Deg spt-2011-invisible-gorrillas-threejoy

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Talk given by David E. Goldberg at SPT 2011 in Denton, TX

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Deg spt-2011-invisible-gorrillas-threejoy

  1. 1. Invisible Gorillas, Unfair Casinos & the Action Orientation of Engineers<br />David E. GoldbergThreeJoy Associates, Inc., UIUC & NUS Champaign, IL 61801deg@threejoy.com; www.threejoy.com<br />
  2. 2. Selective Attention Test<br />Count the number of times the players in white pass the basketball.<br />
  3. 3. Motivation<br />Was reading The Invisible Gorilla.<br />Empirical work fascinating and counterintuitive.<br />Unifying framework absent or misleading.<br />Reflection connected to engineering and philosophy of technology.<br />
  4. 4. Roadmap<br />Invisible gorilla and the “illusion of attention.”<br />The other “illusions” and their treatment as error.<br />Back to The Republic. <br />Why are biases unidirectional?<br />Dubins & Savage, bold play & unfair casinos.<br />Evolution as an unfair casino.<br />Kirk & Spock.<br />One explanation & one provocation.<br />
  5. 5. Invisible Gorilla: Illusion of Attention<br />Chambris & Simon experiment approximately 50% of the people did not see the gorilla.<br />Subjects do not see object they do not expect to see.<br />“Inattentional blindness.”<br />Other examples:<br />USS Greenville ramming fishing vessel Ehime Maru.<br />Automobile drivers hitting motorcycles.<br />
  6. 6. Six Everyday Illusions<br />Attention: Gorilla, motorcycles.<br />Memory: Eyewitness testimony, change detection, source failure<br />Confidence: Georgia v. Russia, Lake Wobegon effect<br />Knowledge: Ehrlich v. Simon bet, “Why is the sky blue.”<br />Cause: Arthritis and weather, correlation v. causation.<br />Potential: Mozart effect, rapid acquisition of skill.<br />Daniel Simons<br />
  7. 7. We’re Just Mistaken<br />“One of our messages is indeed negative. Be wary of your intuitions about how your own mind works.” <br />“Our mental systems for rapid cognition excel at solving the problems they evolved to solve, but our cultures, societies, and technologies today are much more complex than those of our ancestors.”<br />“Think twice before you decide to trust intuition over rational analysis, especially in important matters…”<br />
  8. 8. Old Wine, New Bottle?<br />Empirical work interesting.<br />Theory that perception is just a mistake or an illusion has long history.<br />Allegory of the cave: We merely see shadows of the world on the walls of the cave.<br />Tripartite soul: Appetitive, spirited & rational. R in the driver’s seat.<br />I had a question.<br />
  9. 9. Why Are the Biases All Positive?<br />Empirical record suggests that humans consistently overestimate ability to<br />Pay attention<br />Remember accurately<br />Know our capabilities accurately<br />Know<br />Detect cause<br />Evaluate our potential<br />Why do biases consistently overestimate our faculties?<br />If random or “errors” wouldn’t some be high and some be low?<br />Suggest unidirectional bias is clue to its source.<br />
  10. 10. How to Gamble if You Must<br />Imagine an subfair casino in which all bets are stacked against the gambler.<br />Imagine that you need to make a certain amount of money by a certain time or else!!<br />Example: A loan due to loan shark or need the cash to otherwise save life.<br />What should you do?<br />
  11. 11. The Problem<br />“Imagine yourself at a casino with $1,000. For some reason you desperately need $10,000 by morning; anything less is worth nothing for your purpose. What ought you to do?”<br />
  12. 12. Solution Part I, You MUST Play<br />“The only thing possible is to gamble away your last cent, if need be, in an attempt to reach the target sum of $10,000.”<br />“There may be a moment of moral confusion and discouragement. For who has not been taught how wrong and futile it is to gamble, especially when short of funds?”<br />“Yet gamble you must or forego all chance of the great purpose that can be achieved only at the price of $10,00 payable at dawn.”<br />“The question is how to play, not whether.”<br />
