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aries1988 : consciousness   3

Aerodynamics For Cognition | Edge.org
By studying how birds fly and the structure of their wings, you can learn something important about aerodynamics. And what you learn about aerodynamics is equally relevant to then being able to make jet engines.                                 

The kind of work that I do is focused on trying to identify the equivalent of aerodynamics for cognition. What are the real abstract mathematical principles that constrain intelligence? What can we learn about those principles by studying human beings? 

We already do this to some extent. If you’ve ever used the strategy of gamification, where you’re using an app or something that gives you points for completing tasks, or if you make a to-do list and you get satisfaction from checking things off, what you’re doing is essentially using this external device as a mechanism for changing the environment that you’re in.

What machine-learning algorithms do when they're solving this problem is recognize that the thing you should be doing is exploring more when you first arrive in the city and exploiting more the longer you are in the city. The value of that new information decreases over time. You're less likely to find a place that is better than the places you've seen so far, and the number of opportunities that you're going to have to exploit that knowledge is decreasing.

My colleague Alison Gopnik, who has been pursuing this, has a hypothesis about cognitive development. When we look at children, that variability and randomness that we see is exactly a rational response to the structure of the problems they're trying to solve. If they're trying to figure out what are the things in their environment that they will most enjoy, then putting everything in their mouth is a pretty good strategy in terms of maximizing their exploration.

In the first half of the 20th century, it was disreputable to try to study how the mind works because minds were things that you never saw or touched or intervened on. What you could see was behavior and the environment that induces that behavior, so the behaviorist psychologists said, "Let's get rid of the mind. Let's just focus on these mappings from environment to behavior." That's where a lot of behavioral data science is. If I show you this, then you click on this. If you've seen these webpages, then you're likely to go to this webpage. It's a very behaviorist conception of what underlies the way that people are acting.

In Australia, in the last year of high school, you have to make a decision about what you want to study at university. It was 1994, I was sixteen years old, and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew that I liked math, but I certainly didn't want to make a commitment to doing that for the rest of my life. I said, "Okay, I'll study the things that we don't know anything about—philosophy, psychology, anthropology." That was what I went to university to do.

One of the ways in which human beings still outperform computers is in being able to solve problems of reasoning about why you did the thing you did, what you're going to do next, what the underlying reasons were behind things that you did.

We as human beings are used to being surrounded by intelligent systems whose thoughts are opaque to us. It's just that normally those intelligent systems are human beings.
ai  thinking  research  human  interaction  communication  motivation  consciousness  brain  maths 
october 2017 by aries1988
The Kekulé Problem - Issue 47: Consciousness - Nautilus
I call it the Kekulé Problem because among the myriad instances of scientific problems solved in the sleep of the inquirer Kekulé’s is probably the best known. He was trying to arrive at the configuration of the benzene molecule and not making much progress when he fell asleep in front of the fire and had his famous dream of a snake coiled in a hoop with its tail in its mouth—the ouroboros of mythology—and woke exclaiming to himself: “It’s a ring. The molecule is in the form of a ring.” Well. The problem of course—not Kekulé’s but ours—is that since the unconscious understands language perfectly well or it would not understand the problem in the first place, why doesnt it simply answer Kekulé’s question with something like: “Kekulé, it’s a bloody ring.” To which our scientist might respond: “Okay. Got it. Thanks.”

Problems in general are often well posed in terms of language and language remains a handy tool for explaining them. But the actual process of thinking—in any discipline—is largely an unconscious affair. Language can be used to sum up some point at which one has arrived—a sort of milepost—so as to gain a fresh starting point. But if you believe that you actually use language in the solving of problems I wish that you would write to me and tell me how you go about it.
thinking  language  brain  linguist  scientist  dream  consciousness 
may 2017 by aries1988

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