Discussion about Emotions

No offence was taken, I am just frustrated because I feel like I am very close to something here on my end but I just can’t get at it. keep in mind I have to deal with the messy human encoders and emotional states and it gets very frustrating at times. Just when I think I’ve got something that works I get stumped again, or maybe I’m not stumped at all just disappointed that humans don’t perform better, the way I think they are probably capable of if we could get a handle on the emotional stuff. Every one of my students is a contextual puzzle of emotion, prior learning, perhaps damage from neglect or circumstance and millions if not more of other variables. When something works though it seems to work universally and the seeking and play stuff is really powerful when applied in the right way. How to maintain it though? I am convinced the biology makes it happen automatically. How to set the conditions for the biology to get to work, and get out of its way…I’ve seen it happen! I also see it as imperative to securing a future for humanity as we already have too many people who don’t have a handle on the messy emotional stuff and it makes for poor decision making and a dreary future. The patterning works, informational density works, happiness and curiosity works, self organizing behaviours work, fear works as well but not with the same results (and aside from self preservation I’m not convinced it should play a lead role) …what am I missing?

And thank you for continuing the dialogue… it is very helpful even if I might feel like I am drinking from the fire hose.

Useless toy? Maybe that’s overstating it a bit? I wonder how much of the sensory soup is necessary in order to get very useful cognitive applications or utilities? (Arriving before AGI?)

What we need is an intelligence capable of accelerating our knowledge fronts. Medicine (Cures for Chronic ailments & Ability to thwart Aging), Renewable Energy (Cold Fusion), Terraforming, Faster-than-light-Travel; Matter-to-Energy-to-Matter Replication (Molecular Design) – These are the things we need to push humanity to the next level and provide some insurance into the future…

We don’t necessarily need Commander Data. We just need to accelerate our technical innovation so we can protect our planet, colonize new ones so we can hedge against Meteoric catastrophe; and propel ourselves into the future!


Hopefully there is some learning for us in here somewhere too…otherwise it’s a lot of work to keep a species going that seems content to poke holes in the bottom of the rowboat that keeps us afloat. We need better humans too, not just AGI to allow us to continue to behave the way we do.
How will the machine make intuitive leaps…is it really just patterns? What are the motivations that make the difference?

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Perhaps we need to let AI develop the next AI. It may very well be a breeding process with the selection goal of “intelligence”. We play the role as the breeder.


Well said! In certain ways, I’m glad AI is taking as long as it is. We need the time. We need time to evolve. We need time so that when AGI does arrive we will be able to interact with it in a non-neurotic way!

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OK - too judgy.

Perhaps it is a useful thing but it is very far from an AGI.

Deep learning is an example; in very narrow domains it’s brilliant.
That brilliance is limited to that single domain and trying to apply it to another domain means starting over.


How will we teach the machine? I imagine if we came up with a good plan it could be adapted with some carefully thought out messy emotional stuff it could work well for people. Education is stagnant right now we need some good pedagogy.

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We have one…

We’ve had one since the '70’s. It’s done more to shape the culture of human beings in the last 40 years than any other single pedagogy. There are few aspects of society, it hasn’t touched, from the Harvard Business School, to their work with early organizations to fund pundits of theoretical physics, to the Hunger Project, to their being the force behind “Hands Across America” in the 80’s or 90’s. They coined the term, “Think out of the box” - and personally has done more to transform my life than anything I can recount.

They took the ego out of eastern transformation teachings and brought it to the west. Millions of people have taken it and credit it with unequaled transformation of their lives. Here’s a recounting of current societal impacts

Watch one of the coaches speak about her experiences teaching the courses in human transformation:

But what ever you do, don’t believe me! Check it out… Not something to believe or adopt an opinion of; rather its truth can only be reconciled in one’s own experience…

I personally am very quieted, knowing that the work they do is helping human culture become deserving of a future…

</end soap box>

Just had the aha moment I needed…it was not your video…although when I have a minute to watch it I am absolutely certain there will be a kernel of wisdom in it. Here it is …principle of least effort - just be better than you are! I’ll let you know how it goes! But I’m pretty sure that’s the learning algorithm.

Just watched it…wow…it fits right in…will keep you updated on progress.

