisation, if you have one University of Birmingham, UK

Interests Trying to understand how a cloud of dust could produce all the forms of information processing found on our planet, and their consequences, including sonnets, symphonies, proofs, philosophical confusions, wars, toddler theorems, and love at first sight.

Will you be blogging about ALT-C? No

Will ALT-C 2012 be your first ALT conference? Yes

What topics are on your radar? No idea. Artificial Intelligence? Biology? Evolution? Learning? Development? Scaffolding learning? Teaching programming?

In which areas are you knowledgeable? openContent, openSource, research, selfDirectedLearning

21 September 2012

Invited Speakers Session 1: What is computational thinking? Who needs it? Why? How can it be learnt? -- 502 -- Invited Speaker - PDF slides posted here Flash version on slideshare: Adds a lot of detail to the conference presentation, but may be too dense and obscure. Suggestions for improvement welcome (email: a.sloman[AT]

Comments - Link

12 September 2012

Invited Speakers Session 1: What is computational thinking? Who needs it? Why? How can it be learnt? -- 502 -- Invited Speaker - Still working on trying to make my slides (not presented because of an un-identified technical problem) available for public consumption. I'll post a note here when they are ready (PDF and Slideshare).

Comments - Link

10 September 2012

Invited Speakers Session 1: What is computational thinking? Who needs it? Why? How can it be learnt? -- 502 -- Invited Speaker - I have just received this link to a Ted Talk by Sugata Mitra showing how the main function of a great teacher is providing opportunities to learn. Understanding what learning is and how it works requires deep new types of computational thinking. I have tried to sketch some of the computational problems in connection with the problem of how our pre-historic ancestors might have learnt about euclidean geometry long before there were geometry teachers, and before Euclid's elements had been composed. Messy thoughts on this are here: (discovering theorems about triangles).

Comments - Link

Added Leonie Sloman (friend)


7 September 2012

Invited Speakers Session 1: What is computational thinking? Who needs it? Why? How can it be learnt? -- 502 -- Invited Speaker - Since submitting the abstract I've started compiling a list of types of programming worth teaching, to meet different educational and vocational needs -- partly as an antidote to the very narrowly focused aims and objectives that I had encountered in discussions of computing at school. The current draft list of types is here: The kind of programming that I am most worried is likely to be under-represented in education is 'thinky' programming, illustrated here: . That gives students an opportunity to learn new ways of thinking about how minds (of various kinds, both natural and artificial) work, both when acting in isolation and when part of a social system, e.g. producing and understanding languistic utterances.

Comments - Link

Invited Speakers Session 1: What is computational thinking? Who needs it? Why? How can it be learnt? -- 502 -- Invited Speaker - For people who don't know Jeanette Wing's inspirational paper on Computational Thinking (Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery, vol. 49, no. 3, March 2006, pp. 33-35) here's a link to a freely available version: . There is a useful critical comment on her ideas by Stuart Wray here: . Her notion of "computational thinking", he says, "describes a world view looking out from core computer science, with the aim of demonstrating to the world that it really can do useful things for people other than just 'geeks'". I agree with him: that CS-based world view misses the depth and breadth of computational processes (information processing) in our universe. We need to help our children learn to understand that the universe contains matter, energy, and information and things made out of them. Without that understanding many things can appear mysterious and inexplicable, or worse, can be modelled in inappropriate ways, including life, mind, and learning. I once presented similar ideas in my 1978 book (The computer revolution in philosophy -- summarised in this conference paper in 2004 (Education Grand Challenge: A New Kind of Liberal Education Making People Want a Computing Education For Its Own Sake). In my talk I'll have time only to give a brief introduction to these ideas. The links in the comments here will enable anyone interested to get more detail. I'll be happy to accept critical comments and suggestions for improvement (email:

Comments - Link

Aaron's Network

Leonie Sloman
Leonie Sloman (mutual) friend


Leave a note on Aaron Sloman's profile.