I was getting bogged down in studying Design of Experiments, so I decided to do an exercise to remind myself why I'm going through the trouble of learning all this sciency-stuff. I wrote "What is it that I actually want to study?" and proceeded to ask a bunch more questions. Thus the list, reproduced:
What is it that I actually want to study?
Concept formation: how are disparate observations integrated into categories?
In other words, how are concepts formed?
How does this happen in biology?
How can this be replicated with technology?
Agent model: what kinds of agents form a learning system?
What is the nature of their interaction?
How do agents first form?
What is their reward/punishment (utility) function?
What gives a learning system "agency" in the ethical sense?
What degree of organization is required to consider a collection of agents as an "individual"?
What does individuality imply, in terms of the agency's interaction with other agents?
How nuanced is individuality, if there are overlaps with other agencies?
Where agencies cross apparent boundaries, are their utility functions united, and to what degree?
Is there an "optimal" level of agency interdependency?
What factors would determine this optimality?
How persistent will this optimality be?
What are the determinants of "persistence"?
What is "agency in the ethical sense"?
Are there codes of interactions, standards that define ethical interaction between agents?
Can this be equated to the "Austrian" laws of economic interaction (non-theft, exchange of real value, creation of new value through interaction with the environment)?
What is Value?
Are there such things as intrinsic values, common to all agents?
If not, does the commonality of values define agency-formation?
What degree of uncommonality is optimally robust against uncertainty?
How do agents define their values?
Are values the same as their utility function?
Are there unifying rules that govern agents and their interactions at all levels?
Can "proper" rules of sub-individual agents be defined, and can the be generalized to interpersonal (political) relationships?
Can these rules be used as a basis for ethics?