Oversimplifying and ignoring a lot of important details, the key idea proposed by the authors is that the brain's phasic dopamine system is a model-free reinforcement-learning system that learns to train the prefrontal cortex as a more efficient model-based reinforcement-learning sytem -- a form of meta-learning which the authors accurately refer to as meta-reinforcement learning.
The "Results" section provides compelling evidence that the authors might be on to something. The authors show and discuss the outcomes of six different kinds of computer experiments in which a (relatively simple) meta-reinforcement learning software system is shown to learn and behave in qualitatively similar ways as, for example, monkeys and rats in equivalent lab experiments.
I'm still digesting the implications.
Highly recommended reading.
if so, some interesting real world parallels i can see:
1/ this is why good teachers early on have such a profound effect. Teachers act as a dopamine system so good teachers teach meta learning via whatever they teach
2/ teaching the meta directly is difficult as the meta of the meta is too abstract. Which is why grammar/math may tend to feel out of touch. They are already the meta.
3/ drugs can mess up the dopamine system and throw the feedback loop out of whack. Even if you have the best resources, the “teacher” is now inept
A moderator, dang, changed the link after I posted my comment; see his comment [b] elsewhere in this thread.
Had the original link been to the blog post, I agree, there would have been no need to simplify.
I can see how this all plays out as a way for some apes to get some bananas. Even social structures, fairness and other things (I love this video - two monkeys getting unequal pay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meiU6TxysCg ) can be explained by a dopamine system that just likes to give us bananas and sex. And it's incentivized to conserve energy because this is better for survival (also called lazy) - interesting is that humans have some tendency to do stuff that don't necessarily is conserving energy. Maybe this is what makes us successful: Sometimes we invest excessive energy to try new things which happens to let us survive better through innovation (which leads to genetics that encode this behavior).
I like it, although it isn't necessarily what I call my meaning of life (I'm a dualist, because materialism is too damn dry). I like bananas, though (and yes, the role of bananas may be exaggerated here).
Thought long about it. From a materialistic standpoint there are only quantitative differences between a organism which has a sensor, some type of memory and an actuator and human beings, although they sure look different. Still following the same principles.
When I further simplify, we are all just energy (and matter, which is just a form of it) following some first principles hallucinating our consciousnesses trying to evade the eventual entropy that we'll reach nevertheless because this is how the universe works.
- - -
Cool fact is that animals are capable of rational thinking (crows drop nuts to break them approx. at the minimal height necessary to achieve that - optimal energy usage. I'm pretty sure they don't even realize that their brains calculate this based on their experience) and I'm sure that all people act rational w.r.t their training data (some outliers like traumatic events and other life circumstances that differ from the average just change some weights in a way that it looks irrational for outsiders). This is indeed difficult to defend because it depends on the semantics on the word "irrational" which is man-made after all.
Interesting resources for this topic:
a theory trying to explain human behavior and the emergence of consciousness using knowledge of psychology: https://unifiedtheoryofpsychology.files.wordpress.com/2011/1... (principles how the brain works)
https://unifiedtheoryofpsychology.files.wordpress.com/2011/1... (why culture and religion emerges)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyu7v7nWzfo (consciousness as a hallucination)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRVGA9zxXzk (a bird which can identify itself in a mirror, simple self-awareness - I like the fact that the brains of birds are more efficient because they are space-constrained to be able to fly better)
(the brain as a neural net with meta-learning capabilities that tries to guess what happens next and what it should do next. Emotions and some pre-wiring based on genetics enables us that we don't start with a complete random brain structure because it gives us better surviving abilities if we're able to see and feel as soon as we get out of our mothers).
Tried to be funny. It seems I've failed. It's not about that banana.
Point was that our social structures can be explained by some first principles e.g. individuals try to acquire enough resources (what a trivial assertion, but I guess that is the point of first principles) and that we can explain the origin of our social structures with them.
Fun fact: It is not very common for monkeys to eat bananas in the wild - they simply don't have them .
Totally OT: wild birds cooperate with humans to get some honey. I love such articles.
(I searched it on Google Scholar.)
But... hilariously, a one year subscription to the journal, is only $59.00 (for individuals, online only).
Something seems a bit out of whack when the price of one article is about 1/3rd of the price of the journal for an entire yet.
I'm almost tempted to subscribe. The problem with this model though, is that it doesn't scale. Even at "only" $59.00, how many journals can one afford to subscribe to before the aggregate cost breaks the bank? sigh
AFAIK almost all of that money goes directly to Elsevier  who, well, they pretty much run a monopoly.
At most, in years past, I subscribed to maybe a total of 10 journals, but that's when I was maintaining an IEEE membership and a lot of their journals are actually not very expensive, in terms of the marginal cost once you are already a dues paying member.
These days though, I find it hard to justify. I find myself wondering if the publishers would do a better job of providing a model that works for individuals, if they might not actually make more money in the end.
It wouldn't be terribly challenging to build. The tricks are in making the deals with the content owners, and getting the word out to users.
The total market is 137 Billion/year ( https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-trends/market-research-re... ) Not bad.
Looks like half the market is the government. Might be enough there to build a business on. Hard to say. Requires more research.
It's tremendously difficult to make money in a space this entrenched. If you go a layer down and try to cut out Elsevier (go to researchers directly) you're asking scientists to basically ignore career-defining opportunities in high-impact publications... so that you can make money and a small market of hobbyists or professionals without a research budget can subscribe to journals. Also, the amount of work that needs to be done around peer-review is obscene and Elsevier (and others) have built a ridiculous moat around related volunteer work that is hugely inefficient but constantly socially reinforced (reviewing can be a status symbol). At that point, the alternative is open access and free for everybody: why not publish there?
I'd be of the opinion that the only way to reasonably attack this space is to build an adjacent content management and distribution platform not focused on journals and edge your way in, like, say, classroom management or MOOCs.
Which, well, there's Top Hat  who raised at a $185M valuation last year . Not sure if they care about journals all that much yet though, not a whole lot of insight into their business beyond the pop business news.
That said, I still think it's time to double-down on supporting SciHub. Both scientists and the interested public like it.