Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Human Mind is a Bayes Logic Machine

"Back in 1995, when I was at Carnegie Mellon, a researcher did a project in the planetarium at the Carnegie science museum. He had programmed a "joystick" to receive reflections from a set of reflective paddles held by the people in the audience. Each paddle had two different sides (red and green); depending on which side you held up, a different signal got sent back to the main processor (positive or negative, respectively). The overall "direction" taken by the game was determined by the sum of the responses - so if everyone held up "red", it as a 100 ositive; but if everyone held up "green", it was 100 negative; and so on, with straight linear interpretation.

The first game was Pong. Up and down were controlled directly, if cumulatively, by the audience. You would think that control would be spotty, and that controls would overshoot. Instead, the audience was INCREDIBLY accurate in its overall response; even when the game got very fast, the audience played very, very well against the computer.

There were several games presented, but the last was a flight simulator, flying a plane through a set of rings. The left half of the audience controlled up and down; the right half controlled left and right. Again, you would think this would be nearly impossible to control - but the audience never missed a single ring, even when the game got fast.

Individually, it's doubtful that many members of the audience could have played any of the games as well as we saw the group play cumulatively. It was a clear and very effective demonstration that there was some sort of statistical model at play in the interplay of all those minds."

-text by Bob Gregg, as posted on Slashdot.org

Sort reminds me a lot of how the blog world works, especially in relation to how news is disseminated. I remember reading something the other day about how a search on google for current news topics will net you a lot more results from blogs than from the general media or the New York Times...once the information is out, the blog-wide-web starts spinning this news juggernaut that overwhelms most of the conventional outlets. The blog world doesn't miss a thing I tell you...


Frederic Christie said...

And if we can discover the human mind's statistical mechanisms, psychohistory in the Asimovian sense ain't so far away. After all, while individuals are probably impossible to predict, statistics tell us that any substantial random group with enough controlling for random factors and forces can be predicted. I expect the rules Asimov set down will be true: people can't know about it or else the prediction changes. But let's say that we discover that a current political system will lead to war. Maybe the announcement would lead to a change of the system. Hmm.

Paul Hindt said...

Of course, if you put in enough controls and set boundaries for the environment, humans generally adapt to fit those guidelines like a glove...pretty wild huh? It always seems like people want to (even on an unconcious level) fit their surroundings and report their experience to others in order to feel more comfortable or gain more information.