[Home]LearningExploitationTradeOff

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Quoting J.E.R. Staddon, Adaptive Behavior and Learning. Cambridge University Press (1983) p. 395...

Most animals are small and do not live long; flies, fleas, bugs, nematodes, and similar modest creatures comprise most of the fauna of the planet. A small, brief animal has little reason to evolve much learning ability. Because it is small, it can have little of the complex neural apparatus needed; because it is short-lived, it has little time to exploit what it learns. Life is a tradeoff between spending time and energy learning new things, and exploiting things already known. The longer an animal's life space, and the more varied its niche, the more worthwhile it is to spend time learning. . . . It is no surprise, therefore, that learning plays a rather small part in the lives of most animals.

Similarly with groups versus teams. Groups are short-lived, one-off, simple conglomerations of people to solve a directed task (the SuperordinateGoal). Teams are much longer-term, self-reinforcing, multiple-situation relationships between people. A group does not bother learning (except for its directed task), often just calling upon the existing experience of its members. A team, on the other hand, actively learns new things (or at least encourages its members to learn more) so that it can adapt to future circumstances it will encounter. In this way, a group is like a lower order animal, whereas a team is like a higher order animal.

Taking this further, a community is an even deeper and longer-term relationship than a team, pushing it even higher on the order of things. Thus, much of a community's resources are spent on learning and storing knowledge. Hence libraries, schools, archives, etc. Much of culture can be defined as the summation of the learned knowledge and behaviour of the community as a whole, thus exploited in a particular style of behaviour by the individuals of the community.

Fortunately, much like human brains, a community is massively parallel. Thus, one part of the society can learn and the other can act on what has been learnt. Consider the academic/engineering split. Moreover, much like humans, a community can specialize its members into certain roles to accomplish this, providing a suitable fast and adaptive information sharing system was in place. (Opposing ConnectedGraphSquaringProblem.)

Suppose a problem occurs in real time, say a crisis like a hurricane. The people on the ground must be given enough knowledge by the people in the tower to do their jobs effectively and safely. For example, due to current climate conditions and the best climate model available, the hurricane will escalate in severity over the next 24 hours and then slam into the beachhead at Miami; thus, the evacuation efforts should be directed there and fast.


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