Passion Fruit!

Vrinda Vasavada's Blog

Teaching a Computer: How to Grow a Mind

on August 5, 2014

In his extremely interesting paper “How to Grow a Mind: Statistics, Structure, and Abstraction,” Joshua B. Tenenbaum writes about reverse-engineering human learning, and the essential basis of knowledge and cognitive learning. Although some aspects of his paper are way over my mind, much of it is comprehendible.

For example, think back to when you were a kid. Once taught a rule or a word (for example cat) you probably applied it to every unknown furry creature you saw! As humans, we learn by generalizing, by applying simple grammar principles to every possible word and filling in the missing places in our knowledge with generalizations. This ability is extremely important in human learning and is a great challenge in AI.

In the present, the state of computing is similar to the human state in science a few centuries ago and every child’s state at the beginning of the learning process. We tend to organize objects into flat, distinct divisions, later to realize that they should be organized into trees or hierarchies. These epiphanies are not only important to cognitive learning but also to science, as shown through Mendeleev’s creative organization of the periodic table of elements and Linnaeus’ proposal of biological relationships.

Reverse-engineering the mind poses lots of challenges and three levels of analysis: computational, algorithmic, and implementation-related. Learning more about the human brain will help not only our understanding of human behavior but also the growing demand for more compassionate, personal computing systems and technology.

Smile and wave, Vrinda Vasavada 🙂


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