Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sabbatical Report: Last Day of 2017

With today marking the end of 2017, I thought I would provide an end-of-year update on my current sabbatical. I provided an update at the end of its first month on August 1, and have not provided much information since then. I have been too busy writing sabbatical projects to take the time to add to this blog!

The primary task for my sabbatical is working on a new book. This book explores the probabilistic behavior of simple artificial neural networks with a combination of citations to classic literature in information theory, probability theory, and cybernetics, with the reports of many formal proofs about network behavior, with detailed presentations of many new computer simulation results, and (eventually) with the report of the results of some new experiments on human probability matching.

The book is taking shape. Today – the last day of 2017 – marked the final tweaking of Chapters 4 and 5. So, the current status of the book is very solid drafts of its first five chapters, amounting to 145 pages that hold 73421 words. The next chapter requires me to scrape off the programming rust and write some new neural network code, which hopefully will not take too long. Once the new code is in place I will proceed with a new chapter on including positive feedback in a learning algorithm, which will then lead into a chapter in which I present the results of an experiment with human subjects that I conducted in September. I’ve been at the University of Alberta for 30 years, and this study marked the first time that I used the subject pool on my own!

The development of the book so far has involved collecting data from hundreds of different networks, not to mention reading a lot of new material. Since beginning this project I have consumed 33 books, and have to read several more to write a sensible version of Chapter 6.

The book project is the primary focus of my sabbatical. However, I have been very busy with another project as well. I have had the good luck to collaborate with my colleague Cor Baerveldt and his graduate students on the analysis of archival material related to the Center of Advanced Study in Theoretical Psychology, which existed at the University of Alberta from 1965 until 1990. We have been very busy with this project; we have two articles currently under review at different journals, and I have built a poster that goes with an abstract that I have submitted to Cheiron. With luck I will be able to present some new historical material when Cheiron holds its 50th annual meeting in June at Akron, Ohio, the home of a huge archive of psychological material.

In short, the sabbatical project is going well, and I am hoping that 2018 is a happy and productive new year – not just for me, but for anyone who has taken the time to read this post.

Happy New Year!