Re: Doogie Mice

Matt Gingell (mjg223@is7.nyu.edu)
Thu, 2 Sep 1999 17:12:39 -0400



From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky <sentience@pobox.com>

>Speaking of Algernae, of course, I've noticed that memory seems to be
>the easiest thing to enhance, in both mice (Doogie) and humans (the
>whole cholinergic thing). I repeat my previous guess that augmented
>memory trades off with flexibility of memory in some way, possibly even
>with the ability to think about symbols consciously and manipulate their
definitions.

This matches my intuition. I have a terrible short-term memory Ė I canít look at a phone number and dial it, I have to go 3 or 4 numbers at a time. In psychology thereís a theory that people can hold and manipulate 7 plus-or-minus 2 symbols comfortably Ė Iím way down the bell curve, I can barely do 5 on a good day.

At the same time though, Iíve been successful academically and professionally. I still consider myself a reasonably bright guy. My theory is that the fewer symbols you can manipulate at one time, the symbols in the set you develop must individually be more semantically rich, and the manipulation systems you infer must be smaller and more efficient. (This is obviously a comfortable thing for me to believe.) I do see evidence of this sort of thing among bright people I know. Thereís a contrast in cognitive strategies Ė learning by remembering and then understanding vs. understanding and then fitting facts into that framework. This is a difficult thing for me to express, but maybe itíll strike a chord in someone else.

-matt