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Did you ever get a chance to read "The Case of the Female Orgasm?" by Elisabeth Lloyd?

 

I put it in the basket because of your recommendation, but I can't buy all the books that I'm interested in at once. :) It is definitely on my list though.

 

It presents a pretty compelling case that some traits that get passed along are not selected for but rather are carried along generation to generation for a variety of reasons.

 

That's not really surprising. After all, it should be expected that such a system is not optimized to the extreme and some traits could be carried along, depending on their position or other characteristics.

Gerhard

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@demagogue: Actually I was quite interested in that pattern recognition parts, several years ago and I read some books about neural patterns. When I thought about these algorithms, I had a big problem of seeing a way to make these neural networks do more then just pattern recognition. My idea was, that if the brain works like that, it should be possible to build this into a software that simulates it, but I couldn't find a way to do some more complex tasks. Maybe it was a lack of understanding, but I found genetic algorithms to be much more usefull for that.

Gerhard

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Two more, ok 3 more, quick points (slash book recommendations ... sigh, there are just too many these days) while I'm thinking about them,

 

(1) A good synoptic overview of the architecture of the mind and how neurons work together to make cognition is a book called Enchanted Looms (can't think of the author now).

 

(2) Terrence Deacon's "Symbolic Species: Coevolution of Language and the Brain" answers a question that had always stumped me and that someone's post just reminded me: why don't animals have simple languages? It's always either all or nothing (or at best the proto-language of sign-language chimps, which is at any rate not natural) ... there's no slow, gradual development of language like many important cognitive features, just wham, seemingly out of the blue, and this is arguably the most important aspect of human cognition! This book tells a story about how brains started for the first time in evolution being able to handle "representations" of ideas in addition to the ideas themselves, like treating them as abstract concepts, which opened the door to using symbolic representaitons of the ideas, i.e., language. Very illuminating. (The Lopsided Ape by Cornalis or something like that is another good book in this vien, which locates language's origins in the freeing of the hands with bipedalism as trees died out in East Africa 2 million y.o., leading to representationalism as we can begin to manipulate objects *as objects to be manipulated* (like tools) because now we can properly get our hands on it.)

 

(3) Glumcher's book I mentioned before on Neuroeconomics does a great job of showing why the neural-net paradigm isn't the right paradigm for human cognition (even if it can play a helpful supporting role), because it would assume all cognitive features are like S/R functions, that is, reflexes, see X: do Y (although usually more complicated than that, but also no more than that) ... which is the classic foundation of psychology a la Pavlov and his salivating dogs, but has been undermined for the last 10 years with the idea we're talking about now, that the brain is actually "designed" to be goal-oriented according to the pressures of natural selection and, as people like economists have long known, human decisionmaking embeds more metalevel computations like relative expected utility into just about all decisions, so more has to be going on. (Then if you wanted to go the next step in this line, there's a book by Dan Ross called Economic Theory and Cognitive Science which unites all these ideas right with Dennett. I loved it, but you need to do a bit of background work in economics to follow it.)

 

I actually wish I could get back into grad school to keep studying this stuff, seems so much more interesting and useful for the world than the legal work I'm doing now.

Edited by demagogue

What do you see when you turn out the light? I can't tell you but I know that it's mine.

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This Glumcher's argument sounds like a cognition theory I came across a few weeks back called "externalism." I think thats what its called anyway. In order to understand human intelligence you have to look at the external world as much as the internal mind/brain. I dont fully understand this point but its interesting: our intelligence is not located in the mind/brain but actually its in the relationship of those things to the external world. Maybe another way of saying it is as a different kind of emergence theory. (Though its NOT emergence theory of cognition, Im just using it to explain myself.) Intelligence emerges from the interplay of the components of the mind/brain and the external world. How this is supposed to work I haven't a clue. Ill have to go look it up again but I think thats the gist of it.

 

But demagouge Im curious about the blending of economics and cog sci in this neuroeconomics. So much of economics is ideologically driven, arguments for utility maximization and rational choice have strong arguments against them within economics as well as in psych, philo, and poli. sci.

