The Fox in the Machine

Philip Tetlock, the author of “Superforecasting” and a leading researcher in the psychological theory behind human predictions, classified forecasters into two types – hedgehogs and foxes. The archetypical description is as follows:

  • Hedgehogs – people with a specific and highly detailed world view on a topic, with a single source through which to explain everything. They are experts in that field and their theory can be used to give an explanation to any phenomenon.
  • Foxes – people who maintain many models of the world, and a lot of data even if it contradicts their working model. They answer questions about the world by combining all of their data and models, weighted by probabilities.
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We see that machine learning today can be thought of as a foxy way of obtaining solutions, as opposed to many examples in AI history which had tried a more hedgehog-like approach. This makes a lot of sense, as ML is mainly successful and is measured in it’s ability to make statistical prediction, where (as is true in humans) foxes do a much better job.

However, we do see a benefit in maintaining expert hedgehogs in our society. This may be because of the way humans think, which is verbally and consequentially, and thus a simple (confabulated) explanation for why some phenomenon should occur can help humans solve more problems as it adds to their arsenal of ideas.

So it may be the case that in order to achieve more human like intelligence in machines we should build confabulatory systems with a hedgehog mind.

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Marketing Failure

The amount of money spent worldwide on advertisements is astronomical, reaching about 550 billion dollars annually and is expected to continue growing rapidly. In 2016, the top 20 companies with the biggest annual advertising budget spend between 2.7 to 8.3 billion dollars annually.

Is this a result of a race-to-the-bottom-type market failure? If so, can we solve it?

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Solving the Cyber-Security Bubble

There seems to be a big bubble in cyber security. Many awful products in the market, and many bad startups easily raising funds. I believe this problem needs to be addressed, either by governmental regulations or by independent companies. In this brief post I lay out the problem and what has been done so far to mitigate this effect.
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Imaginary neuroscience

Having some trouble sleeping lately, I have tried to understand the limits of my visual imagination. I have found it very difficult to imagine clearly moving objects without also imagining my body moves, but after some practice I could do it better.

One very interesting experiment I did, was to try and sense the difference between the two hemispheres. As you may know, each eye transports information into each of the two hemispheres, such that the right side of the field of vision is processed in the left hemisphere, and vice versa. My experiment was simple: Fix the gaze at one spot, and imagine a vertical line in the right side, moving slowly to the left. The amazing thing that I discovered was a strange feeling when the line passes through the middle. The best description to this feeling is that it feels like changing the hand holding a stick from the right to the left. I have also replicated the study with one other subject, with the same result, so it must be true!1

The cool hypothesis is that the imagination action changes hemisphere, and what I feel is the result of the information traveling through the corpus callusom, which is the pathway between the two hemispheres. The less sexy option is that it is also very possible that the muscles in my eyes are still moving a tiny bit, which feels differently when it passes through the middle, and I interpret the feeling as the movement of the stick from one hand to the other because I have actively tried to feel some difference between the hemispheres…


1. The subject was aware of previous experiments, so the results are biased 🙂

Effective Global Scientific Research

Scientific advancements are one of the greatest drivers for improving the quality of life of everyone on the globe. In this post I’ll present an overview of an idea, which is basically aimed at improving the allocation of resources on scientific research such that it will correspond better to what is important for society.

We’ll start by a bit of background, and then go to the actual idea. The idea is simply to construct a graph of the important objectives in science, and how each problem relates to other problems.

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