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Comment Re:Hyoervisor (Score 1) 287

Neurons always fire faster than sensory input data can arrive. That's the root of intrinsic brain activity.

Everything you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste comes from predictions made from your past experience. These predictions are then compared to sensory input from the outside world and if they're wrong, the brain adjusts. This all happens outside of awareness. This is called the predictive coding model of brain activity.

Hallucination is just a special case in which sensory input is ignored in favor of predictions. Same thing for dreams and daydreaming.

Comment Re:The biology of why we drive with cell phones (Score 1) 343

>You're over thinking it. People in general are poor at risk assessment.

Sorry, I think you're under-thinking it. :-) "Risk" is a mental concept made up by people, not a basic part of biology, chemistry or physics. A better question is why people are bad at assessing risk. It's reasonable to argue that the reason, in part, is that we cannot mentally simulate the consequences of risky actions with any accuracy, because the human cortex is wired not to detect bodily signals finely.

>You don't need to feel agony of an accident to know you don't want to be in one.

True, but not really the point. If we could feel agony by imagining it, I suspect we'd be a lot more careful in the car.

Comment The biology of why we drive with cell phones (Score 3, Interesting) 343

People continue to use their cell phones while driving because of a limitation of our biology. Here's a quick demonstration.

Imagine right now that you're petting a dog. Can you see (in your mind's eye) the dog's face? Can you "feel" the fur against your fingers and the dog's breath against your face? Can you "hear" the dog panting in your head? Most people can, easily. Your brain is great at simulating these sensations through imagination.

Now, try to imagine agony. Imagine the physical feeling of crashing your car at high speed, because you were on your stupid cell phone. Can you actually experience the agony of your destroyed body in your mind? The answer (for almost everybody) is no. Your brain is very bad at imagining/simulating internal feeling. Our brains are wired that way. So we continue driving with cell phones, even though we know the risks.

These ideas were inspired by the book, "How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain," by Lisa Feldman Barrett, chapter 4, "The Origin of Feeling."

Comment Re:Not a big deal (Score 1) 178

>This has already happened with cell phones. They started as a niche device and now it's difficult to function in society without one.

I like your point and your analogy, but actually, it's not that hard to function in society without a cell phone. I've been doing it for years. The only downside is a slight delay in getting the information you need or communicating with someone. I find the trade-off totally worth it.

Comment A more optimistic viewpoint (Score 3, Interesting) 154

I work for a company that's reasonably large (8000+ people) and is consistently profitable, and we prize and celebrate innovation. People are encouraged to try out ideas quickly and if they fail, at least they failed fast. We have an intranet website where people post their successes and learnings. I personally know many coworkers who came up with ideas, implemented them, and made money for the company.

I am a technical manager of a team that specializes in automating manual processes and eliminating waste. I very intentionally leave room for my direct reports to innovate. If they come to me with an idea -- this is a critical point -- I treat my opinion as a HYPOTHESIS, not as absolute truth. After all, I am just guessing whether their idea will work or not. I'd rather have them build a minimum viable example to get some empirical evidence if their idea will work or not.

If I think their idea has no chance whatsoever of succeeding, I'll put forward my objections and see if they have good answers for them. This discussion is important. Sometimes they show me I am wrong, which is fine with me. (Nobody's perfect.) Other times my objections spur them to come up with a more robust idea.

Anyway, not all companies are pits of innovation death.

Comment Bad interviewers, not bad questions (Score 1) 1001

Whiteboard coding questions aren't bad in and of themselves. The real problem is bad interviewers who don't know what's realistic in an admittedly artificial interview situation. Questions that require rote memorization should be obsolete today. Common flaws include:

* Requiring perfect syntax off-the-cuff
* Requiring exact names of library functions
* Asking questions that have just one correct answer (because a wrong answer tells you very little)

A good interviewer can run a beautiful coding interview on a whiteboard, keeping the candidate engaged and displaying his/her skills. You run it like an ongoing conversation with the candidate. If they hit a wall or don't remember something, you simply give them a hint or even the missing answer so they can continue. The end goal is to make the determination: does this candidate know what the hell he/she is talking about, and do I want to work with him/her? The end goal is not to determine if the candidate can take the length of a string in Prolog.

I have personally trained hundreds of technical interviewers in these skills. The problem at many companies is that nobody evaluates people's interview skills and separates the good one from the bad ones.

Comment Omnirax + EndPCNoise (Score 1) 303

15+ years ago, I sprung for an Omnirax desk (this one). I can't rave enough about it. The height is perfect, the surface big & durable, and plenty of rackmount space. It still looks as good as new. The company is well-known in the music industry but not so much outside.

Set up a few big monitors (with Ergotron monitor arms) and a beefy, silent rackmount PC from, and you'll have an enviable work environment (speaking from experience).

Comment The problem is people (Score 1) 624

The real problem is that nearly 50% of the public has below-average intelligence.

(Anyone who sees the above statement as elitist, rather than an obvious statement about mathematics, is part of the problem.)

Therefore, whoever makes the most noise gets the most attention from people, regardless of the truth of the message.

Comment Re:Unsurprising (Score 1) 69

Actually, people do math (and most everything else) with their entire brain. Visual cortex isn't just for vision either: it helps to process audio. Likewise auditory cortex helps to process vision. Both of them assist with other signals from body to brain (known as interoception). Just about every neuron in the brain participates in more than one function. (Note: This this is not the same thing as saying "all neurons are identical." That's false. But any given neuron participates in more than one kind of mental state.)

Comment Unsurprising (Score 2) 69

Neuroscientists have known for years that the brain has few "dedicated" areas for any particular function, such as math. Instead, many collections of neurons can accomplish the same function. This is called degeneracy. (Terrible name, I know... let the jokes about degenerate mathematicians begin....)

Also, the brain doesn't "light up" as if were sitting around idle and suddenly leaps into action. The whole brain is active all the time. This is called intrinsic brain activity.

Anyone who talks about brain areas "lighting up," or believes that each region of the brain has a dedicated function, is at least a decade behind modern neuroscience.

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