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If a belief turns deadbeat, evict it.

This might be challenging because our beliefs tend to shape the world we live in thus masking their error. Does anyone have any practical tips for discovering erroneous beliefs?

Thanks for the clarification. You're right that artificial intelligence and neuroscience are two different fields.

I'm just wondering whether it's true that the Markov property holds for minds. I'm thinking that a snapshot of the world is not enough, but you also need to know something about the rate at which the world is changing. Presumably this information would require the knowledge of states further back.

Also, isn't there an innate element of randomness when it comes to decision making and how our minds work. Neurons are so small that presumably there are some sort of quantum effects, and wouldn't this mean again that information from one step previous wasn't enough.

I don't know, but just some thoughts.

What is the tradeoff between average utility and total utility? Presumably a world with only ten people who all have tremendous utility would be just as repugnant as Parfit's world.

I think he's saying that the brain is not just the genome. What you see as an adult brain also represents a host of environmental factors. Since these environmental factors are complex, so then is the brain.

Yes you could probably use some machine learning algorithm to build a brain with the input of a video feed. But this says relatively little about how the brain actually develops in nature.

You make a good point that the genome does not completely determine how the brain is set up. Environment is hugely influential in how things develop. I recently read that things the expression of our genes can be influence by things called transcription factors, as well as process called slicing and transposition. Each of these things is effected by the environment. For example, if your a small rat pup and your Mom licks you then this will trigger a cascade of hormones that will end up changing your DNA and your amygdala so that you release less stress hormone as an adult. Indeed, when you pass on your genes you will also produce kids that are less prone to stress.

Since environment is so important in development this exponentially increases the complexity of the brain. You don't only need to know the genome, but you also need to know all the relevant environmental factors from the moment of conception. There simply is no blueprint for the brain and any attempt to decode the genome is erroneous.

I'm not sure if I completely get this post. Are you saying that the amount of time when you cannot work is chaotic or not? If I get it correctly, you're saying that when you feel like you cannot work you can often look at various things that are going on (such as when you last had a meal, what time it is, whether you recently exercised etc...) and then use these factors to add an element of predictability into your down time. Is this right?

That's cool that your studying a combination of Psychology and Engineering. I'm doing something similar and it seems to be very rare to find someone who is working in both of those fields. I'm sure that in the UK people would be even less understanding of this. It seems like over there you just choose one subject and that's all you do for the next three years. Keep on looking at those library books. I think the most important thing as an undergrad is to follow your interests even if this means dialling back on the effort you put into class work.


My name is John Paton. I'm an Operations Research and Psychology major at Cornell University. I'm very interested in learning about how to improve the quality of my thinking.

Honestly, I think that a lot of my thoughts about how the world works are muddled at the moment. Perhaps this is normal and will never go away, but I want to at least try and decrease it.

At first glance, this community looks awesome! The thinking seems very high quality, and I certainly want to contribute to the discussion here.

I also write at my own blog,

See you in the discussion!


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