What is it about?

Humans and other adaptive agents have to juggle many different needs. Must they learn this complicated balancing act as a single entity? Or might specialist sub-agents each learn to handle a separate objective? This work tests this question empirically using modern AI methods.

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Why is it important?

Satisfying many different objectives is a pre-requisite for surviving and thriving. Understanding the best ways to do this might help us build machines that can better manage the various demands put upon them. As well, this work helps explain why internal psychological conflict seems so central to the human condition.


Humans often feel pulled in different directions, like there is a tug of war going on inside their heads. Ever since the time of Freud and before, we have struggled to answer why the human psyche should be at odds with itself. I think this work suggests that there are real benefits to having multiple selves that deal with separate concerns. And that means it is inevitable that they sometimes come into conflict, finally explaining why psychologists have discussed psychological conflict and its resolution for centuries.

zachary dulberg
Princeton University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Having multiple selves helps learning agents explore and adapt in complex changing worlds, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2221180120.
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