ProtoThinker: A Model of the Mind
Contributors:  John Barker: Author
Clay Beckner: Author
Winfred Phillips: Author



ProtoThinker (or "PT" for short) is a wonderful piece of artificial intelligence (AI) software written by John Barker, Emeritus at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. PT is rare among artificial intelligence programs created for use by students. It is a full-featured Windows program that models an intelligent agent: It has a “natural language processor” that can “interpret” simple sentences in English addressed to it through a computer keyboard. Like a young child, it believes what you teach it and it remembers what it is told. It has moral commitments that influence the actions it will perform (if it is connected to robotic devices). There are even simulations of second-order beliefs, deception, Autism, and much more. The software has special features that allow robotic devices, text-to-speech, and voice recognition programs to be integrated with it so that it can function as the main AI-engine of a functioning robot. [See a video of our Iris.1 Robot, a very simple robot controlled by an old DOS version of the PT software. Iris.4 is a mobile robot in development that also uses the PT software.] A free Windows version of ProtoThinker is available to download below. We are also making the code open source for those with programming abilities in Prolog who would like to work with us on the ProtoThinker project.

ProtoThinker can also be a tool for research. There are articles published in professional journals on ProtoThinker and there are student research projects published on this website.



ProtoThinker has thorough documentation included in the program. A very brief description of the program is available in the "About ProtoThinker" document and screen captures that show the programs interface and some of its main functions is available in the "Beginning to Use ProtoThinker" document.


ProtoThinker is a Windows program that will run on virtually any Windows machine built in the last decade, including 64-bit versions of Windows 7 & 8. Download the zip file below and run the executable (".exe") set-up program.

ProtoThinker is written in WinProlog. We are looking for programmers to help us port the program to an open source version of prolog so that more people will be able to work on the program. If you are interested, contact John Barker.


ProtoThinker has been used to defend specific theories about how human beings do certain kinds of reasoning ("ProtoThinker and the Simulation Theory"). It has also been used to explore various aspects of metaphor ("ProtoThinker & Metaphor"). Finally, ProtoThinker has been the main cognitive engine in The Mind Project's Iris serious of robots. [links coming soon]

  • Iris.1 Robot

    This is a Quicktime video of TMP's first robot, Iris.1, which uses ProtoThinker as its main AI engine. This is an old video and still uses the DOS version of ProtoThinker. The downloadable file is a Windows version.

THE PT CONTEST -- A Student Activity

The PT Contest is a kind of mock-Turing test. Student teams train their version of PT to pass the Turing Test. It is not a legitimate Turing test because the students are given some of the questions in advance and they get to write some of the questions themselves. However, it does give students an idea of how hard it would be to pass the test. The activity can be done either together in a computer lab, or asynchronously.


The following documents are further readings for those interested in artificial intelligence programs in general, and PT in particular.