This year, the annual Bernard Price Memorial Lecture was presented by Prof. Igor Aleksander, of Imperial College, London, in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban and Johannesburg.
Prof. Aleksander's lecture was entitled "Engineer in Search of the Mind", in which he described how two fistfuls of stuff we call our brain generate every thought, fear, pleasure anxiety and belief that we call our conscious mind. He argued that the brain, despite being the most complex informational machine on earth, can be understood and explained by designers of informational systems. He describe the modelling of simple networks of brain cells (neurons) in the 1970s to the current search for the machinery of consciousness in the brain. He demonstrated how simulations of the brain are built from the single neuron, to networks capable of meaningful internal states, and how the interaction of such networks and worlds in which they operate provides a means of discussing important facets of consciousness: being a self in an out-there world, having imagination, attending to important things, planning and emotional evaluation.
Born in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, educated in Italy and South Africa, Igor Aleksander came to the UK in the late 50s. He first joined STC as a graduate engineer and then entered the academic world as a lecturer (at Queen Mary College, London, 1961), Reader in Electronics (University of Kent, 1968), Professor of Electronics (Brunel University, 1974), Professor of the Management of Information Technology (Imperial College, 1984), Head of Electrical Engineering and Gabor Professor of Neural Systems Engineering (Imperial College, 1988), Pro-Rector (External Relations) (Imperial College, 1997). He is now Emeritus Professor.
In the 1980s he was responsible for the design of the world's first neural pattern recognition system (the WISARD, commercialised by CRS, Wokingham), and in 1991 he and his students designed the MAGNUS neurocomputational system (now commercialised by NTS as Neural Representation Modeller). He has consulted for many computer manufacturers and IT providers. In 1988 he was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering. In the year 2000 he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Medal for Informatics by the Institution of Electrical Engineers. He is currently prominent in the emerging field of "Machine Models of Consciousness".
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