Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How People and Animals Learn ( Source PNAS- Oct 2011)

How do we learn by instruction and experience-- and how does negative negative feedback may influence our learning

Mattew Walch and John Anderson both scientists at the Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon, have corroborated through probabilistic experiments and modeling that humans and animals learn from trial-and-error interactions, experiences with the environment, but also through non-experiential situations that are recorded in the neural reward pathways.

The researchers made use of electroencephalograms (EGG), separated by components, and a set of paired cues to  validate the viability of reinforcement learning as a model of behavioral adaptation-- and/or as the result of neural reward pathways. 
They hypothesized that because learning through trial error is inefficient and potentially dangerous for humans, other mechanisms of learning may be highly valuable. The ability to learn from non-experiential exposure was found to be not only advantageous, but also rewarded (assimilated through neural pathways.)
The researchers studied instruction or the lack of it as their model for behavioral adaptation through neural pathways. The participants were given probabilistic assignments, and the events were tracked and scored for later analysis. The test groups were separated as follow:

Test group 1: received feedback indicating response reward--after each task.
Test group 2:  received the same feedback given to test group 1 and additional instructions about the reward probabilities, before they conducted another task.

The researchers found that "instruction eliminated participants’ reliance on feedback." By contrast, negative responses related to feedback and the event-related potential, both associated with neural reward prediction errors keep adapting with experience. Both groups benefited from experience.

The research findings suggest that while instruction may influence or control behavior right away, certain neural responses must be learned from experience.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How much BP is giving back after the Gulf Disaster: the value of ecosystem services

Do you remember the underestimates of the total amount of oil being delivery to the ocean? It was not unexpected, the fact that it made people furious causing them to stop buying BP gas, did make them least a little.

Does it make you furious now to know that from an estimated of 40 billions, the company is paying as little as 7 million? When I first saw BP website and if you look no further, you may even be happy to know they appear to be involved in research and are showing themselves as environmental/peoples concerns. Perhaps, they are, don't get me wrong. I believe in the power of change. Yet I also think  that MATH or dollar numbers has long recognized by business people, and pretty much any body else as a good estimate of the value we give to anything from our clothing to the water we drink and the gas we pay at the pump. Do you want shrimp and fish from the may have it and you will need to pay the price. Shall those clamps you are having for dinner include also a good dosage of oil? Of course not, yet that is what many people got for a while.

So look at the numbers:

"BP said today it expects the cost of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster to be $7.7bn (£4.8bn) bigger than previously thought, pushing the total bill to nearly $40bn." Weiner, The Guardian, UK. Nov 2, 2010
BO oil spill costs hits 40-billion-dollars by November 2010

Total BP paid or approved money for claims: $7,517,983,789  This number includes both government and private business.

How much more they will assign to clean the Gulf, to conduct independent or government research? How much are they willing to give back to compensate for the damages....and how much would be acceptable if they would decide to close the gap between $40 billions and 7 millions? Perhaps a major problem is that that decision lies on them. And, we know most business would try to minimize what they consider loss of money while increasing their profits.

Could we ask them to value ecosystem services, both those for the public and those for their business. If they don't could we assign acceptable money * money exchange for damages?

Why is it that many business are not able and not willing to care for the land that provides them with resources/or in this case the ocean?

Are the utilitarian views, or even Christian base views responsible for us appropriating nature at such a large degree that we(business) can profit from nature without considering long-term consequences?

In fact, our definition of Economy=resources base good,  and resource scarcity. The more scarce the resource is the more people are willing to pay for the good.  Less gas, more money for BP and more possibilities for oil companies to keep drilling. These companies are sure that we are not stopping our oil/fuel dependence  any time soon. The business of oil is an stable business and good it has great prospects.

With incentives this companies were able to profit when the rest of the economy had been falling down...What does this tell us? It shall tell us that they can give more back.

So why don't they feel the need to support the very systems that support them? Could it be that they prefer to promote scarcity?

Why is that society at large, and politicians--in theory the representatives of society-- do not ask oil companies to be accountable for prevention measures, for proper maintenance of their engineering devices, and structural systems, and in this case for pay offs after the damage has been already made?  And, if the companies said their share holders are who determine the decision-making...why is it there is no way to regulate the value of the few in comparison with the values/goods and services for the majority?

It is already time for re-evaluations, for policy changes, for transparency, and for the public/governments to ask for more accountability from business that profit from Nature Resources. We can't keep supporting corporate behaviors that are causing enormous problems to humanity and to the natural resources that are not only here to serve us, but are the house of planets earth other species...that contribute to the biochemical balance we need to survive.

Lets correct the course or the corporate centric_ship!

Claims from BP webpage

PaymentsAmount Paid
Gulf Coast Claims Facility Payments (Individuals & Businesses) 1$5,499,978,386
Gulf Coast Claims Facility Payments (Fund for Real Estate Brokers and Agents) 1$54,434,575
Claims Paid by BP Prior to August 23rd (Individuals and Businesses)$395,619,857
Total Payments to Individuals and Businesses$5,950,032,818
Response and Removal Advances$476,640,000
Response and Removal Payments 2, 3, 4, 5$773,332,953
Loss of Revenue$27,792,276
Increased Public Service Costs$2,401,888
Payments to Government for Advances and Claims$1,280,167,117
Payments to Individuals, Businesses, and Governments for Advances and Claims$7,230,199,935
Other Payments 6$285,241,352
Total Payments (Includes Advances, Claims, and Other Payments)$7,515,441,287
Trust Payments$5,852,586,080
Non-Trust Payments$1,662,855,207
Approved Additional Government Payments (In Process for Payment)$2,542,502
Total Paid or Approved for Payment$7,517,983,789
1 Data provided by GCCF as of 10/31/11
2 Includes payments made to Federal government and other government entities.
3 Includes $260 million of the $360 million committed for Louisiana Berm Project.
4 Includes amounts paid prior to August 23, 2010 via Unified Command.
5 Includes government requests paid by BP Claims Process prior to August 23, 2010.
6 Includes payments for Research, Tourism, Behavioral Health, Contributions, and Other Response Payments.