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The Mind of the Machine
 
Artificial Intelligence expert Michael Georgeff and other researchers used something called BDI software agent technology on a project designed to diagnose faults in the reaction control system of the Shuttle Discovery.

Georgeff says an advanced version of this technology was tested in simulators at NASA's Johnson Space Center and also tested via a live connection from the Australian Artificial Intelligence Institute to Discovery.

Georgeff describes the BDI technology this way:

"At a conceptual level, a BDI agent models a computer system as 3 components -- a set of Beliefs (or information about the current state of the world), a set of Desires (or goals) and a set of Intentions (selected actions or plans). When two or more BDI agents interact ... they need to determine how best each other's mutual desires can be met, and to do this they need to understand the beliefs, desires and possibly intentions of the other agents."

In other words, BDI tries to determine how a computer system "thinks."

Georgeff stresses that the NASA work did not lead directly to the dating software, pointing out that getting information from humans is a more complex and specialized process. But, he says, "abstractly, we are doing the same kind of thing -- just different models, and different ways of determining cognitive state from behavioral observation."

As technology becomes more and more complex, Georgeff says "machines will have to have cognitive states much like humans (i.e., beliefs, desires, intentions and probably something analagous to emotions)," adding that "the NASA work was really a forerunner in this area."

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