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Maybe it is just meant because of the expecations our brain has made from our surroundings. Water is wet, Earth is hard, or muddy, and so on. his would form a certain kind of expectation which would be represented in your brain. I think I read some kind of that argument before, maybe it is similar. Bascially it means that if you are looking, for example, into the sea, you might find that intelligence has also evolved, but totally different because the watery surroundings require a totally different kind of intelligence. It's hard to describe because this was at least 10-15 years ago when I read this. :)

Gerhard

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Since I find this topic endlessly interesting, I feel like explaining a little.

 

The connection between economics and cogsci is a recent development, championed by a guy named David Marr in explaining vision, although he died very young before he finished his book.

 

It isn't so much connected to the externalist thesis ("long-arm functionalism" in the vocabulary I studied it).

 

It's connected to the idea that the brain was "designed" by natural selection pressures, which are themseleves sensitive to environmental variables, climate, the ergonomics of motion given the Earth's gravity, etc ... and the whole *point* of natural selection is to, over time, optimize the "survival/reproduction" rate of an organism within an environmental context. So if you're trying to explain why a brain mechanism is built this way, it's natural to look to economics, the science of optimizing X under conditions of scarcity, as explaining the function that natural selection was pushing the system towards. It becomes like a window into the programing logic of the system, so to speak, so we aren't constantly bogged down by looking just at the wiring.

 

The reason why it's so useful is that it's a step beyond the traditional psychological theories which looked solely at the wiring and tried to tie every exact set of output (behavior) to the exact set of inputs (sense data) as a series of sophisticated reflexes (think of Pavlov, we're all conditioned like dogs to "do X" when we "see Y"). This traditional theory had such a strong hold on the whole field for so long, that it was a roadblock to progress for most of the 20th century. It really took a few bright guys in the mid-80s (like Marr), along with the computer revolution and the growing acceptance of looking towards evolution theory to change the paradigm.

 

More to say, but I have to go...

Edited by demagogue

What do you see when you turn out the light? I can't tell you but I know that it's mine.

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I can accept using optimization theory to try to understand what the brain/mind is trying to do in relation to the environment. It makes sense to view evolution as a sort of optimizing process, selection for optimal models to live in their particular conditions. The less optimal you are the less you get to successfully reproduce, to put it in simplistic terms.

 

Where I think it fails is in its application to economics. Mainstream economics likes to imagine it has the rigor that the physical sciences demand. But the problem that econ. faces is the same problem all the +social+ sciences face: human beings. You cannot quantify many of the things that econ. examines. Individual buying habits, irrational runs on the stock market, religious beliefs influencing purchasing, ideological beliefs influencing government policies.

 

 

Heres an example. Right after WW1, the U.S. was in a position that many a world power had found itself in after a major war. Its allies, including Britain and France, owed it a lot of fucking money. Now traditionally when one power is owed money by their allies and the debtors have no way of paying back the debt, the power that is owed the money will forgive all or much of the debt. Why? Because it makes no sense to hold a nation to a debt they cannot pay when much more profit will be made by allowing that nation to rebuild and start trading with you. Trade is the name of the game for nations, its better to forget a 5 $ debt if you and the debtor will make 15 $ each working together. The same thing applies to a conquered nation. Sure you could go in and just take everything you lay hands on but over time its much more profitable to help that nation rebuild and turn it into a trading partner.

 

The U.S. refused to do this after WW1. Time and again the allies asked for some debt forgiveness and the U.S. refused. Part of this refusal was to play to domestic political concerns about not letting Europe off the hook for the $$$. Other reasons exist which escape me right now. THe upshot was that the allies could not pay off their enormous debts to the u.s. and in turn had to crank the losers for the $$$ they claimed as the cost of damages. This hard line attitude on the part of the U.S. contributed to a number of grim developments such as the Great Depression and WW2.

 

The point is that economic actors, either individuals or nations or corporations, dont always act in their own self interest. Utility maximization posits that they tend to do so but I argue the definition of what would be a rational choice is often confused and oftentimes these entities simply dont act rationally. I have to run but thats the gist of my points.

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You should not confuse percieved optimum with a kind of global optimum. If that were the case, the dot com era would not have happened. But because of the perceived benefits, it started and eventually blew up.

