Neuroeconomics

I got my sleep yesterday. A little over 8 hours. Though I woke up hesitantly this morning… It felt different from the other mornings. There was no painful sensation that followed my waking. There was only the sensation of wanting more of a good thing. And today, admittedly, I’ve been depressed as hell. But! I don’t have that sort of time to waste… I can’t just “not do anything” because I’m down. I hardly felt like going to go pick up boxes for my move… a necessary errand. I forced myself to do so though… and still the depression persisted.

But reading. Reading helps me. When I read something enlightening or shocking or scientific or thought-provoking I remember the world is worth consuming. I cannot cease all action just because I am depressed. There is so much to consume that my hunger and thirst for life must continue. Otherwise, I am little more than a speck of dust upon the universe. I rather be a little speck of dust in the universe with a purpose.

And so! Nothing like a new MOOC on Coursera to get my engine revving again. The course is an Introduction to Neuroeconomics: the neuroscience of decision-making. The course combines economics, psychology, and neuroscience. It seems like a bit of a heavy subject… trying to combine three disciplines into one unified theory of “how humans work” that’s for sure…

neuro-econ

Anyway… off to watch some video lectures. The course just started yesterday so it’s still the first week… so plenty of time to get comfortable with the videos and the subject material.

Interestingly… I am further and further pulled into health-related topics. I feel like a career change is in my near future. Once things stabilize and settle down… I need to further my education in a serious way or start searching for something that will fulfill me more than my current position. #truefacts

And just for fun, an argument against neuroscience by a psychologist that is quickly becoming one of my faves, Paul Bloom: The War on Reason on The Atlantic. Very quickly into the article Paul Bloom goes on to critique another favorite of mine, Sam Harris. No two people could have very different mindsets and for that I can appreciate them both. It’s easy to see their different stances in multiple fields of study.

Though Sam Harris is predominantly a neuroscientist (the more impressive title of his) I by and large consider him a philosopher. Paul Bloom, on the other hand, has more fingers in the field of psychology – and is a published professor. I’ve yet to read Paul Bloom’s latest work but I own it, it’s on my Kindle app… and I have yet to purchase any Sam Harris. The reading list is exhaustive… but I am making a commitment to get to them… eventually.

Also I’d like to note I have read 400 pages of The Night Circus… with just a little over 100 pages left to go… and I have promptly lost the fucking book in the middle of fuckwhoknowswhere. I’m rather upset… the last I saw the book was Thursday with certainty… and Friday uncertainly but almost surely. GRRRRRRRRRRRR FACE. My book has fucking abandoned me.

Image Credits: Coursera

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Waking Coma

“…a third of those who play with a Predictor must be hospitalized because they won’t feed themselves. The end state is akinetic mutism, a kind of waking coma. They’ll track motion with their eyes, and change position occasionally, but nothing more. The ability to move remains, but the motivation is gone.”

A short story regarding Free Will.

“What’s Expected of Us” by Ted Chiang

It’s a tough choice…

This is a warning. Please read carefully.

By now you’ve probably seen a Predictor; millions of them have been sold by the time you’re reading this. For those who haven’t seen one, it’s a small device, like a remote for opening your car door. Its only features are a button and a big green LED. The light flashes if you press the button. Specifically, the light flashes one second before you press the button.

Most people say that when they first try it, it feels like they’re playing a strange game, one where the goal is to press the button after seeing the flash, and it’s easy to play. But when you try to break the rules, you find that you can’t. If you try to press the button without having seen a flash, the flash immediately appears, and no matter how fast you move, you never push the button until a second has elapsed. If you wait for the flash, intending to keep from pressing the button afterwards, the flash never appears. No matter what you do, the light always precedes the button press. There’s no way to fool a Predictor.

The heart of each Predictor is a circuit with a negative time delay — it sends a signal back in time. The full implications of the technology will become apparent later, when negative delays of greater than a second are achieved, but that’s not what this warning is about. The immediate problem is that Predictors demonstrate that there’s no such thing as free will.

There have always been arguments showing that free will is an illusion, some based on hard physics, others based on pure logic. Most people agree these arguments are irrefutable, but no one ever really accepts the conclusion. The experience of having free will is too powerful for an argument to overrule. What it takes is a demonstration, and that’s what a Predictor provides.

Typically, a person plays with a Predictor compulsively for several days, showing it to friends, trying various schemes to outwit the device. The person may appear to lose interest in it, but no one can forget what it means — over the following weeks, the implications of an immutable future sink in. Some people, realizing that their choices don’t matter, refuse to make any choices at all. Like a legion of Bartleby the Scriveners, they no longer engage in spontaneous action. Eventually, a third of those who play with a Predictor must be hospitalized because they won’t feed themselves. The end state is akinetic mutism, a kind of waking coma. They’ll track motion with their eyes, and change position occasionally, but nothing more. The ability to move remains, but the motivation is gone.

