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The theater model as software architecture

25-02-2007 10:36 25-02-2007 10:36

Bernard Baars' Theater model of the human mind lends itself well as a software architecture for a human-like mind. It is distinct from any of the software architectures that I discerned before. It's main components are:
  • Working Memory
  • Contexts
  • Input scheduler
  • Action scheduler
The working memory (WM) is the central component of this architecture. It receives all inputs, not only from outside (the agent) but from inside the agent as well. It works like either a workbench or a conveyor belt. In itself it only stores parcels of information and drops these after some time. Its capacity is limited (typically to about 7 parcels).

Contexts do the actual work of the architecture. The solve problems, plan actions, interpret input, etc. Any context can be a complete application in itself. Contexts are not static. They can be created and be destroyed. Contexts receive their input from outside (perceptual contexts) or from WM. Contexts are connected to WM in an active way. They constantly monitor the contents of WM, to see if it contains parcels that may serve as input to their process. If so, they send a request to the Action Scheduler to get access to the WM. If this is granted, the context can act upon the WM parcel or parcels.

The Input Scheduler receives requests from all contexts to place their parcels onto the WM workbench. Based on some criteria of importance it decides which parcel (parcels?) to place there.

The Action Scheduler does the same. Only the requests are actions, not parcels.

The architecture is interesting in areas where:
  • Many diverse problems are solved simultaneously
  • The agent needs to be flexible and respond to interrupting threats/requests immediately
  • Input is highly ambiguous and can be interpreted in many ways (the active contexts); interpretation requires a large top-down component, and this component may change all the time
  • Many processes are active at the same time, not necessarily solving problems, but also just performing complex tasks; these tasks should be performed in parallel as well
cognitive architecture

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