Roger Bishop Jones

email as RBJones at
I am a mostly retired software engineer with interests in logic and its applications and philosophy. I also like to play the piano.
Music I love to play the piano.
Bio Born in Staffs UK, dragged up in Yorks, educated at Cambridge, Keele and Warwick and spent a long time working for ICL.
Family Happily married to Barbara (who has sons Simon and Martin). Two cats. Sister Sue has a family of her own up in Southport, where my Mum lives too.
Photo of Roger


I do a lot of this

I like to think about big problems.

Factasia is about the future of the known universe.

The Global Superbrain is a megalomaniac IT fantasy.

I try to get to the bottom of things.

Logic and the Foundations of Mathematics as the bedrock of information technology.

Epistemology underpins all our knowledge.

I don't believe in knowledge for its own sake.
There's too much of it, you have to have a basis for deciding what is relevant.
Purpose provides the key.
Structured thinking, structured presentation.
Everything in hyper-bites.
WIDE: I like to connect distant parts, e.g. to relate technology as means to ultimate human ends.


I havn't done a lot so far, but I'm pretty keen to do more and I'm re-organising my life to make room for it. I'm aiming to write mostly for the Web.

thought onto paper: What I would like to achieve is a nice balance, spending lots of time thinking about interesting problems, and efficiently converting the results into hypermedia. I'm nowhere near that at present. I spend lots of time thinking about interesting problems, which mainly results in what seem like great results in my head, but rarely gets anywhere near paper. Some of the things I think about demand more than mere documentation. If I think about software engineering problems what one wants to come out is good software. But since I like big problems its generally unlikely that I could implement the solution myself. Still, one can put the ideas "on paper" and hope to contribute to collaborative open-source solutions.
what about? All the topics you see touched upon in Factasia (usually superficially). Philosophy, Logic, Mathematics, Software Engineering. Religion, Ethics, Politics, Economics. Get the sense I'm spreading myself thin? I think academic standards, and academic specialisation do more damage than good, and result in huge amounts of irrelevant research. My scheme is, you decide what you are trying to achieve, and you go wherever it takes to find the solution. And its JIT (Just In Time) scholarship (or in my case, often JTL). You learn just as much of each topic as seems necessary to solve the problem in hand. Breadth is often more useful than depth.
making a living I would like to be able to make a living out of writing, so I am interested in how that can be done. Traditional models aren't likely to work for me, since I'm not so keen on publishing books. I'm really very keen on hypermedia, continuous publishing, and would like to be able to embed transparent software development work into the writing, breaking down the distinction between writing a book and writing a piece of software. So I'm interesting in what may happen in future about new ways to make money out of creative thinking. In particular, on the software side I'm interested to see how the "open-source" software movement will develop, and whether any models emerge for funding open-source developers. Also interested in generalising these ways of developing old fashioned software (programs) to the development of future software (intellectual property in general, ideas).


This is my practical bent, so far as it goes. Most interested in the design end of exotic information engineering projects.
Kinds of Engineering: In my book, engineering is about building things, or designing things to be built, or fixing them when they have been built. I take an interest in a pretty broad range of types of engineering, mostly from the design end. Software engineering, more generally, information engineering. Electronic engineering. I'm interested in thinking about the future of society, and regard philosophy, encompassing morals, politics and economics, as a kind of armchair social engineering.
Technologies: Technologies are what engineers use for building things, and I like to think of the kinds of tool which help with design as technologies. Of course information technology is important for design. Two other technologies which are important for the kind of engineering design which interests me are logic and philosophy. I am interested in logic as an underexploited information technology, of relevance in many areas including software development and as an enabler for artificial intelligence. Philosophy in a general sense can help us build better lives and a better world to live in. It can also contribute to our understanding of the way that other technologies work and enable us to use them more effectively, e.g. in understanding how to exploit logic.
Languages: Including protocols and application interfaces, ways of communicating between people or machines, are the worldly phenomenon most closely related to the technology of logic. So I am aiming to build capabilities and hypermedia resources for designing and implementing languages for information representation and exchange.
Languages and Logic for AI: The development of technologies to facilitate the design, development and application of better languages is a part of a larger engineering project which I consider under the rubrik The Global SuperBrain and which concerns the development of distributed intelligence with problem solving capabilities similar to typical applied mathematicians. The widespread use for information representation of languages whose semantics is well-defined is a precondition for the effective exploitation of machine intelligence.


