A very general approach to describe the dynamics of the brain is through differential equations. Instead, one could choose a more restrictive approach and describe it as an optimization. Can we assume that observed human behavior can be explained well as an optimization of an unknown cost function? What is the scientific evidence for and against this?

  • $\begingroup$ "Heuristic" is a general term for decision processes which might not strictly be said to be algorithmic. So I would restate your wording as: most thought is an optimization process which does not have a formal basis. (This would be true for thought in animals also.) So in this sense, it might be the case that AI cannot simulate thinking either through algorithms and decision procedures (frames etc) or through neural networks. It might be too many-layered of a process for those to work. We might actually need something like Searle's "causal powers of the brain" to have machine intelligence. $\endgroup$
    – user9634
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ Another area you could research is the idea that there are multiple points of view or centers of awareness in the mind at any given time (and they can stop and restart again later). This has been well-established by now, especially with split-brain studies. You could see what has been going on lately in the field of Non-Symbolic Consciousness, including Jeffery A. Martin's study of Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience. Not sure how AI could "simulate" consciousness: either it is, or it aint. $\endgroup$
    – user9634
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 17:06

1 Answer 1


Quirin et al (2020) have developed a dynamic systems approach that uses optimisation consider behaviour and personality.

Quirin, M., Robinson, M. D., Rauthmann, J. F., Kuhl, J., Read, S. J., Tops, M., and DeYoung, C. G. (2020) The Dynamics of Personality Approach (DPA): 20 Tenets for Uncovering the Causal Mechanisms of Personality. Eur. J. Pers., https://doi.org/10.1002/per.2295.


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