Tag Archives: orientation

Working Memory and Orientation

Three articles this week on working memory.

Three articles today: “Am Embedded-Processes Model of Working Memory” by Nelson Cowan, “Working Memory: The Multiple-Component Model” by Alan D. Baddeley and Robert H. Logie, and “Modeling Working Memory in a Unified Architecture: The ACT-R Perspective” by Marsha C. Lovett, Lynne M. Reder, and Christian Lebiere.

The ACT-R paper (Lovett, et al) is not very relevent to what I am doing. It continues the attempt to apply literal information processing theory to human thinking, in the tradition of George Willer and nowadays of John Robert Anderson. ACT-R, like the other theories, is perhaps better for building a computer that works in ways analogous to the brain rather than understanding the brain itself.

The Baddeley piece was assigned to set the stage for the episode buffer, which he covered in his Nature Reviews Neuroscience article I read a bit ago. So: an OK article, but recognized by everyone (including Baddeley) as out of date.

What was really exciting was Nelson’s Cowan “embedded” working memory model, which is actually a dual processing model. Excitingly, it appears to date from the same time as Boyd’s final presentation, and even includes orientation! An excerpt:

THe focus of attention is controlled conjointly by voluntary processes (a central executive system) and involuntary processes) the attentional orienting system.)

All of this is exciting to read this morning, especially as this afternoon I present the OODA loop as a “Dual-Processing Theory of Learning” to some colleagues today. Talk about neat!

Orientation and Decision: Two Systems for Thinking

Evans, J. St. B. T. (2008). Dual-processing accounts of reasoning, judgment, and social cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.59.103006.093629.

John Boyd’s OODA Loop is a dual processing model of cognition. The very best discussion of dual processing is Jonathan St. B. T. Evans’ “Dual processing accounts of reasoning, judgment and social cognition” (55-page pdf, Annual Review‘s description) to be published in January 2008, in the Annual Review of Psychology.

The article goes over a tremendous amount of literature in excellent style. Evans synthesizes many sources I’ve mentioned such as Lieberman’s “comparison between thinking and riding a bicycle,” and recent work noting the very strong correlation between working memory and IQ . But he puts everything in a larger context, showing how field after field is adopting dual processing systems, and thus coming ever closer to Boyd’s OODA model.

If you want to know how people think, Evans’ article is the place to start.

Boydian Orientation as a Political Science Paradigm

The Origin of Politics: An Evolutionary Theory of Political Behavior,” by John Alford and John Hibbing, Perspectives on Politics, Vol 2. No. 4, December 2004, 707-723, http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=266160.

Today’s notes are from the John R. Alford and John R. Hibbing piece that preceded their piece “Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted?,” which was featured on the tdaxp post “The DNA of Politics.” In this earlier work they tie together wary cooperation and multilevel selection” to propose a new paradigm for political science. It’s so good, it’s dangerous.

As with the other work, a finding is that political beliefs are more genetically-based than personal attitudes.” As Alford and Hibbing write:

A 1986 study by Martin and colleagues of over 3,800 Australian and British twin pairs reported the following estimates of heritability (on a scale of 0 to 1.0) for the following items: death penalty, 0.51; white superiority, 0.40; royalty, 0.44; apartheid, 0.43; disarmament, 0.38; censorship, 0.41. The heritability estimate for pajama parties, on the other hand, was a mere 0.08. The comparable estimates for the influence of shared environment were: death penalty, 0.00; white superiority, 0.09; royalty, 0.14; apartheid, 0.05; disarmament, 0.00; censorship, 0.03 (but pajama parties, 0.44). (Alford and Hibbing 715)

These can be mapped onto the Orientation stage of John Boyd’s OODA Loop


Description

like so:

The three categories allowed by the analysis of twin studies are genetic factors, which are very high for political issues but lower for moral issues and tastes

Social factors, which are very low for political issues (especially hot buttons like the death penalty and the then-issue of South African ) Apartheid but a significant factors in the appropriateness of pajama parties

If there is an uplifting, ennobling finding here, it is the important of non-shared environmental factors, what Boyd would have termed new information, previous experiences, and analyses/synthesis.

