Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Kurzweil interview

Ray Kurzweil interviewed on his new book, The Singularity Is Near. Good points on neuroscience, artificial intelligence, nanotech and the like. But man, I thought Age of Spiritual Machines was a bit wacky... Complete model of the human brain by 2030? Please. (Though the observation that brain scan resolutions are doubling yearly is interesting.)

I like the discussion about the relationship of power and intelligence of orgnizations. Thinking about Kurzweil's bizarre-sounding scenarios is good because in his world, humans and organizations start becoming the same thing... which leads to insights on the intelligence of normal organizations today.

Friday, September 02, 2005

cognitive modelling is rational choice++

Rational choice has been a huge imperialistic success, growing in popularity and being applied to more and more fields. Why is this? It's not because the rational choice model of decision-making is particularly realistic. Rather, it's because rational choice is a completely specified theory of human behavior, and therefore is great at generating hypotheses. Given any situation involving people, rational choice can be used to generate a hypothesis about what to expect. That is, you just ask, "What would a person do to maximize their own benefit?"

Similar things have been said about evolutionary psychology: you can always predict behavior by asking "what would hunter-gatherers do?" Now, certainly both rational choice and evolutionary psychology don't always generate correct hypotheses, but they're incredibly useful because they at least give you a starting point.

Witness the theory of bounded rationality: just like rational choice, except amended to consider computational limits of humans and organizations. This is just as imperialistic as rational choice, because it's a fully specified theory of human behavior.

Rational choice and bounded rationality are both cognitive and behavioral models. Rational choice posits a particularly odd cognitive model, but it's still cognitive, or at least lays out a well-defined set of requirements on a rational agent's cognition. The next obvious step is to make more sophisticated and realistic cognitive models that take into account heuristics people use and display biases we observe. Cognitive modelling for social science is the logical extension of the rational choice research program.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Submit your poker data!

Upload your poker hand histories to, economist Stephen Levitt's fringe-of-economics project to study what are effective strategies in poker. This absolultely makes sense to me as an economics research project, only because I'm used to thinking of economics from the view of multi-agent systems and game theory... This is definitely all about game theory, maybe not economics. Game theory reaches beyond the bounds of the study of goods and services...

blog entry on it