Before people started playing with Predictors, akinetic mutism was very rare, a result of damage to the anterior cingulate region of the brain. Now it spreads like a cognitive plague. People used to speculate about a thought that destroys the thinker, some unspeakable lovecraftian horror, or a Gödel sentence that crashes the human logical system. It turns out that the disabling thought is one that we’ve all encountered: the idea that free will doesn’t exist. It just wasn’t harmful until you believed it.

Doctors try arguing with the patients while they still respond to conversation. We had all been living happy, active lives before, they reason, and we hadn’t had free will then either. Why should anything change? “No action you took last month was any more freely chosen than one you take today,” a doctor might say. “You can still behave that way now.” The patients invariably respond, “But now I know.” And some of them never say anything again.

Some will argue that the fact the Predictor causes this change in behaviour means that we do have free will. An automaton cannot become discouraged, only a free-thinking entity can. The fact that some individuals descend into akinetic mutism whereas others do not just highlights the importance of making a choice.

Unfortunately, such reasoning is faulty: every form of behaviour is compatible with determinism. One dynamic system might fall into a basin of attraction and wind up at a fixed point, whereas another exhibits chaotic behaviour indefinitely, but both are completely deterministic.

I’m transmitting this warning to you from just over a year in your future: it’s the first lengthy message received when circuits with negative delays in the megasecond range are used to build communication devices. Other messages will follow, addressing other issues. My message to you is this: pretend that you have free will. It’s essential that you behave as if your decisions matter, even though you know that they don’t. The reality isn’t important: what’s important is your belief, and believing the lie is the only way to avoid a waking coma. Civilization now depends on self-deception. Perhaps it always has.

And yet I know that, because free will is an illusion, it’s all predetermined who will descend into akinetic mutism and who won’t. There’s nothing anyone can do about it — you can’t choose the effect the Predictor has on you. Some of you will succumb and some of you won’t, and my sending this warning won’t alter those proportions. So why did I do it?

Because I had no choice.

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Meeting Needs.

So far I’ve only had this sort of mental list of all these needs I’m going to want the condo to fulfill. It’s getting hard to remember them all.

  • Herbs for cooking
  • Coffee corner
  • Bar cart
  • Reading nook
  • Patio’s purpose?
    Outdoor table? Reading seats? Grill? Plants galore/garden?
  • Office space
  • Transparent things
  • Gold things
  • French looking things
  • More paintings
  • So much greenery/plants

It’s been a very long time since an entire space was mine. And it will be a long time yet until that is the case anyway. I’m mildly depressed about this move into the condo. And I haven’t really expressed as much to very many people because doing so would seem ungrateful. But truly, I am extremely depressed about this move.

Up until today I hadn’t even looked up decor inspiration because I’m just not really feeling it. Or feeling most anything these days for that matter.

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The Portrait Of.

From Penny Dreadful, “What Death Can Join Together.” Season 1, Episode 6.

VANESSA: Are they not unnerving? Always looking at you.
DORIAN: I like to be looked at.
VANESSA: Not I.
DORIAN: Yet you wear that dress.
VANESSA: That was for your eyes.
(SOFTLY) All portraits.
DORIAN: I’m sorry?
VANESSA: They’re all portraits. You have no landscapes or still lives.
DORIAN: Are not people the most mysterious things?
VANESSA: I wish they were more so sometimes. The glance that gives away the game. The change in body posture.
DORIAN: And what do I give away?
VANESSA: Nothing.
DORIAN: What sort of music would you like?
VANESSA: Meaning who do I want to be at this moment. Dorian Gray, who do you want to be?
DORIAN: Myself, without limits.
VANESSA: Then put on music for dancing!
(DOOR CLOSES)
(PLACING NEEDLE)

DORIAN: You have exceptional composure.
VANESSA: Do I? Poise, I mean.
DORIAN: Control.
VANESSA: Yes.
DORIAN: What if you were to abandon it?
VANESSA: I couldn’t.
DORIAN: Why?
VANESSA: There are things within us all that can never be unleashed.
DORIAN: And what would happen if they were?
VANESSA: They would consume us. We would cease to be and another would exist in our place, without control.
DORIAN: Without limits.

DORIAN: May I kiss your neck?
VANESSA: Don’t ask permission. If you want to do a thing, do it because it is your desire, not my allowance.You must risk rejection.

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