The rest of the notes are mad cool, dealing with group selection, problems a SysAdmin force may face, some cool simulations, and other amazing nifty things. They’re below the fold.


Most important, the theory should not be dismissed because of an unscientific aversion to its implications. (Alford and Hibbing 707)

Multilevel selection begins by recognizing the ubiquity of selection pressure. … The genes themselves are, after all, merely survival machines for the complex proteins that make up genetic material. At this deeper level, it is the complex proteins that are selfish, and their survival machines—the genes—may behave in ways that seem highly inconsistent with selfishness.11 In terms of human behavior, if we think of groups as survival machines for collections of individuals, then selection pressures that lead individuals to behave selfishly may well be in conflict with selection pressures that favor groups of individuals that behave in concert. (Alford and Hibbing 708)

In that spirit we offer our own theory of “wary cooperation” drawn from the work of leading scholars in evolutionary psychology and experimental economics. The theory may be summarized as follows. Humans are cooperative, but not altruistic; competitive, but not exclusively so. We have an innate inclination to cooperate, particularly within defined group boundaries, but we are also highly sensitive to selfish actions on the part of other group members. This sensitivity leads us to cease cooperating when that cooperation is not reciprocated, to avoid future interaction with noncooperators, and even to engage in personally costly punishment of individuals who fail to cooperate. (Alford and Hibbing 709)

Our genetic composition is to some extent the product of conditions faced by our hunter-gatherer predecessors of perhaps 100,000 years ago. One of the keys to an individual’s survival was being a respected part of a viable group. The central insight of a behavioral theory built on evolutionary biology is that the desire for group life is a fundamental human preference. What kinds of behaviors optimally promote belonging to a viable group? (Alford and Hibbing 709)

To sustain group membership, individuals must
1. cooperate with others in their in-group;
2. dislike those in out-groups;
3. punish or banish uncooperative in-group members;
4. encourage others through norms, institutions, or moral
codes to (1), (2), and (3);
5. be ever sensitive to status, payoffs, and reputation relative
to other in-group members;
6. cease cooperating if the noncooperation of other members
goes unpunished. (Alford and Hibbing 710)

In addition to expecting cooperative behavior in some circumstances, our theory also expects—and empirical studies have proven it to be the case—that people mindlessly conform, passively obey authority figures, are competitive to the point of taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others, initiate hostilities toward those people in outgroups, construct out-groups for the sake of having them, and are disconcertingly enthusiastic about punishing those not perceived as living up to the group’s behavioral standards, especially when personally victimized. (Alford and Hibbing 710)

For example, it is now thought that children learn languages more quickly than adults in part due to their limited memories. Limitations constrain solution space, allow a scaffolding to guide learning, and suggest patterns. Neural networks designed to simulate language learning actually learn more quickly with less memory—more is not always better. (Alford and Hibbing 710)

As stated by Cosmides and Tooby, “ ‘[R]ational’ decision-making methods . . . are computationally very weak; incapable of solving the natural adaptive problems our ancestors had to solve reliably in order to reproduce.” They conclude that, from an evolutionary point of view, human mental capacities, far from preventing rational thought, actually allow us to be “better than rational.” (Alford and Hibbing 710)

For example, when experimental subjects are shown pictures of individuals and told their names along with a single fact about them, subjects are better at remembering the names of those who had been connected with a social fact (Sally helped a neighbor paint his house) than a nonsocial fact (Tom has an old refrigerator), and they are best at remembering those who had been connected to a negative social fact (Harry did not return a CD he borrowed from his friend). (Alford and Hibbing 711)

People are initially helpful and cooperative, even at some personal expense, but they are hypersensitive to the possibility that someone might take advantage of their generosity. (Alford and Hibbing 711) (SysAdmin implications?)

