Tuesday, October 07, 2008

minsky 7: thinking

Overview of Chapter 7 of The Emotion Machine (summary, online draft, buy)

Our ability to think in different ways (new Ways to Think) distinguishes us from other animals. However, we rarely ask good questions about what thinking is or what chooses which subjects we think about. Thinking often just happens smoothly.

How do we explain things such as long term plans, reminding ourselves of things to do, choosing among conflicting goals and whether to quit or persist?

The Critic-Selector Model of Mind

Minsky discusses various possibilities about how to resolve conflicts when more than one Critic-Selector is aroused and compete for resources.

Central Problems for Human Psychology

Small group in depth studies (eg. Piaget) are more valuable than large group statistical studies to the development of psychology. In large group studies small but vital details are overlooked.

The research that Minsky thinks needs to be done:
  • What are the principal Problem Types that our mental Critics recognise?
  • What are the major Ways to Think that or mental Selectors engage?
  • How are our brains organised to manage all those processes?
What are Some Useful Ways to Think?

Knowing How
Searching Extensively

Reasoning by Analogy
Dividing and Conquering

First solve a different problem ->
Changing the subject

Reflective ->
Wishful thinking
Self reflection

Others ->
Logical contradiction
Logical reasoning
External representation

Social ->
Cry for help
Ask for help

Last resort ->

What Are Some Useful Types of Critics?

These mirror the Levels of Mental Activities, from Chapter 5

Innate Reactions and Built-in Alarms - some alarms are hard to ignore, eg. a babies cry
Learned Reactive Critics - eg. moving to a quieter environment
Deliberative Critics - thinking about what went wrong
Reflective Critics - diagnosticians which verify progress or suggest alternatives
Self-Reflective Critics - various forms of self criticism
Self-Conscious Critics - these affect one's image of oneself, eg. I'm losing track of what I am doing (Confusion)

How Do We Learn New Selectors and Critics?

We can improve our Ways to Think by creating higher level Selectors and Critics that help to reduce the size of the searches we make. Most "theories of learning" do not address this

Poincare's Unconscious Processes

Minsky includes several great quotes from mathematician Henri Poincare (1913) about his unconscious learning process. These stages are described:
  • Preparation -
  • Incubation -
  • Revelation -
  • Evaluation -
Incubation and Revelation occur without our being aware of them. We don't really understand how they work.

How do we organise and change our collection of Critics and Ways to Think? We don't know. These issues should be recognised as central to the development of psychology.

Do We Normally Think "Bipolarly"?

Common sense thinking may consist of a brief "micro-manic" phase producing a few ideas, followed by a brief "micro-depressive" phase looking for flaws - all taking place so quickly the reflective systems don't notice it

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