All items about cognition


Computers make better decisions than humans because they aren’t weighed down by biases, ego, and the need to rationalize decisions after the fact. An economically rational player would make more money on Deal Or No Deal than a stupid human. We can’t help it: it’s the way we evolved. Everything from shopping, to teamwork, to the way we elect our leaders is tainted with the stupidity of how we make decisions.

Just as external storage can become a form of prosthetic memory, so computers can become prosthetic decision-makers. If we were to make them understand the dilemmas before us, computer assistants could advise us on the economically rational thing to do.

Would we be able to deal with being told we’re wrong so much of the time?

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Mapping the human brain

GigaOm has a great piece on IBM’s efforts to map the brain. It’s a long way from downloading ourselves into a computer, but this interview shows just how far we’ve come — and how much more there is to do.

Go visit GigaOm for Stacey’s take on the discussion. Mapping the brain has tremendous potential for both good and bad. We can tackle diseases and cure trauma; but we can also understand when someone is lying, or manipulate them below their conscious defenses. IBM’s efforts center around simulating the way brains work within computer systems, and mapping real brains is key to that effort.

(Hat tip to Duncan Hill for the pointer)


You are what you click

We all love our devices — a properly configured laptop, a familiar game controller, or a mouse that fits just so, are extensions of ourselves.

As it turns out, that may be more than mere metaphor.

A recent piece in Wired studied the way our brains work with computer mice–and what happens when those mice don’t work properly. When the mouse was responsive, our brains treated it as an extension of ourselves; when it malfunctioned, we became consciously aware of it and treated as an external “thing.”

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