Since in this view, the conflict of war is a group-level phenomenon, group-level factors become particularly salient. Markers of in-group–out-group boundaries, for example (e.g., borders, language, ethnicity, race, religion, citizenship) should assume exaggerated importance in both the development and prosecution of war. (Alford and Hibbing 712)

Americans’ primary source of dissatisfaction with government is not that it makes bad decisions, but rather that it makes decisions for self-serving rather than common-good reasons. (Alford and Hibbing 712-713)

Reformers would do well to realize that people do not wish to be in control of the political system; they only want those who are in control to be unable to take advantage of their positions. If people were confident that existing constraints prohibited such self-interested actions, they would pay even less attention to the political arena than they do now. For most people, involvement in politics is driven not by a desire to be heard but by a desire to limit the power of others. Current American foreign policy might be improved, for example, if decision makers realized that, like Americans, people in Afghanistan and Iraq do not crave democratic procedures. Kurds simply do not want to be dominated by Sunnis; Sunnis do not want to be dominated by Shiites; Uzbekis by Tajiks; and Tajiks by Pashtuns. People often express a desire for participatory democracy when they really just want to avoid being victimized by a more powerful group. (Alford and Hibbing 713)

Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace worked out the details of natural selection at roughly the same time and were in remarkable agreement—with one vital exception. Darwin was completely consistent and contended that natural selection applied to behavioral as well as physical traits. Wallace, on the other hand, drew a bold line between the two, positing that the mental realm was immune to evolution and was instead the purview of ethereal religious uncertainties. (Alford and Hibbing 713)

The most developed examples come from studies of the heritability of traits such as conservatism and altruism. These behaviors have been studied in different twin populations in different countries by different researchers over the last twenty years. All of the studies reach the same conclusion: a predisposition to conservatism is genetically heritable. (Alford and Hibbing 714)

This is not incompatible, and in fact substantially supports Elazar’s basic thesis; moreover, it could help account for the fact that, unlike purely learned orientations, these deeply rooted attitudes might prove surprisingly resistant to the rise of a generic national culture in an era of mass communication and rapid travel. (Alford and Hibbing 716)

If these two individuals happen to be political scientists, we would not be surprised if we found that because they viewed and explained human behavior in starkly different terms, they would largely be talking past each other—as has all too frequently been the case for behavioralists and rational choicers. This suggests that differences in methodology within and across disciplines may derive at least in part from heritable differences in brain physiology. (Alford and Hibbing 716-717)

The most interesting and numerous genes in human beings are not structural (blue eyes or brown), but regulatory. Regulator genes allow an organism to respond to its environment; they are the genes that turn on and off the transcription of other genes (or themselves). (Alford and Hibbing 717)

Interestingly, the computer simulations that we discussed above have demonstrated that (under reasonable assumptions) a population consisting of two types roughly compatible with mildly autistic individuals and wary cooperators, respectively, can reach a stable equilibrium with the larger part of the final population composed of wary cooperators and the smaller remainder behaving more like the mildly autistic. (Alford and Hibbing 717-718)

Part of the problem may be that the last time biology came to the attention of political scientists (in the 1970s, after the publication of E. O. Wilson’s Sociobiology), they believed that advocates were saying that behavior was determined by biology. If that was ever the position of biology proponents, it is no longer. (Alford and Hibbing 718)

Chet Richards on Formlessness and Orientation

Chet Richards on Formlessness and Orientation

Describing , Tom Barnett wrote:

Chet, whom I write about in BFA, is an intense fellow who lives and breathes national security like few people you’ll meet. He’s also more systematic in his thinking on the subject of military strategy than anyone I’ve ever heard speak, and I’ve heard a lot.

Dr. Richards recent accomplishment involve applying the logic of to business and military strategy. His business-oriented website, Belisarius, was recently featured in a tdaxp article on 5GW, while Chet’s military-oriented site Defense and the National Interest has long been on the tdaxp blogroll.

