What is cognitive economy?

My take on cognitive economy is that it refers to the combined simplicity and relevance of a categorization scheme or representation. An intelligent agent ought to represent its world in such a way that it can make distinctions that are relevant to its task, and otherwise generalize over states of the world. These intuitive ideas are similar to ideas expressed by folks like psychologist Eleanor Rosch (categorization theory), Herbert Simon (bounded rationality), and economist Nicholas Rescher (the cost-effectiveness of information).

In my dissertation, I articulate these ideas in the context of a very constrained learning problem---reinforcement learning. I explain what makes features useful, in terms of the reward values associated with different actions when those features are active. I define the importance of a feature in terms of those action values, measuring how "opinionated" the feature is regarding the values of different actions. An intelligent agent may use this kind of information to simplify its task by allocating resources and attention to important features, ignoring details of the world which have no bearing on its task.

Last modified: October 26, 1999

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