The mind is a community of “agents”. Each has limited powers and can communicate only with certain others. The powers of mind emerge from their interactions for none of the Agents, by itself, has significant intelligence. [. . . ] Everyone knows what it feels like to be engaged in a conversation with oneself. In this book, we will develop the idea that these discussions really happen, and that the participants really “exist”. In our picture of the mind we will imagine many “sub-persons”, or “internal agents”, interacting with one another. Solving the simplest problem – seeing a picture – or remembering the experience of seeing it – might involve a dozen or more – perhaps very many more – of these agents playing different roles. Some of them bear useful knowledge, some of them bear strategies for dealing with other agents, some of them carry warnings or encouragements about how the work of others is proceding. And some of them are concerned with discipline, prohibiting or “censoring” others from thinking forbidden thoughts.
Note: This book uses the term "resource" where my earlier book, The Society of Mind, used "agent. "I made this change because too many readers assumed that an "agent" is a personlike thing (like a travel agent) that could operate independently, or cooperate with others in much the same ways that people do.
To understand what we call the Self we first must see what Selves are for. One function of the Self is to keep us from changing too rapidly. Each person must make some long-range plans in orderto balance single-purposeness against attempts to do everything at once. But it is not enough simply to instruct an agency to start to carry out our plans. We also have to find some ways to constrain the changes we might later make-to prevent ourselves from turning those plan-agents off again! If we changed our minds too recklessly, we could never know what we might want next. We'd never get much done because we could never depend on ourselves.