Tales of Regret and Identity

Alan Dix
Talis and University of Birmingham

Centre for Research in Computing, Open University, 28th April 2015.

download slides (PDF, 6.4Mb)

Full reference:
A. Dix (2015). Tales of Regret and Identity. Talk at Open University, 28th April 2015.
more ...
slides of the talk (PDF, 6.4Mb)
The adaptive significance of regret (essay, 2005)
Information Processing Context and Privacy (1990, first HCI paper in privacy)
Human issues in the use of pattern recognition techniques (1992, how algorithms can be unethical and illegal)

K: "do you know the most destructive force in the universe"
J: "sugar?"
K: "no, regret"
Men in Black 3


“Little does she know that I know that she knows
That I know she’s two-timin’ me”
Kursaal Flyers -- 1976



I start with some old work. Regret seems like such a bad emotion, but in unpacking how and why it happens, we find a rich story of finely tuned learning based on the interplay between counterfactual reasoning, raw emotion and low-level learning we share with the simplest creatures. Building this cognitive model a machine learning algorithm improves the rate at which it learns in terms of the number of learning experiences required.

The second part is work in progress, but part way through a similar arc. Theory of mind is usually couched in terms of putting ourselves in an other person's head. However there are good reasons to believe that both ontogenically and phylogenically the awareness of self is in fact an accident of the need to understand other people's models of us. In some sense we see ourselves in the eyes of others. Taking this as at least a plausible model of human consciousness of self, sheds light on potential directions for machine consciousness, emotion and ethics.

Alan Dix 28/4/2015