I am therefore, precisely speaking, only a
thinking thing, that is, a mind... [René Descartes, Meditation II]
you want to know what intelligence is, or what it takes to have a thought, you
need a recipe for creating intelligence or assembling a thought (or a thinker
of thoughts) out of parts you already understand. [Fred Dretske, "If You Can't Make One, You
Don't Know How It Works"
are machines that thinking things have constructed out of parts they understand. Someday, perhaps, computer technology will
enable thinking things to create other thinking things and acquire an understanding of precisely how they work. Meanwhile, computer modeling can be used to construct cognitive agents that illuminate the workings of minds.
Who is ProtoThinker?
ProtoThinker: A Model of the Mind is a Windows software application that features a simple computer model of an extremely complex entity -- the human mind. ProtoThinker (PT) is a cognitive agent whose artificial mind
facilitates exploration of questions about real minds:
- What is thinking? How can thoughts represent reality? Does our ability to think imply that our
minds are immaterial entities somehow connected to our material bodies? Could robots equipped with "artifactual
minds" engage in genuine thinking?
- What is reasoning? What principles guide rational problem
solving and decision making? Can
intelligent animals make rational decisions?
- What is language? Does the mind employ a language of
thought? Can humans speak because they can think? Or can they think because they can speak?
Interacting with PT
You converse with PT on any subject of interest. PT translates statements, questions, and requests into Mentalese (a language-like symbol system), and forms
thoughts and memories, draws logical conclusions, and makes rational decisions. Initially, PT's mind is a tabula rasa -- PT has no opinions or
knowledge on any subject, and is eager to believe what you say and do
what you ask. Like any rational agent,
however, PT will be disinclined to accept statements that conflict with
information acquired through reasoning, and reluctant to comply with requests judged
to have harmful consequences.
human minds, PT's mind is visible. Watch as the sentences you enter are analyzed syntactically and
semantically, and give rise to Mentalese representations that highlight logical structures. Then activate the Mindmask, hide PT's mental processing, and make conversations more realistic. Experiment with modifications of PT's linguistic and reasoning abilities, and with simulations of deception, free will, self-awareness,
altruism, robotic embodiment, irrational values, illogical reasoning,
"mindreading," "mindblindness," and multiple personality.
Creating Dynamic Essays
with PT can be "recorded" for future playback. When accompanied by commentaries that discuss
controversial issues, these recordings become Dynamic Essays that employ
PT's performance to illustrate discussion points. Built-in Dynamic Essays on a variety of issues help you create your own. These can be shared with others, who
can download the free program from PT's homepage. While your recordings play, PT's
responses are re-created, helping you show that your views merit careful consideration.
Where to find PT
Click this link to download the ProtoThinker program:
Click these links to learn about projects that use PT and about how you can participate in them:
Click these links for discussions of ProtoThinker and reflections about minds:
Your comments and suggestions are welcome. You are also welcome to experiment with the latest beta version of the ProtoThinker program, which you can download by clicking this link:
A. Barker, Professor
Emeritus of Philosophy, Southern
Illinois University Edwardsville, email@example.com.