I've been playing piano for forty years, and I still think that eventually I'll get it to sound the way I want it.
instruments: Music making has always been a part of my life. My first instrument was the recorder at primary school, then the piano. I played violin and viola at grammar school, and played the viola in the orchestra at Keele University. I also spent some time improvising on the guitar. I now play a clavinova electronic piano.
electronic music: I have an Atari ST1040 with C-Lab creator software on it, which connects to my Clavinova and a Kawai k1m via midi. Truth is I almost never use this stuff now. After a small amount of experimentation with new sounds, I did try to use this stuff to get good electronic performances of classical music, but I didn't succeed and that approach is on hold. I would still like to do that but I have never found satisfactory software for the kind of thing I wanted to do. Maybe eventually I will find it, or even write it, but not just now.
composers: Though, in my younger days I used to play Beethoven and Mozart (and lots of others), while I was at Keele I embraced Chopin and now rarely play any other composer. A bit of Rachmaninov. I feel very much at one with Chopin and really wish I could play the stuff properly. At present I am taking technique seriously and am working exclusively on the Etudes. All of them, but present emphasis is on ones which are good for the left hand, e.g. op.12 no.12 and op.25 no.12. The only other thing I'm working on is Rachmaninov prelude op.23 no.5 (which requires an india rubber left hand).
interpretation: My main driving force musically is the desire to hear piano music played just how I think it should be played, so I think that's about interpretation. And this is pretty tricky, because I've never acquired the technique necessary to do it the way I want it. I have tried cheating (e.g. getting the computer to play it right) but I havn't found a way to do that either. Right now I'm back on the traditional methods, though I'm far to old for this kind of thing I'm working harder than I have for a long time to get my technique into the right ball-park.
interpreting Chopin: The challenge it seems to me is to achieve lightness of touch, subtlety, emotional immediacy, on modern pianos which are designed for concert hall bravura rather than the intimacy of the salon (and this includes clavinovas, which try to reproduce the touch of a concert grand). Perhaps one should play Chopin on period pianos, but I'm trying to get the delivery right on modern instruments. Emotional immediacy entails that no two performances are the same, this was true of Chopin. I just read [Eigeldinger86] which is an excellent collection of writings on Chopin from those who were closest to him, and made me feel much stronger the similarities of temperament between myself and Chopin (if not of talent!), and helped me to understand why I have so strong a feeling for his music.


Born in Staffs, dragged up in Yorks, educated at Cambridge, Keele and Warwick, worked mostly for ICL, now independent.
Early Days: I was born in Burslem, Stoke on Trent (England!) where I lived until I was just 18 months old. Then, my Father (who was working as an engineer for Rolls-Royce) was posted to Barnoldswick, a small town then in the West Riding of Yorkshire (now in Lancashire). I went to Rainhall Road school until I passed the 11+ and then I was sent to Skipton Grammar School. There I won a place at Churchill College Cambridge to study Mechanical Sciences (Engineering).
English Electric: finding engineering at Cambridge terminally boring I left after the first year and joined English Electric at Nelson Research Labs in Stafford, researching compiler-compilers and developing an application for electrical power transmission analysis.
ICL: When English Electric was taken over by General Electric it was time to move on. I joined ICL, initially working on the power transmission analysis application. Eventually I found my way back into compilers, spent a couple of years working on BASIC compilers and interpreters for 1900 and System-4 and six months on the design of ALICE (Assembly Level Intermediate Compiler Interface, or something like that, for ICLs "new range", later named 2900).
Keele and Warwick: after five years in industry I decided to go back to University, I went to Keele University and came away with 1st class joint honours in Maths and Philosophy. I then spent a year at Warwick University.
ICL: From 1977 to 1998 I worked for ICL, doing mainframe microcode, operating systems, knowledge engineering, relational databases, formal methods, and application development. For my last few years with ICL I was an ICL distinguished engineer.
independence: now I have my own company (Roger Bishop Jones Limited), and I'm feeling my way to a new future. I'm aiming to write, both on technical and broader subjects, probably mostly for the Web. On the technical side, logic, language, AI. I still do some contracting for ICL.

Family & Friends :

Happily married to Barbara (who has sons Simon and Martin). Two cats. Sister Sue has a family of her own up in Southport, where my Mum lives too.
Home and Family: Home is in Berkshire (England) where I live with my wife Barbara and two cats Penny and Pru. Barbara is a retired civil servant with two sons, Simon and Martin Day. Barbara potters around doing a bit of work for local charities, looks after me, and reads a lot of books, mostly fantasy and science fiction. She's also into music and used to sing in amateur musical productions. We have three grandchildren. Martin and Jane have a son Jack and a new baby girl Caitlin. Simon and Pam have a daughter Saraya. My Mum now lives in Southport, not far away from my sister Sue. Sue has two daughters Sarah (a deputy head-teacher) and Joanne (a new Mum) who also live in Southport. Aunty Pat lives in Blundellsands (near Liverpool), cousins Jane and Claire in London, and Anne in Italy with Vito and their children Johnny and Christine. Nobody else in the family has a web page, but the cousins are now on the internet.
Friends and Associates: I'm not a big socialiser, but even I have some friends. I mention a some who have web pages. Ian Thorpe is an old school friend (then mothy, now BOF). We recently rediscovered each other after 30 years, courtesy web search facilities. I worked with Rob Arthan for many years at ICL. He shares my interest in logic and proof technology which he now pursues through his company Lemma 1. Kevin Blackburn did a lot of work with Rob and I on ProofPower, though this part of him is not conspicuous in his "World Wide Warren" pages. Tom Lake is another friend I met at ICL, working on relational databases, just before he left to form his own company InterGlossa.

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