Making Great Decisions When it Counts

Some friends and I watched the above talk together by Dan Gilbert on the various ways humans made logical errors in decision making.  If you are a behavioral economist or are into psychology literature, you are probably all too familiar with the experiments on this subject, but it’s worth watching anyway.

There was some criticism of the talk in that it does ignore the fact that given limited resources in making decisions, the heuristics that we humans use (i.e. the rules of thumb, like price being a good indicator of quality) serve us very well most of the time.  It’s only under specific circumstances that these heuristics lead to logical errors and bad decisions.  Thus, the talk left some people thinking that the point Gilbert was making is that we’re all pretty bad decision makers and we should learn to transcend these error-prone heuristics.  The critics further suggested that no, we’re not bad decision makers, we are in fact really good 95% of the time, …

Embodied Cognition

Until recently, Artificial Intelligence research has been grounded on a theory of cognition that is based on symbolic reasoning.  That is, somewhere in our heads the concepts are represented symbolically and reasoned about via deduction and induction.

At long last, AI researchers are truly learning from human cognition (oh the irony!)  Introducing Leo, the robot that learns to model and reason about the world like human babies do, via embodied experience and social interactions:

Two Paths to Empathy

By all accounts, the ability to empathize with others is the hallmark of social behavior.  Indeed, when we come across those rare individuals whom we view as anti-social, or those even more rare individuals that we label as sociopaths, the diminished or missing feature of their personality is empathy.

There are two paths to empathetic behavior, one innate, and one constructed.  …

Notes from TED

Here are some notes that I took at TED 2008.  I have a bunch more on each of the speakers individually which I may post as time permits.  Let me know if you want me to expand any of the notes below into a full post.

The Fundamental Theorem of Email

I can count on one hand the number of times my inbox has been empty in my life. If you are like me, your email inbox is the center of your organizational universe. It’s the main “to do” list, and when the emails start piling up unread or unprocessed, it creates anxiety. A whole industry has cropped up to address such angst by teaching people practical tactics for becoming more efficient with their time. While this is good and all, it doesn’t seem to address the Fundamental Theorem of Email: the rate you receive new email is directly proportional to the speed with which you reply. Some corollaries:…

Try This Experiment

For one full day, whenever you are in physical proximity to another person, be they friend or stranger, look them in the eyes, hold their gaze and smile.…