Artificial Intelligence and Minds

Is the brain a computer? Do machines calculate the same way humans do? Can artificial intelligence ever be conscious? What does it even mean to be “intelligent”? To answer these questions, Steve Patterson, a rationalist philosopher and author working outside of academia, spoke with Dr. Bram van Heuveln of RPI.

Bram van Heuveln is a passionate educator who continually tries to improve the effectiveness of the many different undergraduate courses he teaches in the areas of cognitive science, logic, artificial intelligence, critical thinking, and the philosophy of mind.

“I really enjoy teaching,” said Van Heuveln. “I try to run open classes with lots of opportunity for student participation and class discussion. I try to pass on to my students a sense of wonder and curiosity, an excitement for learning, a disposition for asking critical and probing questions and justifying answers with logical and well-constructed arguments, and a drive for searching the truth and doing what is right. I aim for deep skills and understanding that students can build on in subsequent classes, research projects, professional career, and personal life.”

Various undergraduate students help Van Heuveln with his research in the area of visual logic, by building interfaces that allow users to create and manipulate visual representations to perform logical reasoning. Van Heuveln uses these interfaces as educational tools in his classes to improve the logical reasoning abilities of his students.

Bram van Heuveln coordinates the Minds and Machines Program in Cognitive Technology, which invites undergraduate students to get involved with research on Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Robotics, and Synthetic Characters. Van Heuveln also oversaw the creation of the Cognitive Robotics Laboratory, and was instrumental in the creation of the undergraduate program in Cognitive Science. (

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