The lesson you never got taught in school: How to learn! | Neurobonkers | Big Think

This is what we’ve been saying for years! Oh, and we’ve got our own experiments to back it up, though we haven’t taken the time to test all the alternative study strategies used in this comparison. If only it were easier to develop targeted, computer-based tests for all needs. The computer could test you until you knew the material. It could present things you need more help learning, and slowly phase out the things you already know, giving you more time to master more material.

That’s what our software does!

The lesson you never got taught in school: How to learn! | Neurobonkers | Big Think.

Comments Off on The lesson you never got taught in school: How to learn! | Neurobonkers | Big Think

Scratching an itch through the scalp to the brain : The New Yorker

This: Scratching an itch through the scalp to the brain : The New Yorker.

Comments Off on Scratching an itch through the scalp to the brain : The New Yorker

Memory is Pain

This idea keeps coming back into my head. It happened again when I read this article on atheist/theist thought processes, especially the bit about how it relates to Cypher from The Matrix.

In the movie, of course Cypher never gets plugged back into the matrix the way he wants. But either way, he no longer has memories of living his renegade life on an outlaw vessel, eating disgusting mush and being miserable all the time. There are actually drugs being used as anesthetics which cause amnesia for the procedure! So if you don’t remember it, did you experience it? You can only infer that it happened. I bet psychologists could implant false memories in you about what had happened. You wouldn’t remember, but you’d come to think of it like something you used to remember. You would believe that things happened, even though they didn’t really happen.

Or did they? Maybe if you believe something with all your heart and with all your soul, then it has to be true! This seems to be the feeling of the deeply religious people I’ve talked to, when they talk about their belief in God. They just know their beliefs are true, because they can feel it as a warm feeling in their hearts.

Then again, some of us believe in something called objective truth. We’re called “scientists” and we explore the world in order to find out what these truths are. Some of us try to find out objective truths about the way our minds work. We’re called “cognitive scientists” and we study cognition, perception, learning, memory, language; basically: intelligence.

Not only do we study it, but we also make computer models to try to make our theories of mental functioning concrete. Then we test those theories, and if we believe that they’re true then we make up elaborate scenarios in order to show them to be true, rather than shining the light of truth on them and jettisoning them if they don’t cast a shadow. But that’s where other cognitive scientists come in: they see our theories as competition to the theories which they fervently believe are true, and will point out the many shortcomings of those competing theories. The way we get around this negative attention is to make our computer programs as unavailable or incomprehensible or unusable as possible, so that other researchers aren’t able to level such criticisms against us without our being able to reply “well, you must not have done it right!”

So much for Objective Truth, huh? When I think about it this way, I can no longer proudly claim that I am a Brain Scientist. I now have to admit that I am a Brain Hacker. I have a hack that seems to work very well in inducing learning, and I’m trying to promote and augment that hack. I’d like to be a scientist one day, though…

Comments Off on Memory is Pain

Blogging for no good reason

Anyone reading this blog will notice that I haven’t been sick much lately, so I haven’t been posting anything. Today I’m taking the time to remind my future self what I was thinking about and doing way back in June.

Sangeeta is getting ready to take Saranya to Nepal for a month. She’s got a week left to get everything ready, her car is in the shop with a major intermittent coolant leak that they can’t seem to find, and she just got addicted to Korean soap operas so she spends all day sitting in front of the computer watching them and reading the subtitles.

World of Warcraft is holding less and less of my attention. I still log on every day to do my jewelcrafting daily quest, and sometimes I take a break and do some Argent Tournament stuff. Oh, and I have calendar reminders to check and renew my Mysterious Eggs on 5 different characters. I can do all this while only actually paying attention to the game for as little as 30 minutes per day. The rest of my time I’m either programming, reading about programming, reading literature on human memory models, or studying math/statistics.

I’m the only employee of Insight Learning Technology, Inc. who’s not on vacation. I’m using the time to take cars back and forth for repairs, and to rework, refactor, and modernize all my PLM server code. I had to fake object orientation before, but PHP5 lets me write code the way I’m used to thinking about it. We’ve got at least two big projects coming up this summer, so I’m scrambling to get some of this background work done and tested before I have to focus on deliverables. The hope is that all this will make later projects easier.

I’ve been studying Psychological journals to see what other people have been doing in the field. Phil Pavlik and John Anderson have a nice model that predicts forgetting and recall time, and I think I’d like to adopt a similar model. Our system has a couple of arbitrary parameters, and I need to figure out a system for making them less arbitrary.