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@Bitking @jake was thinking about it, and I don’t think we want our AGIs to be driven by overwhelming attitudes which flourish despite and in the face of; and in direct contradiction to - logic? That seems incredibly dangerous to me (i.e. an AGI that can’t be talked down). However we still want to preserve those parts which nurture intellectual development (such as competition: both with other beings and the environment; for resources, and survival)?

So how do we keep one and suppress the other?

Seems what we’ll be building is capacity and not directly trying to fill the intelligence with any particular attitudes or experience (excepting maybe the 3 laws)?

Competition with ones self to be better than you were before, within the context of a prime directive like first do no harm to other life forms. Perhaps if free market economies had such a prime directive they would work more harmoniously with the biosphere.

I found this useful and it isn’t that long. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

Ok @bitking @cogmission… Tell me if this makes any sense. I propose that emotions regulate learning in the following way. Emotions give rise to DRIVES, MOTIVATIONS and MOODS and these three things regulate learning, perhaps there are more, and I may be using terminology incorrectly but here it goes. DRIVES are regulated by emotions to respond to immediate needs and short term goals. MOTIVATIONS are regulated by emotions to respond to long term goals and cooperative behaviour. MOODS I believe are an outgrowth of the predictive nature of the neocortex which while regulated by emotions are in fact predictive emotional states which prepare us for the DRIVES or MOTIVATIONS which we predict will be necessary in whatever learning or interactions we expect will happen. Let me know what you think I would like to develop this further but I don’t want to spin my wheels here if it is going nowhere.

Quotes are pulled from this paper http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

DRIVES - unconscious emotional control

“These findings are important, because if people are
unaware of what determines their emotional preferences,
they might have difficulty changing them.”

MOODS - predictive emotional control

“How do people know when particular emotions are useful?
Such knowledge may be acquired through learning: Learning
that an emotion is useful in one context should increase pref-
erences for that emotion in that context.”

MOTIVATIONS - concious emotional control

“One implication of the instrumental account is that it allows for the possibility of change
in emotional preferences.”

@jake Personally, I am reluctant to take for granted that these things aren’t observer-bound descriptions rather than concretely existing entities within us?

For instance… How do I know that I’m in a funky mood? Well, I might have a tightening in my abdomen and a frown on my face. Now let’s just limit the “symptoms” of my mood to those 2 things for now.

So, if I ever again get the same tightening in my abdomen and frown on my face - is it always attributable to this thing called “funky mood”? I would say, “No”.

Is “Funky Mood” the same as those 2 symptoms? Well again, I would say no. Those two things are physical states and “Funky Mood” is a concept we agree has certain meanings. (I am no more those 2 symptoms then I am a mini van). Do I HAVE a thing called a “Funky Mood”? Well, again I have the 2 physical symptoms which I have placed a label on called “Funky Mood”, but I could just as well put another label on it like “irritated”? — And, can I point to “Funky Mood” in my brain? And is the thing I’m pointing to (assuming I can point to it) always due to this “Funky Mood” thing?

So there is no actual thing I can point to which is distinguishable as a “Funky Mood”, right? It lives in the domain of an interpreter giving an account (i.e. in the conceptual domain, not in the ontological domain where things are obviously what they are and live in “being”).

So if the additional rigor of what I’m saying is useful, that might mean that certain conceptual agreements exist only by virtue of our mutual cultural convention and don’t really have concrete existence. If the brain “lights up” a certain way when I’m using this label called “Funky Mood”, could it be called something else and is it really valuable in adding awareness or qualia to my AI?

Just some epistemological observations…

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In other words… I personally wonder if there are things which have become culturally accepted as “givens” - which are actually obsolete ways to observe ourselves? And I wonder if that’s so, do we want to put it into our AGIs?

Shame and Pride: Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self

This is a revolutionary book about the nature of emotion, about the way emotions are triggered in our private moments, in our relations with others, and by our biology.

Drawing on every theme of the modern life sciences, Donald Nathanson shows how nine basic affects―interest-excitement, enjoyment-joy, surprise-startle, fear-terror, distress-anguish, anger-rage, dissmell, disgust, and shame-humiliation―not only determine how we feel but shape our very sense of self.

