Programming with Agents: New metaphors for thinking about computation
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Michael David Travers
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Computer programming environments for learning should make it easy to create worlds of responsive and autonomous objects, such as video games or simulations of animal behavior. But building such worlds remains difficult, partly because the models and metaphors underlying traditional programming languages are not particularly suited to the task. This dissertation investigates new metaphors, environments, and languages that make possible new ways to create programs -- and, more broadly, new ways to think about programs. In particular, it introduces the idea of programming with "agents" as a means to help people create worlds involving responsive, interacting objects. In this context, an agent is a simple mechanism intended to be understood through anthropomorphic metaphors and endowed with certain lifelike properties such as autonomy, purposefulness, and emotional state. Complex behavior is achieved by combining simple agents into more complex structures. While the agent metaphor enables...