The actor is IMO always acting in it's own interest (from his point of view), but from an outside observers point of view, this may not be true. It all depends also on the information available to each party and how a particular peice is valued.

Gerhard

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You should not confuse percieved optimum with a kind of global optimum. If that were the case, the dot com era would not have happened. But because of the perceived benefits, it started and eventually blew up.

The actor is IMO always acting in it's own interest (from his point of view), but from an outside observers point of view, this may not be true. It all depends also on the information available to each party and how a particular peice is valued.

 

 

I agree with the distinction you've made though I would not say actors always act in their own best interest. But the problem is that a lot of the modelling thats done by economists ignores these important differences entirely. Their theories use models that assume a very particular kind of rationality on the part of the actors. In their quest for scientific objectivity they often ignore influences like cultural differences in their calculations. They assume that the people they talk about will think and act within much narrower range than they actually do. A joke I heard gets to it well:

 

A physicist, a chemist, and an economist are stranded in a lifeboat at sea. They have food and water but its in metal cans and the can opener is missing. The physicist says "Ok, I calculate that if I toss this can so hard against the oarlock, it should split open." The chemist responds "Oh great and dump the contents all over. Instead, lets take this salt water and mix it with this bottle of cleaning solution. I think it will produce a mildly corrosive mixture that we can use to...." "What, poison ourselves?!" snapped the physicist. The two start to quarrel until suddenly the economist leaps to his feet and shouts "Hey relax, I figured it out! Imagine for a second that we have a can opener....."

 

This is a problem with political science as well. I met a poli. sci. professor from Drexel a few years ago at a local bar. We got to talking and I asked him about his work. One comment stuck in my head. "We assume people will act rationally." Whether he meant global or perceived made no difference because he was describing creating +mathematical models+ about stuff that cannot be fully quantified. I think some modelling is necessary in both economics and poli. sci. to be sure but both (for reasons of perceived scientific rigor) are too tilted towards an analytical approach. Additionally I think this tilt has much to do with an ideological to need justify econ./political conditions as they are in rather than uncover real cause/effect relationships. I also think economists and political scientists should be historians first, then apply modelling and more quantifiable approaches once they have developed a narrative model of a given situation.

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That reminds me of an actual story a polish collegue told me last year. I don't remember exactly which date it was, either 30th of October or 1st of November. Either way, they are both religious hollidays to commemorate teh dead ones. Polish people are notirously religious, much more like other european countries. So there was an american supermarket chain, and of course, as they do since many years now, they try to invade into public hollidays more and more. Additionaly, this date is Halloween in America, which is nowadays used more like a fun festival and the origin seems already to be lost to most of the public. And this chain, since being of american origin, started an advertising campaing that they have open on this day, and even better, they did it in such way to make fun of it (because of the halloween spirit). My collegue told me that most people were pretty much pissed of about this, because this is a day to be sad. The bottom line is, that the marketing totally ignored the cultural thinking and got quite a bad effect out of it. :)

 

Of course economists should include cultural background. If you deal with a very religious and traditional group, to raze a small building in order to help thousands of people may be totally out of the question, because this particular building might mean much to them. While the same to some other group may mean nothing despite a similar background (just an example). So ignoring such issues is suicide.

Gerhard

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Hey Maximius ... I know exactly what you're saying.

 

First, I was mainly talking about economic thinking going into cogsci (and a lot of behavioral studies, pidegons eating breadcrumbs, etc...), not vice versa. But now that you mention it ...

 

On reflection, there's too much I want to say and not enough time, so I'll try to keep it snappy.

 

I was educated in a tradition that was worried that classical theory was being too reductive to a lot of behavior, too. Recently I've started to rethink that skepticism ... because I'm reading a book *right now* where the exact thesis is that cog sci is going to vindicate classical economic models. Dan Ross's Economic Theory and Cognitive Science. The book is incredibly engaging; I can't put it down! But since I'm still very early in, I don't feel confident responding to your point yet. The best I can do right now is just point to that book (actually it's 2 volumes, the first is on microeconomics, individual decisionmaking, the second is on macroeconomics, larger trends) and say there's your best response that I know of directly to what you are wondering about.