For too long those who explain emotional discomfort on the basis of lived experience and those who blame chemistry have been at loggerheads. As Dr. Nathanson shows, chemicals and illnesses can affect our mood just as surely as an uncomfortable memory or a stern rebuke. Linking for the first time the affect theory of the pioneering researcher Silvan S. Thomkins with the entire world of biology, medicine, psychology, psychotherapy, religion, and the social sciences, Dr. Nathanson presents a completely new understanding of all emotion.

I will not pretend to have read the book…I am pretty sure there are major pieces I am missing. I wonder if neuroscience, psychology, and AI maybe suffering from the same problem that education is. Namely, we are all specialists looking at the problem from a specific angle. A mountain of research which gets put into an existing framework. The brain works…no question there, psychology works in the same way education does by assembling little bits and pieces into an existing framework, and AI is trying to marry psychology and neuroscience into it’s own framework. Education could be a third party in this arrangement, and perhaps an important one. We all learned through an education system which is largely the same, so we all assume we already know how that worked. I would argue that it’s a wonder it did work and that the fact it did at all is a testament to the biology of the brain. In other words, I think we all learned in spite of a system of education which could and should work much better than it does. How can we bring all three together to create synergy. Not enough brain theory in education, not enough despecialization (I know my word I made it up…take that zipf) in neuroscience and AI and psychology. Not enough lateral dendrites? Thoughts?

It’s all entirely context based in the individual which is why it’s so hard to pin down…initially I thought of it as rgb pixels making a complete picture but now I see that its rgb pixels which are somewhat different and somewhat similar in each individual…so your picture and mine could be somewhat similar if we both developed in similar circumstances or totally different if our contexts were divergent. Where is @Bitking…we need your guidance Yoda! Obi-wan of you prefer! Perhaps none of us are jedi master just padawan learners.

Considering the limbic system or cortex in isolation really misses the point. As I said earlier - you have to look at it from a system point of view to make any sense of this whole thing.

Some points to consider before I try to put it all together:

  1. What exactly does it mean for a section of the cortex to “recognize” something?
    I know that the Numenta people are putting a lot of effort to get the backward flow to be some kind of location signal so that the sense of touch can be locally combined with a mysterious location signal so that all your bits of fingertips can say - CUP! So what listens to this CUP message? How does the “listener” know what to do with the CUP message?
  2. This might be a bit of a stretch but ask the same question about the fibers from the limbic system. Either we accept the concept that cortex is cortex or we have to say that different parts of the cortex work in different ways. Does the limbic system have changes that we can detect? Can you turn it over and feel edges? That sounds kind of silly to say it and I think that it is just silly when I try to fit it into any kind of workable model.
  3. Now try the same thing with the visual system. The middle of V1 is somewhat the same as the bits sensing the tips of your fingers. For the visual cortex, we have some very good research that documents that it is sensing edges and such but that does not seem to have models of CUP in every bit of the visual field.

Maybe it works differently?

Let’s Identify some of the system components.
First - the larger structures

  • Sensory cortex.
  • Association areas (hubs)
  • All the bits of cortex between the sensory areas and the hubs.
  • Limbic system - thalamus.
  • Major fiber tracts. - sensory to hub direction. (both the WHAT and WHERE streams.)
  • Major fiber tracts - frontal to sensory direction.

On a more local level

  • Layer II Grid-forming cells.
  • Inhibitory cells with a grid scale effective range.
  • Layer IV temporal-sensing cells.
  • Inhibitory cells with a column scale effective range.

For this introductory chat, I am skipping many other system level components that I feel play important parts such as the hippocampus/cortex interface (entorhinal cortex), hippocampus, RAC and the pulvinar. I will try to paint a fuller picture with these and other parts later. That will cover attention and learning including one-shot learning

Talking local but thinking global - the pyramidal cells genetic programming can control the branching density, reach, and targets of each of the major dendrite groups: proximal and distal. The cells can also control the targets of the axons.
By varying these parameters you have the same pyramidal cells but very different behaviors.
The connections of inhibitory cells further tailor this behavior. Taken together, these variables give at least the two types that I will use in the following discussion but I am not excluding the probability that there are other highly useful behaviors in various regions of the cortex.

temporal-sensing (Numenta model) cells have distinct populations of the proximal and distal clusters. The long neck of the distal cluster allows the cell to be biased to firing faster giving the predictive state. The axon projects to the limbic system. There are interconnections with the grid-forming cells and short-range inhibitory cells. These inhibitory cells keep the action local - within the column. This allows the various cells within the column to compete to say that their prediction of the future is the best and suppresses other cells in the column.

