Saturday, May 31, 2008

Intentions Words Actions Of the Brain By The Brain For The Brain

This weblog started with a bias towards behavioral economics when it began its philosophical inquiry into the dismal science because of my undergraduate degree in Research Psychology and well established inclinations. Psychology has a tendency though to focus on the individual as in the question asked by Gary Marcus.

Does your brain have a mind of its own? by Gary Marcus on May 4, 2008 at

Why can't we stick to our goals? Blame the sloppy engineering of evolution.
How many times has this happened to you? You leave work, decide that you need to get groceries on the way home, take a cellphone call and forget all about your plan. Next thing you know, you've driven home and forgotten all about the groceries.

This obviously takes a evolutionary/biological approach, but using the prevalent analogy of brain as computer there is also the programing needed to make it interact with other brains. That programing would seem to be language, though to what degree it is hardwired/genetic or software/environmental learning is still something to be far better understood.

Study finds some thoughts really do require language Posted on: February 14, 2008 3:17 PM, by Dave Munger Category: LanguageReasoningResearch
I don't need words to think about the shape of a car, or how to throw a football, or the taste of a chocolate chip cookie. In fact, things like that are probably easier to think about without using language. That's why the strong form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis -- that language is necessary for conscious thought -- doesn't hold up. But even if language isn't required for some domains, it's still possible that it is required for certain types of mental processes. It may even be required for some thoughts that aren't obviously related to language.Some research suggests that understanding the thoughts of others -- having a theory of mind -- is one such process. Many children who are late in learning language are also late in developing a theory of mind. This story illustrates the classic theory of mind test:
  • Mouse nibbles cheese.
  • Mouse puts cheese under box A
  • Mouse leaves room
  • Cat enters room, moves cheese from box A to box B, and leaves.
  • Mouse returns.
  • Where does Mouse think the cheese is?

Raising the question, does understanding false beliefs of others require language? The "answer" is at the original post

David Munger goes on to write about Ashley Newton and Jill de Villiers who developed a very clever experiment to test this question.

Newton and de Villiers say there are a number of aspects of language processing that could be responsible for interfering with the false-belief test, but it's quite clear that some sort of language processing is necessary in order to reason about false beliefs. So while language isn't a requirement for all thought, it most definitely appears to be a requirement for some thought.

So how does this apply when we move outside the psychological laboratories and experiments? This weblog has been contemplating the many-to-many interactions of sociology and social-grouping that the web helps to make more apparent. With Web 2.0, it is possible to draw the lines. With economics, the lines would seem to be harder to specifically determine until after the fact, though models can be created for useful and often practical approximations.

Andreessen on The Psychology of Human Misjudgment via Marginal Revolution by Alex Tabarrok on 3/28/08

Professor Tabarrok provides access to the, "Great insights from two legendary entrepreneurs" - Marc Andreessen and Charlie Munger author of The Psychology of Human Misjudgment.

Mr. Anderson: Mr. Munger's magnum opus speech, included in the book, is The Psychology of Human Misjudgment -- an exposition of 25 key forms of human behavior that lead to misjudgment and error, derived from Mr. Munger's 60 years of business experience. Think of it as a practitioner's summary of human psychology and behavioral economics as observed in the real world.

Mr. Munger: ...almost everyone thinks he fully recognizes how important incentives and disincentives are in changing cognition and behavior. But this is not often so. For instance, I think I've been in the top five percent of my age cohort almost all my adult life in understanding the power of incentives, and yet I've always underestimated that power. Never a year passes but I get some surprise that pushes a little further my appreciation of incentive superpower.

What the Marginal Revolution post does, to my mind, is put the individual question raised by Gary Marcus to a human species level of inquiry, not as individuals within the species but as a biological organism whose survival depends not only upon its interaction with the environment but its interaction with itself.

Friday, May 30, 2008

OK, It's A Brain Exercise

OK, it's a brain exercise. I have at times in the past looked for a rationale as to why I keep this weblog up. It is, I am beginning to realize, a circular question. Why and how are fundamental and motivating questions for me, having a healthy dose of curiosity and this weblog is a means of satisfying that curiosity. So my latest rationale is that it serves as my form of intellectual aerobics class.

Actually, blogging provides cross-training activities which grow over time. First there is reading articles on science, economics, and the world of web 2.0 in an endeavor to self-educate myself. Each pathway of discovery taken provides other pathways in a seemingly never ending expansion. Then as my own means of intellectual weight training I decided that dealing with one idea at a time was not enough. Consequently, I try to combine two or more ideas in each post and end up with some new pathways.

Next is learning all of the new Web 2.0 equipment like weight machines. This is where I have been the worst slacker, having dabbled but not nearing the potential. My latest sojourn in web 2.0 experimentation was my Squidoo Creative-Destruction page. Truth is that now it is just a grab bag of links and needs to be modified to communicate a specific perspective. That is often true of data found on the web it seems. All too often this weblog focused on the end-user aspects and remains lazy about learning the basics of what makes all of this possible.

Finally there is a ever growing desire to communicate and connect. That aspect has seen improvement. That was not a goal at the beginning, and I am still not seeking to rack up a thousand contacts to claim world-wide popularity. I do though have intellectually like-minded contacts across the globe. That again creates more pathways. This is where my own personal paradigms have seen transformation, like the transformed 98 pound weakling at the beach, I have had new worlds open up to me. The "writing" aspect of blogging is becoming increasingly important. This particular post has had a number of corrections and re-writes. A few posts have had unexpected results like being put on the international stage with International Web Star Is 15 Seconds Of Fame Off And On or being featured in an inquiry at Coming Up With The Answer(.com) But Still Looking For The Questions.

Lately, I have been going over my past posts to see what I have learned. This weblog has had me thinking about economics, creative-destruction, fair use, collective-intelligence and other many-to-many/one social interactions and entropy to name some. The trouble is that there are so many pathways to take, not to mention those that were passed by. Two come to mind that seemed to have a good deal of untapped, at least by me, potential - PopTech and NITLE. Some others have been added to the, diigo and StumbleUpon social tagging systems.

Now I find myself with so many potential pathways for inquiry and contemplation that it is beginning to be a bit overwhelming. So my plan is just to grab on to something and putting it through the paces.