:. Motivation

While it is quite common to think of humans in terms of mental states, such as beliefs, desires and intentions (e.g. that person believes it is simple to do that task, Sam desires to win the lottery, etc.), doing the same for computer systems and software is not so familiar. Thus, is it legitimate to ascribe mental attitudes to machines or software programs? If so, when?


Several authors argued that in certain situations, the so-called intentional stance of systems can aid to efficiently predict, explain, or define the behaviour of systems, without having to understand how they actually work. Among them, John McCarthy in Ascribing Mental Qualities to Machines (1979) argued that
"To ascribe certain beliefs, knowledge, free will, intentions, consciousness, abilities or wants to a machine or computer program is legitimate when such an ascription expresses the same information about the machine that it expresses about a person. It is useful when the ascription helps us understand the structure of the machine, its past or future behavior, or how to repair or improve it. It is perhaps never logically required even for humans, but expressing reasonably briefly what is actually known about the state of a machine in a particular situation may require ascribing mental qualities or qualities isomorphic to them. Theories of belief, knowledge and wanting can be constructed for machines in a simpler setting than for humans and later applied to humans. Ascription of mental qualities is most straightforward for machines of known structure such as thermostats and computer operating systems, but is most useful when applied to entities whose structure is very incompletely known."
It should be noted that intentional stance is no more than an abstraction tool to manage the complexity of some systems. Indeed, Woorldridge (Reasoning about Rational Agents , The MIT Press, 2000) argue that "with very complex systems, even if a complete, accurate picture of the system's architecture and working is available, a physical or design stance explanation of its behaviour may not be practicable". However, as McCarthy stated, the fact that a system has mental attitudes is not only matter of complexity. In other words, some non-complex systems may be better explained in terms of mental qualities or attitudes, rather than in terms of conventional physical phenomena or design artifacts.
:. Recent Papers
  • A BDI Agent System for Credit Risk Assessment based on Fuzzy Logic
  • Developing Intentional Systems with the PRACTIONIST Framework
  • Dynamic conversations between agents with the PRACTIONIST Framework
  • Goal-Oriented Agent Patterns with the PRACTIONIST Framework

  Go to the Papers section

Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict Valid CSS!