Dr. Mark Humphrys

School of Computing. Dublin City University.

Online coding site: Ancient Brain

coders   JavaScript worlds


Free AI exercises

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Dr. Mark Humphrys

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

School of Computing,
Dublin City University,
Glasnevin, Dublin 9, Ireland.

Tel: +353 1 700-8059.
Email: How to email me.

Website: humphryscomputing.com
Ancient Brain project: ancientbrain.com
World-Wide-Mind project: w2mind.org
Genealogy project: humphrysfamilytree.com

2018 photo.


I lecture various Computer Science courses here in DCU.
See my Teaching page for current courses.
Current and former courses include the following.

Topics related to AI:

Topics related to Web applications:

Topics related to Unix:

Project ideas

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

Ancient Brain

My big idea is the site "Ancient Brain"

This site is the culmination of years of thought and work in AI. It aims to become a place for everyone to code and to teach coding. It is a global archive of user-submitted programs that run in the browser. Programs can be run, source code viewed, copied ("cloned"), edited, and run again, all in the browser. All programs are in JavaScript and use WebGL graphics. The site supports physics, and import of 3D models. There are now programs (called "Worlds") on the site.

Jump on in. Go to the site. Start browsing and running the existing programs (called "Worlds"). And then clone and write your own!

Ancient Brain is explained in a forthcoming paper:

  • Ancient Brain: A JavaScript coding platform for education with 3D graphics, Websockets, AI and support for teachers, Mark Humphrys, to appear in 8th International Conference on Digital Technology in Education (ICDTE 2024), 7-9 Aug 2024, Berlin, Germany.


One of the Worlds on the site.
Click to run World: Collision World at Ancient Brain.
A "World" with physics and sound.
Mouse drag and zoom camera.
As you see, Ancient Brain Worlds can be embedded on other websites, like YouTube videos.


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.

Action Selection

My older research was 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.

My PhD "family tree" (Who supervised who)

The World-Wide-Mind

My research on Action Selection led to a concept that I called the "World-Wide-Mind". This is an idea for helping AI scale up, by enabling the construction of large, complex minds by teams of multiple dispersed authors.

See the "World-Wide-Mind" research group and the project site w2mind.org.

Under this view, my PhD can 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 be seen as a model of AI that can survive broken links.

For an introduction to the WWM 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.

The WWM tried various technologies to realise this dream, until the emergence of true JavaScript graphics on the client-side made the dream finally a reality in "Ancient Brain"

The old prototype site w2mind.computing.dcu.ie
Runs of Worlds took place on the server-side.
Old site: PHP, JavaScript. Uploads: Java. Server-side runs. Data format: XML.
New site: PHP, JavaScript. Uploads: JavaScript. Client-side runs. Data format: None. JSON optional.

The Turing Test

I hooked up an AI chatbot called "MGonz" to the Internet in 1989, where it had adventures that people still talk about. The story is told in "How my program passed the Turing Test".

My program was one of the first AI programs online. I think I was the first person to put a chatbot on the Internet that was disguised as a person.

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.

I have some general material on The Turing Test.

*  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 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 on the Internet since 1987, and have enjoyed watching it grow up over those years, driven largely by the brilliant idea of embedding the navigation in hypertext. I think I have learnt a few things over this time, and there is some less formal material 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 search engine.

  • My 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.

My custom search engine:


Help on search.

(Written in PHP with a grep at the core.)

History and Genealogy

My History and Genealogy site is at humphrysfamilytree.com.

Since 1983, I have done extensive research on many topics, families and houses in Irish, English and Scottish family history (including local history and motoring history). I have published on this, and one of the most interesting aspects is how to present this complex information online through hypertext. There are now over 2,400 public web pages. Maybe between 5,000 and 10,000 A4 pages if printed out.

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.

Updates to the project are at the blog.

The holy grail of my entire family tree: The Blennerhassett problem.
For 35 years I tried to prove the descent above.
In 2020 I finally proved it.

My Reverse Ahnentafel Parser.
(Written in JavaScript.)

ancientbrain.com      w2mind.org      humphrysfamilytree.com

On the Internet since 1987.      New 250 G VPS server.

Note: Links on this site to user-generated content like Wikipedia are highlighted in red as possibly unreliable. My view is that such links are highly useful but flawed.