Slides and background notes
IBM workshop on architectures for common sense

March 14-15 2002, IBM Research Center, New York.
Aaron Sloman
School of Computer Science, The University of Birmingham
Updated: 23 Dec 2002
Aspects of the workshop were reported in J. McCarthy, M. Minsky, A. Sloman, L. Gong, T. Lau, L. Morgenstern, E. T. Mueller, D. Riecken, M. Singh, and P. Singh, 'An architecture of diversity for commonsense reasoning' in IBM Systems Journal Vol 41, no 3, 2002 530--539,

Slides for the workshop:
"Architectures and the spaces they inhabit"
PDF version
Postscript version
The presentation argues for the need to explore not just one architecture but the space of architectures (designs) and the space of requirements (niches) and trajectories in those spaces, roughly on the grounds that you can't understand a complex system without analysing what difference it would have made had it been different in various ways. That includes looking at alternative designs, at least in some neighbourhood in design space and a related neighbourhood in niche space. (I contrast numerical evaluation functions with structured descriptions of relations between design and niche). In addition, evolutionary history may give clues when we are studying, and trying to emulate, a natural architecture.

The slides include an abbreviated discussion of virtual machines and how events and processes in those machines can be causes. That is discussed more fully in the notes for the philosophy of AI tutorial by Matthias Scheutz and myself at IJCAI01:

The slides end with a (partial) list of things we don't know.

Comments, suggestions, criticisms welcome.
Email A.Sloman AT


Browsers for the presentations are freely available on the internet. See the information in this file

The diagrams in the slides were all produced using the excellent (small, fast, versatile, portable, reliable, and free) tgif package, available for linux and unix systems from here:

The slides use a format suited to fill a typical computer screen which is wider than it is tall. These need to be viewed in "Landscape" or "Seascape" mode (rotated 90 degrees to the left). Your browser should provide such an option if it does not automatically get the orientation right.

Printable notes

These were (hastily) prepared for circulation before the workshop, available in postscript and PDF here:
How to think about architectures: some suggestions.
26 pages (12 point).

Three of my previous papers provide some relevant background material.
A. Sloman, 'Actual Possibilities', Eds. L.C. Aiello and S.C. Shapiro, Principles of Knowledge Representation and Reasoning:, Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference (KR `96), Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 1996, pp. 627--638,
A. Sloman, 'Diagrams in the mind', Eds. M. Anderson et. al. Diagrammatic Representation and Reasoning, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2001, pp 1-9.
A.Sloman 'Interacting Trajectories in Design Space and Niche Space: A philosopher speculates about evolution', Invited keynote talk, in Parallel Problem Solving from Nature -- PPSN VI Eds: M. Schoenauer, et al., Springer: Lecture Notes in Computer Science, No 1917, pp. 3--16 Paris, Sept 2000,

These two papers overlap considerably with the notes for the workshop.
A. Sloman, 'Beyond Shallow Models of Emotion', Cognitive Processing: International Quarterly of Cognitive Science, vol 2, no 1, pp. 177-198, 2001.
A. Sloman, 'Evolvable biologically plausible visual architectures', Proceedings of British Machine Vision Conference, Eds. T. Cootes and C. Taylor, BMVA, Manchester, pp. 313--322, 2001.

There is a growing collection of slide presentations developing these ideas here:

Frames-free web site