This chapter looks at Marvin Minsky's and Seymour Papert's recent proposal to study the mind as a society, which takes the patchwork architecture of cognition as a central element. Minsky and Papert present a view in which minds consist of many “agents” whose abilities are quite circumscribed: each agent taken individually operates only in a microworld of small-scale or “toy” problems. This model of the mind as a society of numerous agents is intended to encompass a multiplicity of approaches to the study of cognition, ranging from distributed, self-organizing networks to the classical, cognitivist conception of localized, serial symbolic processing. The society of mind purports to be, then, something of a middle way in present cognitive science. This middle way challenges a homogenous model of the mind, whether in the form of distributed networks at one extreme or symbolic processers at the other extreme.
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