Grid-forming cells are the communication specialists. The shorter distance to the distal fibers means that the sensed pattern has no time delay properties - these cells are simple pattern sensors. The communication output is both grid range inter-cell communications and cortical map-to-map signaling. This grid range cell to cell activity is shaped by the longer range inhibitory cells. The competition here is for the grid forming activity. See my HTM Columns into Grids post for more details.There are also connections to the temporal sensing cells.

On a slightly longer scale but still within a single map we have the sensory cells being bombarded with stimulus but no coordinated activity yet. As the real world comes in all of the layer II pattern sensors are all competing to recognize some sort of pattern. As the BAMI paper points to the trained SDRs embedded in the dendrites are like a key that only matches the pattern that they have trained to match. The possibility of matching some other pattern is vanishing low. If the cells do match some bit of a pattern they give the neighbors at “grid range” a kick. If that neighbor is also matching on a pattern it kicks back. Note that this mutual reinforcement will be VERY strong if a large population of cells are all seeing parts of a pattern that they have all learned - rapidly establishing a grid with the related inhibitory cells smothering competing patterns. This also produces a naturally sparse pattern.

Going Map to map - the early stages The temporal cells are excited by their companion grid cells and start predicting. This fires down to the limbic system. Things start to get more interesting now. The thalamocortical reciprocal connection comes back to layer IV and sets up the thalamocortical resonance cycles. Lateral connections in the thalamus spread this activation over the entire area of the grid activation area forming a pool of recognition. This excitation is now propagated to other maps via two pathways:
One is a general activation signal through the thalamus, the second is the projections from the grid-forming cells. The thalamus connection is a simple tonic priming the receiving map with a specific temporal wave to be in sync with the very specific message from the grid-forming cells.

Map to map spreads out This activation of synchronized activity ripples from the original sensory area - relatively weakly at this stage - on it’s way to the sensory hub in the parietal lobe. This projection of axons from the grid-forming cells is likely to be spatially coherent but it is possibly spread out to “smear” the pattern over a larger space. If you are familiar with the FFT process time is converted to space by the arrangement of sampling that groups related signal together by some temporal relationship. It is possible that the same sort of transformation is performed by the arrangement of interconnecting fiber bundles. For example - the spacing of the projecting fibers could give different spatial scaling to different target maps.

Meanwhile - in the limbic system the various need sensors in the body are sorting out which need is the most important. The dozens of interconnected clusters are competing to signal that what they want is the most important thing that needs attention. These cells are more like bundles of oscillators. The needs are not a static pattern but a dance of activity that the frontal cortex registers as an activation pattern. This is the sensory stream that the frontal lobe is sensing and has trained on. This activity ripples to the hub of the frontal lobe.

Meeting of the minds! These hubs (raw sensory, needs, parsed sensory) have long reciprocal connections. These connections of activity go up and down the paths adding very strong activation energy to patterns that match; at a minimum, there is twice as much activity for matching patterns! If the needs of the frontal lobe match up with the sensed environment there is a strong reinforcement that triggers a Global workspace Ignition[1]. Various “side chains” of connections shape this workspace but the counter-flowing river of reinforcement raises this pattern to the level of awareness and tend to suppress all other activity.

Perhaps you are familiar with the cocktail effect. This is a very good way to understand what this reinforcement is like - it is the most accessible part of this process. As you listen to a conversation in a noisy room the recognition of a single stream of words sharpens and shapes your perception stream. As your brain tunes to this pattern, all others are filtered out.

Now what? In the frontal lobe - the best match for a pattern is reinforced and elaborated to some activity. This may be internal to the brain (thinking) or some motor program (acting). Some of these motor programs can be directing the eyes (visual attention) or extracting some sound (listening) As I have stated before - one of the side chains of activity is the loop from the early motor stages to the corresponding sensory stages that form your internal consciousness loop. This Global Workspace can chain to other related activity patterns in a continuous process as the needs sensors continue to prime the frontal cortex. (goal directed activity)

This is so much more but I will stop at this introductory system description.

[1] The Global Neuronal Workspace Model


@abshej - any comments?