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An algorithm that learns through rewards may show how our brain does too

MIT Technology Review: “…In a paper published in Nature today, DeepMind, Alphabet’s AI subsidiary, has once again used lessons from reinforcement learning to propose a new theory about the reward mechanisms within our brains. The hypothesis, supported by initial experimental findings, could not only improve our understanding of mental health and motivation. It could also validate the current direction of AI research toward building more human-like general intelligence. At a high level, reinforcement learning follows the insight derived from Pavlov’s dogs: it’s possible to teach an agent to master complex, novel tasks through only positive and negative feedback. An algorithm begins learning an assigned task by randomly predicting which action might earn it a reward. It then takes the action, observes the real reward, and adjusts its prediction based on the margin of error. Over millions or even billions of trials, the algorithm’s prediction errors converge to zero, at which point it knows precisely which actions to take to maximize its reward and so complete its task…”

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