Dr. Mark Humphrys

School of Computing. Dublin City University.

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Dublin City University - School of Computing - Staff - Dr. Mark Humphrys

Dr. Mark Humphrys

BSc. Joint Hons (UCD), PhD (Cambridge)

School of Computing,
Dublin City University,
Glasnevin, Dublin 9,
Tel: +353 1 700-8059
Fax: +353 1 700-5442
Web: computing.dcu.ie/~humphrys
Email: How to email me

The World-Wide-Mind project: w2mind.org
Genealogy project: humphrysfamilytree.com

2011 photo.


I lecture various Computer Science courses here in DCU. See my Teaching page, or jump direct to the course pages for:


Project ideas

I have Project ideas for 3rd year or 4th year or Taught Masters projects.


I am the 4th year projects co-ordinator.

I was formerly the CA Working Papers Librarian.
This series is now archived.
CA papers are now published on Doras.


I am interested in   non-symbolic (or sub-symbolic) Artificial Intelligence.   I am interested in the origins of intelligence, both the long evolutionary history of the species, and the long developmental history of each individual. I am interested in the vast substrate of animal sensorimotor skills and sub-linguistic knowledge representation that lies beneath all the high-level (and recently-evolved) human cognitive skills that we focus so much attention on. This substrate to me is where the hard part of AI lies. You can start at my Research page, or go direct to my Publications list.

Action Selection

In particular, my research is on sub-symbolic decision-making, or Action Selection among competing, co-operating and overlapping non-symbolic behaviours. I am interested in highly-decentralised Society of Mind models.

For a simple overview, there are some Introductory Movies that you can play.

Multiple Minds in the same Body: My PhD thesis: "Action Selection methods using Reinforcement Learning" (1997) introduces "W-learning" - a Model of Mind whereby different parts of the mind modify their behaviour based on whether or not they are succeeding in getting the body to execute their actions. Where this is headed is towards a complex, overlapping, competing, sub-symbolic Society of Mind based on Reinforcement Learning.

I think I may have been the first to use Unhappiness based models of Action Selection using Reinforcement Learning numbers - that is, based on differences between the Q-values.

In terms of the World-Wide-Mind (see below), my PhD can now be seen as a model of AI where parts of the mind do not understand each other (e.g. could be written by different authors). My PhD can also now be seen as a model of AI that can survive broken links.

My PhD "family tree" (Who supervised who)

The World-Wide-Mind

I have an idea for helping AI scale up, and enabling the construction of large, complex minds by teams of multiple dispersed authors. This idea is called the "World-Wide-Mind". See the "World-Wide-Mind" research group.

For an introduction to this idea see: Humphrys, Mark (2001), "The World-Wide-Mind: Draft Proposal", Dublin City University, School of Computing, Technical Report no. CA-0301, February 2001.

For short introductions see the papers at ECAL-01 or SAB-02.

Updates to the project are at the project site w2mind.org.

The experimental site w2mind.computing.dcu.ie
(Back end written in Java. Front end in PHP and JavaScript.)
We are currently in transition to a new JavaScript-based system.

The Turing Test

I have some writings on The Turing Test because of continued interest in "MGonz", an AI chatbot I hooked up to the Internet in 1989. This story is told in "How my program passed the Turing Test". This program is now online again, and you can talk to it once more.

My program was certainly one of the first AI programs online. I think it was the first (a) AI real-time chat program, which (b) had the element of surprise, and (c) was on the Internet.

MGonz is written up as a book chapter: Humphrys, Mark (2008), "How my program passed the Turing Test", Chapter 15 of Parsing the Turing Test: Philosophical and Methodological Issues in the Quest for the Thinking Computer, Robert Epstein, Gary Roberts and Grace Beber (eds.), Springer, 2008.

*  MGonzNet                                         
* --------------------------------------------------
*  help          Help                               
*  who           Nice VM Who                        
*  scoop         The truth!                         
*  get           Get the p program for your machine 
*  p             Query VM/SCS printer queues        
*  p :printer:   Query specific printer             
* --------------------------------------------------

What my chatbot system in 1989 looked like.
(Chatbot written in Lisp. Front end in Rexx.)

AI in general

I have also some writings on AI in general. I have written for New Scientist a Popular-science introduction to the biologically-inspired type of AI. See also my Philosophy and Future of AI page.

I gave a talk on the future of AI, "The Hardest Problem in the History of Science", at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, Feb 2000.

Computers and Internet

I have been addicted to the Internet since 1987, and have enjoyed watching it grow up over those years, driven so largely by the brilliant idea of embedding the navigation in hypertext. I think I have learnt a few things over this time, and there are some slightly less formal writings and links on my Computers and Internet page.

I have put up a few items on The Internet in the 1980s.

My website has been running since 1994. See an article I wrote in 1999, which summarises some of my experience of the Internet over the years, called "Why on earth would I link to you?".

I did a post about Wikipedia, the site that everyone likes to use, and everyone feels nervous using: In defence of Wikipedia.


Some programs I have written for my website:

  • A custom CGI script search engine (for my sub-site of the CA website only).

  • My sub-site functions as an error-tolerant web server. When you enter a bad URL, instead of giving you a bland "404 Not Found" message, the web server redirects to my own Error Handling script, which tries to guess the URL you should have typed, using case-insensitive and partial-string matching. Try it out by entering a bad address (within my sub-site only).

Programs I have written for my email:

My custom search engine:

Search my site:

Help on search.

(Written in Shell and C++.)

History and Genealogy

My History and Genealogy website is at humphrysfamilytree.com.

I am an active local and family historian, and since 1983, I have done original research on a number of topics, families and houses in Irish, English and Scottish family history (including local history and motoring history). I have published on this offline, and one of the most interesting aspects of it is how to present all this complex information online through hypertext. There are now nearly 1,500 web pages of material, with probably 500 more still waiting to come online. It may take me 10 years to get all my information online.

Some of this has become part of my professional work. I have published papers on it. I have supervised Undergraduate and Masters projects based on this work. There has also been some media coverage recently.

Updates to the project are at the Genealogy blog.

I am running a €1,000 competition to crack a hard genealogy problem I have. Maybe you can solve it and win the money. Updates to the competition are at the competition blog.

My holy grail: For years I have been trying to prove the descent above.
I offer €1,000 to anyone who can prove it.
See details.

My Reverse Ahnentafel Parser.
(Written in JavaScript.)


My politics and religion site is markhumphrys.com

I debate politics and religion on Twitter at twitter.com/markhumphrys

If you're the kind of person who is going to be upset by other people's political and religious ideas, then please do not go there. Just take it as read that Humphrys has political and religious ideas you don't agree with, and go away. Because so does everybody, if you really get to know them.

In summary, I'm secular and pro-West. An atheist and a neo-conservative. There, that should offend everybody. For more, see the site above.

How I feel about the logical basis of all religions (including Christianity and Islam).
For a long exposition, see the site above.

How I feel about the military that defends the West (America, Britain, Israel, others).
For a long exposition, see the site above.

The fall of the Communist empire in Europe in 1989.
The greatest, happiest year for the world in my lifetime.

Feeds      w2mind.org

On Internet since 1987.