But so far, I'm hooked.

 

The WW1 example you mentioned I studied in law school (as I studied international law), and that experience was a leading reason for things like the Marshall Plan and the European Union as ways to more properly deal with ending a War and restoring order, which were significantly more economically rational. The psychological motivation behind something like the refusal to offer debt relief (not only that, but Germany had to pay reparations to the Allies until 1989!) revolve around the phenomenon of a "desire for recognition;" the US/Allies wanted to reinforce their world position to Germany/Old World ... really 19th Century way of thinking. Carl Schimdt really summed up this way of thinking in some of his books (Political Theology), and more recently Fukuyama (who has the added benefit of explaining its contrast to homo economia, our economically rational selves) ... although you should also take what they say with a grain of salt since they are talking with a definite political bias. But anyway, I've read lots of articles distinguishing people's "economic" self from their "autobiographical" self (whatever identity features are important in making up who they think they are). I can't answer to this until I've read more into Ross's book, but I want to know myself what the relationship between these two ways of behaving are, whether it's like 2 different selves or something more general going on. I'll let you know what I come up with!

What do you see when you turn out the light? I can't tell you but I know that it's mine.

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Here is the first Feynman mp.3, dang it takes a long time to upload.

 

What a crap is this? I click on the ling but there is no downloading. And after reading that awfull site, it says I should either wait 55 minutes for downloading, or pay some fee.

Gerhard

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Seems they limit the traffic and individual usage. Sometimes you have to wait a bit, but it does work for free eventually.

 

Edit: Maximius, is this a further compressed version from the originals (if any exist)? At some spots, it's overloaded and can't be understood. A good example is at about 7 mins.

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Today finally I got the first book of the Feynman lectures. :) I have books on the backlog of about 1000 Euro, but unfrotunately I cvan't afford to buy them all at once. :( Well, that Feynamn books looks quite good. :)

What I consider the coolest part about it is, that I looked into the relativistic math and I'm pretty sure that I should be able to understand it. :) 20 years ago, when I looked in such a textbook, I didn't understand a single word, because I was lacking the math skills, but now the situation is quite different. Not that I'm as good in math as I want it to be, but for now it should suffice. I also ordered a book about math for engineers to brush up the more advanced topics, as I already got a bit rusty on that.

At least now I have something to study. :) The popular science books, become a bit unsatisfying already.

Gerhard

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:unsure:

 

Damn, I dont know about the MP3 quality, Ive never listened to them myself. I listen to the first one tonight when I get home and see if its messed up. That would fucking suck if they are crapped out, I apologize for the let-down.

 

 

Ill try to respond to points later, Im at work right now. Damn mp3s :angry:

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Seems they limit the traffic and individual usage. Sometimes you have to wait a bit, but it does work for free eventually.

 

Edit: Maximius, is this a further compressed version from the originals (if any exist)? At some spots, it's overloaded and can't be understood. A good example is at about 7 mins.

 

 

Ok, a bit of good news, I listened to the first MP3 from 5 minutes in up to about 8:15. I didnt hear any major problems other than the recording is not the best quality. Im assuming that my copies are ok but that download site is crapped. What is another way I can make these things available?

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demo: First, I was mainly talking about economic thinking going into cogsci (and a lot of behavioral studies, pidegons eating breadcrumbs, etc...), not vice versa. But now that you mention it ...

 

I know, I wasnt trying to criticize you by extension or anything :) I just wanted to bring up these points. But I should make clear that although I think its useful to model our evolutionary development along the lines of "utility maximization" in the natural world its a. not the whole story of that level of experience and b. highly controversial at mass levels of organization. I argue there are as many examples of organizations like governments, corporations, political or religious groups acting wildly irrational as not. To turn to the argument that each organization is following their own particular institutional logic (which is still blended with irrationalities but an argument I agree with a lot) begs the question what is this measurable rationality that the stand econ. theories refer to? I think there are definitely corresponding interests but rationalities?

