Re: feedback

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Mon, 22 Sep 1997 00:27:21 -0500

Damien Broderick wrote:
> The term is regularly abused in the general English-speaking culture. New
> Age types, and many others, are always smiling gratefully when they receive
> what they call `positive feedback' (meaning, for them, encouragement or
> praise) and recoiling from the dreaded `negative reinforcement' (meaning,
> they suppose, disapproval). In fact, positive feedback is nothing more
> than returning a part of the system's output in such a way that the output
> *increases*, while negative feedback uses part of the system's current
> output to *restrict* or *lower* continuing output. (So, in a restricted
> sense, smiling at each other *is* `positive feedback', since it makes us
> feel good and improves our mood.)

Ain't abuse.
Pleasure is positive feedback.
Pain is negative feedback.

Positive reinforcement is a smile which causes pleasure, indicating please continue.
Negative reinforcement means shut up and sit down, or stop.

The terms may have been exported to the domain of conversation, but they have
exported accurately with both surface and deep analogies.

--       Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.