Igor Aleksander

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Igor Aleksander (born January 26, 1937) is an electrical engineer, emeritus professor of Neural Systems Engineering at Imperial College London and experts in the field of artificial intelligence and neural networks, known for designing the world's first neural pattern recognition system in the 1980s.


  • Neural computing is the study of cellular networks that have a natural property for storing experimental knowledge. Such systems bear a resemblance to the brain in the sense that knowledge is acquired through training rather than programming and is retained due to changes in node functions. The knowledge takes the form of stable states or cycles of states in the operation of the et. A central property of such nets is to recall these states or cycles in response to the presentation of cues.
    • Aleksander & Morton (1989) Neural computing architectures: the design of brain-like machines. p.2 as cited in: M.A. Lovell et al. (1997) Developments in petrophysics. p.169
  • An opportunity for cybernetics to change the course of the philosophy of mind was missed when intentionality was misinterpreted as "the providing of coded knowledge".
    • Aleksander (2001) in: New scientist. Vol. 169. p.56 cited in: Jacques Vallée (2003) The Heart of the Internet. p.8
  • Machine consciousness refers to attempts by those who design and analyse informational machines to apply their methods to various ways of understanding consciousness and to examine the possible role of consciousness in informational machines.

An introduction to neural computing (1990)[edit]

I. Aleksander, H. Morton (1990) An introduction to neural computing. 1st ed., Chapman & Hall, London
  • Neural Computing is the study of networks of adaptable nodes which through a process of learning from task examples, store experiential knowledge and make it available for use.
    • p.1
  • A neural network is a massively parallel distributed processor that has a natural propensity for storing experiential knowledge and making it available for use. It resembles the brain in two respects:
    1. Knowledge is acquired by the network through a learning process.
    2. Interneuron connection strengths known as synaptic weights are used to store the knowledge.
    • As cited in: Brian D. Ripley (2008) Pattern Recognition and Neural Networks. p.4
  • Trying to understand the brain's abilities leads to philosophical difliculties. Penrose (1994) argues that the task is sterile and that science, including neural networks, has not yet advanced to the stage where it can explain conscious thought. At the other extreme there are philosophers such as Fodor (1975) who believed that thought has language-like properties and can be analysed in the same logical way as one can anlayse the structure of language.
    • p. 242

The simple things are hardest (2005)[edit]

Interview with Aleksander in: Alok Jha "The simple things are hardest". In: The Guardian. June 23, 2005.
  • Consciousness is an incredibly delicate subject because it offend. It's a subject that scientific groups kept away from. They said it was a philosophical concept.
  • The point of a brain is that it's not one huge neural network with feedback, it has up to 50 to 60 identified areas, all of which have feedback and all of which are capable of knowledge storage. We've got a complex system and, within this complex system, we can start discovering what the mechanisms that support deliberation are. Consciousness must come out of these interactions.
  • I am not interested so much in behaviour from which you infer consciousness because that is a mug's game. I don't know whether you're conscious. I take a good guess that you are and you can take a good guess that I am but it's not something you can prove. We can't work out what someone else feels.

Quotes about Igor Aleksander[edit]

  • To date there seems to be only one serious attempt to create an artificially conscious entity. This is the goal of Igor Aleksander at Imperial College, where he has created an artificial neural net (ANN) called Magnus, designed to be conscious in the sense of being able to tell us what it is like to be Magnus.
    • Stuart Mealing (2002) Computers & Art. p.155
  • Dan Dennett once said that if he hadn't become a philosopher, he might have become an engineer. I think Igor has shown us that the gap between the two professions may be smaller than we think.
  • Some researchers, such as Igor Aleksander, were even describing their laptops as conscious.
    • Margaret A. Boden (2006) Mind As Machine: A History of Cognitive Science Vol.1 p.1220

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