  13. 13. Solution Part II: You Play Boldly<br />Suppose the only kind of gamble available to you in your effort to convert a sum of money into a larger target is to bet, at fixed subfair odds, on independent repetitions of some fixed kind of event such as drawing a red card or a spade.”<br />“You are free to choose for yourself the amount to stake on each bet, subject to the restriction that you never stake that which you do not possess.”<br />“Under these circumstances, one—not usually the only—optimal strategy for you is to play boldly; that is, always to stake on each bet either all the money in your possession or just enough to arrive immediately at the target sum in case you win the bet…”<br />
  14. 14. What Connection to Invisible Gorilla?<br />
  15. 15. Evolution of Humans as Unfair Casino<br />Reframe “everyday Illusions” as having evolved for good reason.<br />What would cause evolution to favor perceptual/cognitive “illusions?”<br />Illusions that cause us to systematically overestimate our capabilities?<br />Think of human evolution as unfair casino.<br />
  16. 16. Given “Illusions” to Induce Bold Play<br />Evolution gave us neocortex and faculty of reason.<br />It also caused us to systematically overestimate our faculties to induce “bold play.”<br />“Illusions” predispose humans to action.<br />
  17. 17. Message from 2.6 Million Years Ago<br />Suggesting that as human beings we are hard-wired to act.<br />In an environment where very survival was at risk, evolution gave us ability to reason and the ability to act.<br />Seems reasonable, but who would we be if we acted on reason alone?<br />Fictional interlude.<br />
  18. 18. Maybe (Wannabe?) Mr. Spock<br />We would be just like Mr. Spock.<br />Rational, reasonable, and slow to act forcefully when survival is threatened.<br />
  19. 19. We’re Captain Kirk<br />We think.<br />We act.<br />We boldly go where no one has gone before.<br />But what does this have to do with engineering and philosophy of technology.<br />2 connections: One explanation & one query.<br />
  20. 20. Technology as Bold Action<br />In perspective of paper, engineers are instrumental to creation of technology, oftentimes with unknown consequences.<br />Creating technology is a kind of bold action.<br />We boldly create stuff that no one has created before.<br />And we’re not certain of its consequences, and yet we still act.<br />Not an excuse. <br />An explanation for tendency of technologists—for homo faber—to act.<br />It is in our nature as makers to make.<br />
  21. 21. Is Bold Action Still Needed in 2011?<br />Appear to live comfortable lives.<br />Evading predators on the savanna a distant memory.<br />Perhaps brains are just out of date.<br />Perhaps argument here relevant, if casino is still unfair.<br />Reserve fuller consideration for later.<br />~ 7 billion people on planet. Web of technology crucial to our survival.<br />Should we turn cautious now?<br />
  22. 22. Bold Play, Casinos, and Precaution<br />Consider precautionary principle in this light.<br />PP: if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action.<br />Sounds rational. Does it ignore the bigger picture?<br />A bigger picture that evolution built into us.<br />
  23. 23. Provocation Intended<br />Last slide goes against grain of much argumentation at this conference.<br />Philosophy of Technology has origins in critique.<br />I enjoy that argumentation and listen to it.<br />Wonder if it isn’t a bit one sided.<br />Framing here intended as provocation for reflection and reexamine of widely held views.<br />Community or historical consensus is no substitute for reflection. <br />
  24. 24. Bottom Line<br />Juxtaposed “everyday illusions” and Dubins and Savage to suggest that we are hardwired by evolution for tendency to act.<br />Have suggested that engineering and technology are consistent with this tendency.<br />Not an excuse. An explanation.<br />Have also wondered whether modern tendency toward precaution is wise?<br />Does current fashion overvalue caution and certainty and undervalue action and discovering/creating the unknown?<br />What might be the consequences of insufficiently bold action in our times?<br />

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