A noted author, Chet’s books include Certain to Win: The Strategy of John Boyd Applied to Business and Neither Shall the Sword: Conflict in the Years Ahead.

certain_to_win_smneither_shall_the_sword_sm

As Dr. Richards has been kind enough to help tdaxp before, I asked his help when questions on Boydian logic on Liberal Education. So I asked him. Part of his answer surprised me.


On Implicit Guidance & Control in the

In a real-time operation, the “Implicit guidance and control” link from Orientation to Action should control, most of the time (95-99%). Important to recognize, though that this is not a reflex, not a direct Observation – Action link. It goes through Orientation, which is where previous experience and intuitive analyses/synthesis come into play.

The key to the Decision box is the subtitle, “Hypothesis.” The Decision block is the learning phase, where you try things out and learn from the result. It is part of how the loop shapes future Orientation. What you learn becomes a part of your (previous) experiences as well as affecting the types of analyses and syntheses you are able to perform. It is still operating even in the middle of a fight, although at a reduced level, since you will learn somethings about your opponent in the contest. However, it is most active in training, where you can try new things and learn without getting killed. All the hours of training that the martial artists go through is to program their Orientations so that the vast majority of the time, effective actions flow smoothly and rapidly from Orientation. A formal decision mechanism would be too slow. In fact, one thing you would like to do is force your opponent to make explicit decisions, i.e., force him out of what he can handle intuitively. Operating inside his/her OODA loops is one way to do just that.

On Formlessness.

“Larry, one of my commentators, noted that it’s no so much formlessness, as the absence of an especially-notable form. I thought that was interesting.”
– Dan tdaxp

It is most interesting. One can look at formlessness in several
ways, including:

1) The form is there, but it’s hidden or disguised. I’m pretty sure this is not what Sun Tzu had in mind, since a competent opponent using his intelligence (Chapter 13) would discover it. Not to say that camouflage or dummies, etc. aren’t extremely useful, but they aren’t what “formlessness” is about. So in that sense, I disagree with Larry. It’s not so much whether the form is notable, but whether it’s there at all. [compare against this and that — tdaxp]

2) One can take different forms, depending on the situation. This is most effective when you have more than a small set of forms (“stances”) to choose from. In the extreme, you have infinitely many, like water or a gas. I think this is a much more powerful interpretation. Also, water, although soft and formless, can destroy entire cities under the right conditions.

3) Related to 2), you may not have a “form” per se, but you have a culture / climate that allows you to find and exploit opportunities. So you don’t worry about your “form,” but about the organizational climate. Continuing with the water example: It can also penetrate the smallest crevice and so over time bring down the strongest wall. Watts goes into some detail on this point. Infiltration tactics in maneuver warfare is a good example.

4) And then there is the time element. Perhaps you have a form, even a transitory one as in 3), but you can change it more rapidly than the opponent can figure it out. This change could be organic, as in reconnaissance pull. So as far as the opponent is concerned you are formless. In particular, there is no “form” that his intelligence can discover, as Sun Tzu warns, and if he does discover one, it won’t be the right one by the time he can do something about it.

5) Related to 4) you have a form, but it is cheng. Your ch’i in that case could be the “formless” component. Or maybe it’s the other way around … The rapidity with which you can switch between these now becomes important.

On Fast Formlessness

” …if someone is inside your loop, they are not easy to see. In more ways than not, a true 4GW warrior is hidden. “
– Larry

Everybody who has studied this stuff has made a similar observation. If, for example, you employ an attrition-based doctrine, and you come up against someone employing maneuver warfare (which, incidentally, can include guerrilla warfare), you won’t understand what hit you. You may well think you’re winning up until the time the enemy breaks down the door to your palace.

Larry’s comment is especially pertinent to 4GW, since there you may well not even realize you’re at war.