 

 

 

dem:I was educated in a tradition that was worried that classical theory was being too reductive to a lot of behavior, too. Recently I've started to rethink that skepticism ... because I'm reading a book *right now* where the exact thesis is that cog sci is going to vindicate classical economic models. Dan Ross's Economic Theory and Cognitive Science. The book is incredibly engaging; I can't put it down! But since I'm still very early in, I don't feel confident responding to your point yet. The best I can do right now is just point to that book (actually it's 2 volumes, the first is on microeconomics, individual decisionmaking, the second is on macroeconomics, larger trends) and say there's your best response that I know of directly to what you are wondering about.

But so far, I'm hooked.

 

It sounds like a good read, it joins the Legion of the Unread on my to-do list. But all I can find on the net is Dan Ross at BetterBizBooks.com. Is this the guy?

 

dem:The WW1 example you mentioned I studied in law school (as I studied international law), and that experience was a leading reason for things like the Marshall Plan and the European Union as ways to more properly deal with ending a War and restoring order, which were significantly more economically rational. The psychological motivation behind something like the refusal to offer debt relief (not only that, but Germany had to pay reparations to the Allies until 1989!) revolve around the phenomenon of a "desire for recognition;" the US/Allies wanted to reinforce their world position to Germany/Old World ... really 19th Century way of thinking.

 

I would highly recommend you read Micheal Hudson's Superimperialism, its available in Pdf at his website for free. He makes a case that aid programs like the Marshall plan were in fact a way for State Department officials and economic/political elites to create a system of perpetual debt slavery for Europe and other nations. There was something about Public Law 480 which defined international aid in a way that included gouging loans and onerous pay schedules. This whole contraption went too far and collapsed time and again. You should read him firsthand though, he's a great writer to boot.

 

dem: Carl Schimdt really summed up this way of thinking in some of his books (Political Theology), and more recently Fukuyama (who has the added benefit of explaining its contrast to homo economia, our economically rational selves) ... although you should also take what they say with a grain of salt since they are talking with a definite political bias.

 

Pukeyama? History has not ended yet! :)

 

But anyway, I've read lots of articles distinguishing people's "economic" self from their "autobiographical" self (whatever identity features are important in making up who they think they are). I can't answer to this until I've read more into Ross's book, but I want to know myself what the relationship between these two ways of behaving are, whether it's like 2 different selves or something more general going on. I'll let you know what I come up with!

 

Im interested in hearing more about this guy.

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Oops! Make that *Don* Ross ... I didn't have the book in front of me when I wrote the post and just did it by (bad) memory. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/026218246...glance&n=283155

 

Thanks for your suggestions Max.

 

The Ross book starts of distinguishing just what economics is the study of ... utility-optimization in the face of scarcity. I don't think it ever claimed to cover *all* behavioral patterns, but then again it also took pains to say that no particular behavioral patter could be a priori left out of the "machine" either, e.g., religious, artistic, political behavior, etc. So there you go. But I haven't got to the really interesting chapters at the end that talk about the actually links between econ and cogsci, so I'm anxious to know where he's going in that regard. I know right now he's focusing on just what "utility" really amounts to, what it is to "want" something that prompts you to action, and how the maximizing of satisfying that desire lets you choose among options, theoretical stuff like that.

 

The Glumcher book "Neuroeconomics" looks at it in the reverse direction, how evolution actually "designed" neural-areas to be optimizing-machines, so the lessons of economics could actually be used to understanding the wiring, and uses the example of the (LIP) system which directs your eye muscles, that is, visual focus, what you want to look at, how you want to look at it, when, for how long, etc ... and the case is really pounded home that it uses a simple method of relative expected utility to weigh various "look at me!" options and choose among them, at least in part. And then it goes on to suggest that this sort of thing is a general feature in a lot of behavioral decisionmaking and should color how we look at these sorts of brain areas, at least for low level, more "reflex" like behaviors. The higher-level/more reflective decisionmaking you go, maybe the more things get complicated.

 

This has got to be one of the more meandering threads ... anyway, I like it; sort of a grab-bag of what's interesting in the world right now. And it's not like you guys police OT so much in these "undisciplined" forums to stave off the overly-curious masses... :laugh:

What do you see when you turn out the light? I can't tell you but I know that it's mine.

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