Today's friday lab meeting was pretty interesting - we had a guest who was using ACT-R, but extending it to explain competition in multitasking. Compared to SOAR and other cognitive models, ACT-R, as extended by his research group, doesn't require an explicit taskmaster to schedule production rules. I'm pleased that after all this time working for Anderson's research group (albeit without ever working directly with ACT-R), I've finally had enough knowledge soak in to understand what's being talked about. One interesting point raised was how, even with fully automated tasks, we still might be able to learn to co-task them more efficiently - this might challenge the "no explicit taskmaster" idea. An alternate interpretation (mine) would be that the tasks have a certain amount of merging in goals when done together enough. The thing that initially caught my attention for psychology was seeing how hopfield networks work - my intuitions at the time were (and are) that rule-based logic was far too clean to explain the mind-brain abstraction mechanics. I am intrigued that ACT-R seems to be such a nice cognitive model, but it does defy my intuition in its premeses. Then again, my intuition could be way off. One of the nice characteristics about research in the style my research group does is that it can work both from the top (theory, from the ACT-R side) and the bottom (fMRI research of the kind I do). Anything organised by my intuitions about psychology would be an essentially pessimistic search that would be almost entirely bottom-up. The truth could be closer to either, but for pragmatic purposes, it may be smarter to try the cognitive model plus MRI type stuff more vigorously.
I find myself wondering why I can't seem to become committed to psychology as a field - my boss is brilliant, the research he does is something I admire, and I feel like I should be honoured to be working with him. The fact that he attached my name as an author on one of the papers which is partly based off of my research is something I'm rather pleased about. I feel a bit embarassed though because I'm not *really* a psychology person - I'm a CS person whose broad interests happen to include psychology, and who picked up enough knowledge in some classes here to do this kind of weird hybrid job. The sysadmin side to my job is .. well beneath me - I could be putting my CS skills to a lot more use, and the psychology/science side is something that I understand beyond rote level, but not deeply like any of my coworkers. It feels a bit odd working here. If I really manage to leave this summer, I hope I'll actually find a job in Europe that I can feel happy doing, because even more than working for GoAntiques, I have something pretty nice going on here.
On the way home, the bus had a number of really cute Jewish-looking (but not Frum-looking) girls on it. I sometimes wish I were not so shy.
Tomorrow, there's a military recruitment protest in Oakland from 11-13. I'm not sure if I'll go (depends on how late I sleep in), but I suspect this one may be more interesting than previous ones partly because I read through the doublespeak on the anarchist website that announces protests that last time likely one of their members broke the window of the protest station. If they keep getting bolder, more "they're really asking for it" moments are bound to arise. This will possibly lead to good photo ops and/or interesting conversation. In about a week, there'll be a rally to save the public transit system, but I would be amused to see anarchists there :) I am mildly considering going to the "activist informal formal" they're planning in February - it might be interesting to meet some people there.