Wednesday Round Up #52

Heat Listed

McDaniel was both a potential victim and a potential perpetrator, and the visitors on his porch treated him as such. A social worker told him that he could help him if he was interested in finding assistance to secure a job, for example, or mental health services. And police were there, too, with a warning: from here on out, the Chicago Police Department would be watching him. The algorithm indicated Robert McDaniel was more likely than 99.9 percent of Chicago’s population to either be shot or to have a shooting connected to him. That made him dangerous, and top brass at the Chicago PD knew it. So McDaniel had better be on his best behavior.

The idea that a series of calculations could predict that he would soon shoot someone, or be shot, seemed outlandish. At the time, McDaniel didn’t know how to take the news.

But the visit set a series of gears in motion. This Kafka-esque policing nightmare — a circumstance in which police identified a man to be surveilled based on a purely theoretical danger — would seem to cause the thing it predicted, in a deranged feat of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Ozzy Man Reviews: Elephant Seal Love Triangle

Here’s me commentary on a romantic entanglement involving Elephant Seals.

The computational cost of active information sampling before decision-making under uncertainty

Humans often seek information to minimize the pervasive effect of uncertainty on decisions. Current theories explain how much knowledge people should gather before a decision, based on the cost–benefit structure of the problem at hand. Here, we demonstrate that this framework omits a crucial agent-related factor: the cognitive effort expended while collecting information. Using an active sampling model, we unveil a speed–efficiency trade-off whereby more informative samples take longer to find. Crucially, under sufficient time pressure, humans can break this trade-off, sampling both faster and more efficiently.

Computational modelling demonstrates the existence of a cost of cognitive effort which, when incorporated into theoretical models, provides a better account of people’s behaviour and also relates to self-reported fatigue accumulated during active sampling. Thus, the way people seek knowledge to guide their decisions is shaped not only by task-related costs and benefits, but also crucially by the quantifiable computational costs incurred.

Professor John Krakauer On The Science Of Learning And Gamifying Neurological Repair And Rehab

Dr. Krakauer is currently John C. Malone Professor of Neurology, Neuroscience, and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Director of the Brain, Learning, Animation, and Movement Lab (www.BLAM-lab.org) at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His areas of research interest are:

(1) Experimental and computational studies of motor control and motor learning in humans

(2) Tracking long-term motor skill learning and its relation to higher cognitive processes such as decision-making.

(3) Prediction of motor recovery after stroke

(4) Mechanisms of spontaneous motor recovery after stroke in humans and in mouse models

(5) New neuro-rehabilitation approaches for patients in the first 3 months after stroke.

Dr. Krakauer is also co-founder of the video gaming company Max and Haley, and of the creative engineering Hopkins-based project named KATA. KATA and M&H are both predicated on the idea that animal movement based on real physics is highly pleasurable and that this pleasure is hugely heightened when the animal movement is under the control of our own movements. A simulated dolphin and other cetaceans developed by KATA has led to a therapeutic game, interfaced with an FDA-approved 3D exoskeletal robot, which is being used in an ongoing multi-site rehabilitation trial for early stroke recovery. Dr. Krakauer’s book, “Broken Movement: The Neurobiology of Motor Recovery after Stroke” has been published by the MIT Press.

How the ‘Culture War’ Could Break Democracy

In this tangle between very powerful institutions and very powerful cultural logics, there are serious problems that are deeply rooted. The great democratic revolutions of Western Europe and North America were rooted in the intellectual and cultural revolution of Enlightenment; the Enlightenment underwrote those political transformations. If America’s hybrid Enlightenment underwrote the birth of liberal democracy in the United States, what underwrites it now?

What is going to underwrite liberal democracy in the 21st century? To me, it’s not obvious. That’s the big puzzle I’m working through right now. But it bears on this issue of culture wars, because if there’s nothing that we share in common—if there is no hybrid enlightenment that we share—then what are the sources we can draw upon to come together and find any kind of solidarity?

Sleep Evolved Before Brains. Hydras Are Living Proof.

But a counterpoint to this brain-centric view of sleep has emerged. Researchers have noticed that molecules produced by muscles and some other tissues outside the nervous system can regulate sleep. Sleep affects metabolism pervasively in the body, suggesting that its influence is not exclusively neurological. And a body of work that’s been growing quietly but consistently for decades has shown that simple organisms with less and less brain spend significant time doing something that looks a lot like sleep. Sometimes their behavior has been pigeonholed as only “sleeplike,” but as more details are uncovered, it has become less and less clear why that distinction is necessary.

It appears that simple creatures — including, now, the brainless hydra — can sleep. And the intriguing implication of that finding is that sleep’s original role, buried billions of years back in life’s history, may have been very different from the standard human conception of it. If sleep does not require a brain, then it may be a profoundly broader phenomenon than we supposed.

Just-in-Time Adaptive Interventions and Adaptive Interventions

Behavioral interventions for prevention and treatment are an important part of the fight against drug abuse and conditions such as HIV/AIDS and mental illness. Among the challenges faced by scientists is how and when to alter the course of treatment for participants in the intervention. Adaptive interventions (also known as “adaptive treatment strategies” or “dynamic treatment regimens”) change based on what is best for the patient at that time.

Just-in-time adaptive interventions (JITAIs) are a special type of adaptive intervention where—thanks to mobile technology like activity sensors and smartphones—an intervention can be delivered when and where it is needed.

Technically speaking, an adaptive intervention is a sequence of decision rules that specify how the intensity or type of treatment should change depending on the patient’s needs. Methodology Center researchers are developing data-analytic methods for constructing decision rules that allow researchers to build better JITAIs and adaptive interventions.

Seeds of economic health disparities found in subsistence society

For a study in the journal eLife, a research team led by Aaron Blackwell of Washington State University and Adrian Jaeggi of University of Zurich tracked 13 different health variables across 40 Tsimane communities, analyzing them against each person’s wealth and the degree of inequality in each community. While some have theorized that inequality’s health impacts are universal, the researchers found only two robustly associated outcomes: higher blood pressure and respiratory disease.

“The connection between inequality and health is not as straightforward as what you would see in an industrialized population. We had a lot of mixed results,” said Blackwell, a WSU associate professor of anthropology. “These findings suggest that at this scale, inequality is not at the level that causes health problems. Instead maybe it’s the extreme inequality in a lot of modern environments that causes health problems since it’s unlike any inequality we’ve ever had in our evolutionary history.”

The War on Critical Race Theory

What do all these attacks add up to? The exact targets of CRT’s critics vary wildly, but it is obvious that most critics simply do not know what they are talking about. Instead, CRT functions for the right today primarily as an empty signifier for any talk of race and racism at all, a catch-all specter lumping together “multiculturalism,” “wokeism,” “anti-racism,” and “identity politics”—or indeed any suggestion that racial inequities in the United States are anything but fair outcomes, the result of choices made by equally positioned individuals in a free society. They are simply against any talk, discussion, mention, analysis, or intimation of race—except to say we shouldn’t talk about it.

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