It is easy to see why Aleksander is attacked by both philosophers and neuroscientists. He seems to say hes working on a consicous machine, and that there is no problem in saying computers can/are conscious. This book will clarify things a little, however. Aleksander holds compiters and machines, can be artificially consicous, which is very different from normal human consicousness. How different, or in what way? Well, thats what hes trying to find out. And Aleksander is workind on machines so that he can gain understanding on the human kind of consciousness, not to be known as the first researcher to create a conscious computer. IT seems then, that he is on the naturalist and the neuroscientists side, but is approaching the problem from an engineering angle, to be more specific, from the viewpoint of automata theory.
And so, this book is about consciousness, and how it arises out of neurons. He first gives a basic guess, or hypothesis, and then defends it and expans it to see how far it goes. Consciousness is the product of neurons and their functioning, with the crucial function of iconic representations and learning, according to Aleksander. Most of the book deals with diagrams of automata theory, flow charts and neural units, the tools of connectionism. It all looks good at first reading, the points seem obvious. Sure, there is no real talk of actual brain mechanisms, but Aleksander goes to the basics, and it seems to hold up.
Aleksander then brings in important insights into the field of the science of consicousness. If consciousness is the product of neurons, and neurons process information, it does not seem absurd to hold that information processing in something other than neurons can be conscious too.
I do have doubts on how much Aleksander can explain with his current methods. For example, he theorizes on how qualia can emerge from the automata theory diagrams, but this seems to only say that some units, because of previous learning and their interactions, represtent "blue" or "red" or whatever. This is not what philosophers think of the mystery of qualia, however. Neuroscientists talk of "color coding cells" of "color areas", etc., but the problem is explaining not that the cells represent color, but how by virtue of doing so, color presents itself to our experience the way it does. We are pretty sure neurons can represent blue, but we have very little idea of how this neuron makes the blues "blueness" so striking in our subjective consicous experience. In this sense, philosophers will not be satisfied with Aleksanders account. But then again, no other scientific theory seems to quench philosophers thirst for explanations in the qualia issue, so it can hardly be taken against Aleksander.
This book is what contributions to the consicousness debate should look like. It brings in new insights, is quite simple to read and follow, it argues for a better understanding of consicousness through multidiciplinary approaches (in this case, automata theory), and genuinely makes some advancement. Aleksander however leaves out so many details, that most will find his proposals wanting.