The Process of Decision-Making

Each of us makes hundreds of decisions every day, but the conditions under which decisions are made vary. Some are made quickly, with relatively little deliberation, while others allow prolonged thinking and planning. Our focus for this last assignment is on the more serious and consequential decisions we make. Choose a decision that you are currently facing or that you have had to make in the past that meets these criteria:

  1. You have some time to think about the decision, but the time is not unlimited; there is or was a deadline by which the choice must be made.
  2. You are uncertain about exactly what will happen as the result of your choice.
  3. Some of your uncertainty can be reduced by gathering information, but there is some irreducible uncertainty as well.

Your task is to use the material from readings and from class to explain how the process of making your decision works. The following guidelines should help you to organize your thinking and construct an outline for this paper.

  1. How does Hawkins’ prediction system model integrate with the decision processes discussed in other readings (especially Montague!) and class? In many ways Hawkins and Montague provide complementary accounts of these processes. Hawkins explains prediction systems well but without detailed application to mental modeling and decision-making. Montague does a great job on the latter, including the discussion of value, but he assumes rather than explains the prediction mechanism. Showing how these theories can be effectively integrated is an important part of this assignment.
  • Note that Hawkins and Montague are clearly central to this assignment, but even taken together they are not sufficient. Be sure to discuss the role that language plays in the decision making process (answer may be different for different kinds of decisions)?
  • This should not be a mere recitation of the content of your thoughts during the decision making process. A person who had not taken this course could do that. If you find yourself simply describing the sequence of your thoughts as you make decisions without an explanation for those thoughts, then you are not adequately addressing the assignment. Use the same ideas about levels of analysis (semantic, algorithmic, implementation) and different theoretical frameworks (CRTM, connectionist, embodied/dynamic) that you used in the P&A loop paper to think about decision making.
  • There should be no need to consult outside readings or resources to write this paper; you have everything you need in readings and class materials. You are welcome to go beyond the information given, of course. That is always admirable, but it should not be necessary.
  • Decide to make the time to read, listen, and think deeply about this material. It will be a lot more fun if you do.

Extra Credit options (you can do both if you wish)

  1. How relevant is consciousness to the process, and what role does it play? Comment here on the problem of free will or volition. Are you really free to choose? In what sense?
  • Do you think that an embodied (robotic) AI system could be built that would be capable of making your decision at least as well as you could, if the AI were faced with the same decision? Why or why not?

Suggested limit: 3000 words. An excellent job can be done at this length if you stick to the fundamentals. Each extra credit response can be done really well in 600 words or less.

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