Whenever we create a new module for adaptive training, we have to decide what sort of performance reflects sufficient learning that the learner will be able to correctly answer the item (or an item from the same category) after a delay. We also have to determine the parameters that tell us approximately how long to wait after an item is presented before we show it again. Right now, these parameters are arbitrary and independent, but I think we need to come up with a system for not only generating these parameters automatically, but for relating them theoretically. That’s a path we’ve been loathe to tread, but access to funding for research in the field lies down that road, and we need to show our feet thereupon before the monetary gates will be opened to us.

Then there’s math and statistics. I’ve been looking at performance data from an earlier experiment, and trying to find a pattern of accuracy following particular patterns of problem presentation. I guess I need to learn some data mining and regression techniques to figure out the relationships. My lack of statistics background is holding me back, so I think I’m going to try to sit in on some classes next year.

If I still have a job…

Comments Off on Blogging for no good reason

Slice & Clone – experiment deployed

Today another experimental module was deemed “good enough for subjects”. This time we’re teaching the idea of common denominators through the task of dividing up one bar into equal sized parts, then cloning one of the parts a number of times to achieve a desired length. I’m proud of this experiment even though the only part I had in making it was the server, database, and framework for showing the problems and collecting data. Problems were designed by Zipora Roth, and problem presentation was done by Warren Longmire. Credit where credit is due. It’s come together into something quite nice.

Comments Off on Slice & Clone – experiment deployed


Excerpted and adapted from last week’s e-mail correspondence:

The problem of long term happiness has been an obsession of mine for years. The self-help gurus all say that happiness is not something that happens to you, but rather something that happens in you. In other words, being happy isn’t dependent on anything outside yourself. I have a hard time believing this though. It seems tantamount to denying the reality of the world around us.

Phil once pondered out loud what it would be like if we went through all our typical behaviors but with the sole exception that we weren’t conscious at all. I told him it reminded me of Monday. ;)

conscious – Saturday
unconscious – Sunday
subconscious – Monday

The whole “reality is in the mind of the observer” idea implies that the world ceases to exist when you sleep, and is recreated when you awake. The other theory I like is that all creation gets its size from invisible “size rays” which emanate from your toes and fingers, and this is why things which are farther away from you look smaller. It’s another wacky slant on the philosophy of solipsism, in which nothing is real except you. Logically unassailable but somehow unrewarding.

So yes, I do believe in an external reality. I don’t think I’m imaginative enough to have come up with the whole world all by myself.

Comments Off on consciousness

slow recovery

I’m still trying to get back into the swing of things. It’s been difficult.

Yesterday I had to get up early and go downtown for a project update meeting. So much pain for such little benefit. It destroyed my concentration for the rest of the day. I kept flitting from one thing to another every 2 minutes. I couldn’t even watch TV!

I’ve been reading up on relativity, quantum mechanics, and consciousness. I’m convinced that these all tie together nicely somehow but I haven’t been able to understand the mechanics of it just yet. One problem is that I don’t know how to describe consciousness in terms of physics. There’s something there though, probably in the temporal perception bit, that I believe will turn out to be central to a deep understanding of the nature of consciousness. I’ll keep thinking about it.

Comments Off on slow recovery


After finally getting a good night’s sleep the other night, I’ve fallen into a strange and unpredictable pattern of sleep and wake. I was up all last night and went to sleep yesterday afternoon around 3pm. I woke at 7pm and have been up ever since.

This unpredictability seems to be central to life. It’s the same thing as randomness. I’ve always wondered if there’s really such a thing as randomness, or if unpredictability is just a consequence of a nonrandom process that no one can know. I’ve also realized that without the passage of time, randomness and probability are meaningless. Intelligence becomes unnecessary. Life becomes impossible. Time is the great mystery. We take it for granted because it is so central to our existence. We seem ill equipped to even imagine its lack. And yet I sit, awake, trying to think unthinkable thoughts.

Comments Off on acyclic

overriding concern

My hands are still sore. And here I am typing away… I’m going to try to take it easy on the fingers today and tomorrow, and spend my mental energy on the same stuff but using a pen and paper as my working memory extension system. I can’t keep it all in my head at the same time.

Gonna see Sin City later today. Heard it’s pretty good.

1 Comment