Discussion Tuesday

An interesting quote on an exciting subject today:

An understanding of the mechanics of the brain will allow us to reduce human behaviour down to something ‘deterministic’, thereby increasing our understanding of the allocation of scarce resources more fully (neuroeconomics)

Once again, remember that these are points for discussion – I am not saying I agree or disagree with them.

6 replies
    • Matt Nolan
      Matt Nolan says:

      They are points for discussion which are meant to be relatively “extreme”. The idea is to articulate why you disagree with the quote rather than ad hominem attacking it 😉

        • Matt Nolan
          Matt Nolan says:

          So you are saying it would be impossible for us to get “subjective value” from neuroeconomic analysis – and as a result, we have to be careful in interpreting results in this light.

          I think that is a fair point 🙂

  1. Sam
    Sam says:

    Interesting question. Even if it is true, I think we are a long way
    off that. From what I am told, there seems to be a large gap between pure
    neuroscience and the behavioural offshoots. In order to make behavioural
    conclusions, a great deal of simplification needs to be made (No surprise for an economist). The relationship between different parts of the brain and behaviour is complex (At least I am
    told by people who have studied neuroscience).

    Also this may be the Art graduate (Hiss, boo) in me speaking, but I
    like to think that even if we can be more accurate about what the different
    parts of the brain actually do, life is more than the sum of its parts.

    • Matt Nolan
      Matt Nolan says:

      Indeed – even if we could boil things down to “what parts of the brain do what” this gets a bit shot when we consider that, when some parts get damaged other parts of the brain often pick up the load. I have sympathy for the idea that “if the brain was simple enough for us to understand, we wouldn’t be smart enough to understand it”.

      The relation between brain activity, action, and the agency of an individual seems like a huge philosophical issue. Very interesting.

      With regards to the last part of your comment, I would note that our interest here is asking about action – not giving a normative value to that action. Ethical considerations, and the general value associated with actions, are a central part of life – but understanding a mechanistic view of action doesn’t necessarily tell us much about that at all!

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