Teaching a Machine How to Imagine

We can train com­put­ers to learn to rec­og­nize objects by giv­ing them mil­lions of exam­ples with the cor­rect answers. A human baby, on the oth­er hand, learns to rec­og­nize many con­cepts and objects all by them­self sim­ply by inter­act­ing with a few exam­ples in the real world.

Language as a Signature of the Flexible Human Mind

To under­stand human nature, I focus on human lan­guage and what it can reveal about how we think. Unlike oth­er ani­mals, humans can com­mu­ni­cate an infinite num­ber of thoughts through lan­guage. And one rea­son that lan­guage is pow­er­ful is because we can use each of our words flex­i­bly, with sev­er­al dif­fer­ent mean­ings.

Happiness and Money

Much of eco­nom­ics and pub­lic pol­i­cy rests on the assump­tion that increas­ing the wealth of indi­vid­u­als and nations pro­vides a route to increas­ing their well­be­ing. So why does mon­ey fail us?

Molecular Mechanisms of Reward and Aversion

Why do we do the things that we do? Why do we some­times choose to be lov­ing par­ents and oth­er times engage in irra­tional self-destructive behav­iors? What dri­ves us to some­times be altru­is­tic and oth­er times make deci­sions that real­ly threat­en our very sur­vival? Well, the answer lies in our brains. Our brains evolved to ensure that we repeat behav­iors that will lead to our sur­vival.

The Cellular Basis of Neural Computation

Over the past cen­tu­ry, we’ve been to the moon, we’ve split the atom, we’ve sequenced the human genome, but were still only at the very begin­ning of our under­stand­ing of the human brain. This is one of the great chal­lenges that we face. If we can under­stand the brain, we can devel­op bet­ter treat­ments for brain dis­or­ders, we can design bet­ter robots, bet­ter com­put­ers, and ulti­mate­ly we can bet­ter under­stand our­selves.

The Conversation #4 — Colin Camerer

We know very lit­tle about com­plex finan­cial sys­tems and how sys­temic risk, as it’s called, is com­put­ed and how you would man­age poli­cies. And if you look back at the finan­cial cri­sis, you can either say, as many econ­o­mists do, It all had to do with badly-designed rules,” which may be part of the sto­ry; it’s cer­tain­ly part of the sto­ry. Or it may have to do with the inter­ac­tion of those rules and human nature, like mort­gage bro­ker greed, opti­mism… And you see it not just in indi­vid­u­als who now have hous­es and fore­clo­sure, but at the high­est lev­els.

Applying Neuroscientific Findings to Enduring Social Problems

When low­er pri­mates form a hier­ar­chy, those at the bot­tom under­go a change in their dopamine sys­tem. This makes them more like­ly to con­sume drugs in an addic­tive fash­ion. Now, if this turns out to be true of our species, that would mean that human beings are par­tic­u­lar­ly vul­ner­a­ble if they’re in some way dom­i­nat­ed or don’t have any pow­er.

Engineering Thoughts and Memories

In brain decod­ing, we take our mod­el that we’ve devel­oped of the brain (and this can be a mod­el for any­thing, vision or lan­guage) and we reverse it. And instead of going from the stim­u­lus to the brain activ­i­ty, we go from the brain activ­i­ty back to the stim­u­lus.

Exploring (Semantic) Space With (Literal) Robots

I’ve made it my goal as a com­put­er poet not to imi­tate exist­ing poet­ry but to find new ways for poet­ry to exist. So what I’m going to do in this talk is take this metaphor of explor­ing lit­er­a­ture to its log­i­cal con­clu­sion.

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