Home > Uncategorized > Weekly QuEST Discussion Topics and News, 19 Aug

Weekly QuEST Discussion Topics and News, 19 Aug

We want to start this week with an example of ‘reward hacking’ in nature.  While watching a YouTube Ted talk at the link (provided by sean a quest colleague) below from Don Hoffmann


Below are my notes on the video:

What is the relationship between your conscious experience and reality – just like Alladin appearing from the bottle the magic appearance of consciousness is just as mysterious – brain activity are correlated with conscious experience but not know why – we still don’t know – we lack the necessary constructs to explain –

Made false assumption – that assumption is do we see reality as it is? Open eyes and have experience a red tomato a meter away – I believe there is a red tomato a meter away – I close my eyes I think there still is a red tomato a meter away – so logic seems to dictate that our conscious experience is reality BUT

Used to think world was flat – senses seem to imply – we found false – similar thought earth  was center of universe – we were wrong – taste, odors, colors are in the mind of the agents not in  the world –

Neuro sci say a third of cortex used for vision – think vision is a camera – an objective reality – there is part that is like a camera – the eye – 130million photo receptors in the eye – but the billions of neurons and trillions of synapses involved in vision – we construct what we see – we don’t construct the whole world only what we need in the moment – example is visual illusions – we construct a 3 d cube Necker cube – we create motion when flipping colors of dots on a page

Neuro scientist think we reconstruct reality – accurate reconstruction of real red tomato that really exists – why would we reconstruct reality – those that do right better likely to have offspring with more reality … – vision useful because it is so accurate is in common text –

Accurate perceptions are better  – implications –

Now the example that I want to talk about:

This is the Jewell Beetle – it’s purpose in life is to find other Jewell beetles and mate – but then there are human men – their main purpose in life is to drink beer – and throw the bottles into the outback – bottles in outback caused beetles to attempt to mate – had to change bottles – evolution had told beetle that big bumpy glossy things have sex with – the beetle was going extinct– the male couldn’t make this mistake – even moose make the mistake – does natural selection really favor reality as it is – there is reward hacking —- ***** beetle is great example – they were going extinct –

Jewell beetle


Jewell beetle attempting to mate with a beer bottle

The fitness function being used did for millennia accomplish having the beetles reproduce – but then something changed – beer bottles – all autonomous systems look to solve an objective function as efficiently as possible – BUT –

Steak – fitness of animal – for a well fed lion – not the same thing as reality as it is – fitness is the key part of the evolution equation –

Modeling and sim – some see part of reality – who wins – perception of reality goes extinct – organizations that tuned to fitness not reality – perception does NOT favor accurate perception of reality –

How can not seeing the world accurately be better off – we don’t see reality as it is – we are shaped by tricks / hacks / reward hacking that keeps us alive

Metaphor – desktop – of computer – icon of ted talk – is the text file blue rectangular an in corner of screen – the purpose of the interface is not to show reality of the computer – it is there to hide reality – it is to be useful – evolution has given us an interface that hides reality and consciousness is icons on the desktop – train coming down the track – so step in front of it Prof Hoffman – this is the structural coherence tenet

Evolution has shaped us with perceptual signals that keep us alive – they keep us safe – doesn’t mean we should take them literally – metal of train mostly space – physics has taught – know reality of computer – see pixels of computer with magnifying glass – we all see the train – so none of us construct the train – the necker cube see we construct – we all see the cube cause we all construct the cube – all physical objects we construct perception – perception is not a window on reality  – reality is like a 3d desktop that hides complexity of reality – we believe space time and objects are the nature of reality as it is

There is something that exists where we look – but it isn’t what we are perceiving –

We have advantage over the jewell beetle –

Donald Hoffman –

Interacting with reality is not reality – lions perceived is not what a lion is –

Reality whatever it is – brains and neurons – species specific sets of symbols –

Consciousness – perhaps reality is a machine – vast interactive agents

Give up false assumption on perception of reality –

Given this set up let’s return to our investigation of hypnosis – since the ideas being acted upon by the person that is hypnotized are not reality – how does this occur? –

  • seems to me this is the ideal case of hypnosis, you have an agent that you have become almost hyper-aligned with and thus when they introduce context into your representation you take it for granted, no filtering it out regardless of how badly it might fit with your current representation.  still looks to me like this is an explanation for hypnosis impacting the sys2 representation?
  • i would argue that a basic agent with no two system representation CANNOT be hypnotized. Way to demonstrate animals are consciousness!  they cannot experience a disconnect between something they know to be real and something that they think SHOULD be real.

for the purposes of this discussion assume that in the hypnotic state(and that such a state really exists) you are using qualia not unlike sleepwalking, the hypnotist can insert into your dream state suggestions that manipulate your ‘dream’ – so there is still a sys1 set of calculations that go on below the level of the sys2 qualia and the qualia of sys2 are those aspects of the hypnotic state that in that state you use qualia for you are ‘conscious’ of ***


specifically what I am interested in for this discussion is optimizing performance under stress for an agent:


Psychophysiology, 49 (2012), 1417–1425. Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Printed in the USA.

Copyright © 2012 Society for Psychophysiological Research

DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2012.01449.x


The effect of challenge and threat states on performance:

An examination of potential mechanisms



College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK



Challenge and threat states predict future performance; however, no research has examined their immediate effect on motor task performance. The present study examined the effect of challenge and threat states on golf putting performance

and several possible mechanisms. One hundred twenty-seven participants were assigned to a challenge or threat group and performed six putts during which emotions, gaze, putting kinematics, muscle activity, and performance were

recorded. Challenge and threat states were successively manipulated via task instructions. The challenge group performed more accurately, reported more favorable emotions, and displayed more effective gaze, putting kinematics, and

muscle activity than the threat group. Multiple putting kinematic variables mediated the relationship between group and performance, suggesting that challenge and threat states impact performance at a predominately kinematic level.


In my mind I want to tie this to the issues emotional intelligence – and back to our discussion on what is intelligence – and how do qualia contribute to intelligence – and given that position how can we give the skills to our agents to facilitate acceptable responses by improving their emotional intelligence


  • Emotional intelligence (EI) or emotional quotient (EQ) is the capacity of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior
  • I’ve struggled with the ‘label’ part of the definition – I’ve always felt that it is the experience not the word – see our computing with words discussion – the intelligence is a function of the discretization of the experience space not being able to articulate labels – only that you can experience the distinct range

So the question is how do we provide an improvement of the qualia discretization over the stimuli space to improve the intelligence of a human or computer agent – approve the agents ability to acceptably respond to a wider range of stimuli


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