Humans are intrinsically motivated to learn. Such motivation is necessary to be a human-like learner, and helpful for any learning system designed to achieve general intelligence. We discuss the limited existing computational work in this area, and link them to known and theorized properties of the dopamine system. The relatively well-understood mechanisms by which dopamine release signals unpredicted reward can also serve to signal new learning. Dopamine release leads to maintenance of current representations, which serves to “lock” attention onto topics or tasks in which useful learning is occurring. We thus propose a novel but natural extension of known aspects of dopamine function to perform self-directed learning of arbitrary self-defined tasks. If this hypothesis is correct, detailed experimental evidence on dopamine function can help guide computational research into human-like learning systems.
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