Unsupervised Thinking
a podcast about neuroscience, artificial intelligence and science more broadly

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Episode 38: Reinforcement Learning - Biological and Artificial

Reinforcement learning is important for understanding behavior because it tells us how actions are guided by reward. But the topic also has a broader significance---as an example of the happy marriage that can come from blending computer science, psychology and neuroscience. In this way, RL is a poster child for what's known as Marr's levels analysis, an approach to understanding computation that essentially asks why, how, and where. On this episode we first define some of the basic terms of reinforcement learning (action, state, environment, policy, value). Then we break it down according to Marr's three levels: what is the goal of RL? How can we (or an artificial intelligence) learn better behavior through rewards? and where in the brain is this carried out? Also we get into the relationship between reinforcement learning and evolution, discuss what counts as a reward, and try to improvise some relatable examples involving cake, cigarettes, chess, and tomatoes.

We read:
Reinforcement Learning with Marr
Reinforcement learning: Computational theory and biological mechanisms

And mentioned:
Understanding dopamine and reinforcement learning: The dopamine reward prediction error hypothesis - by Paul Glimcher
Training a glider with RL

To listen to (or download) this episode, (right) click here

As always, our jazzy theme music "Quirky Dog" is courtesy of Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) 

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