Mind as an Economy of Idiots LO5523

Judith Weiss (jsweiss@mail.utexas.edu)
Sun, 11 Feb 1996 18:05:29 -0600

Host's Note: Sorry, I had to shorten the subject line. Judith's was much

Toward a Model of Mind as a Laissez-Faire Economy of Idiots

Hi, learning-org folks!

Here is something else I pulled off the Net that might interest you. I
highly recommend Phil Agre's RRE News Service mailing list, by the way, to
anyone who is interested in the evolving social character of the Internet.

Surfacing briefly before being swamped again by another wave of schoolwork,

Judith Weiss
>Date: Wed, 7 Feb 1996 19:22:44 -0800 (PST)
>From: Phil Agre <pagre@weber.ucsd.edu>
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>(Presented by the Salk-Sloan Center for Theoretical Neurobiology)
>"Toward a Model of Mind as a Laissez-Faire Economy of Idiots"
>Friday, February 9, 1996
>The Salk Institute
>Host: Dr. Terrence Sejnowski
>A learning machine called ``The Hayek Machine" is proposed and tested
>on a simulated Blocks World planning problem. Hayek learns a set of
>agents from reinforcement. The agents interact in a market economy. A
>price mechanism is proposed and seen to have four desirable effects.
>First, the market price learns to estimate Hayek's future reward from
>using a given agent. Second, the market automatically selects the
>agent with highest estimate to act next. Third, new agents can enter
>the market if and only if they have greater expected utility than
>direct competitors. Fourth, by utilizing condition-action agents, and
>keeping exactly those agents which are profitable, Hayek dynamically
>addresses the critical ``curse of dimensionality". Hayek learns by
>gradual accretion of useful agents and elimination of poor ones,and by
>refinement of its price estimates. Many agents act in consort to
>solve problems.
>Our Blocks World (BW) problems, which involve discovering the abstract
>goal of copying a stack, and necessitate solving Towers of Hanoi-like
>problems, are far more complex than any BW problems previously
>addressed by a learning algorithm. Starting from tabula rasa, and with
>reinforcement only upon completion of an instance, Hayek learns to
>solve eight block problems. These are larger than can be solved by a
>simple handcrafted program utilizing the same impoverished
>representation, and of comparable complexity to those solvable by
>state of the art general purpose planners, which utilize human
>generated and learned heuristics. Given intermediate reinforcement or
>the simple features: ``top of stack", Hayek does much better. Given
>both, Hayek produces a program which solves arbitrary instances, and
>is efficient on almost all instances.
>My goals in studying Hayek are threefold. First, Hayek represents
>progress toward a useful program for learning to reason. Second, it is
>intended as a model of mind. It shows how human-like mental
>capabilities can be autonomously and usefully broken into simple
>components nowhere invoking a homunculus. Third, it is a model of
>economics. Utilizing very limited agents and starting far from
>equilibrium, Hayek achieves a productive and stable economy. It thus
>gives insight as to why and how far mathematical economic predictions
>based on assumptions of computationally powerful and rational agents,
>and on convergence to equilibrium, can be expected to hold in the real
>A full paper can be found at my web site:
>Eric Baum
>NEC Research Institute
>4 Independence Way
>Princeton NJ 08540

Posted to Learning-org by:
Judith Weiss  *  jsweiss@mail.utexas.edu

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