A group of researchers at the University of California in Berkeley (UCB) wants to use the cognitive capabilities of babies and small children in order to make computers capable of a more human-like behavior. Doing so is entirely possible, the experts seem to think.
This approach is very interesting because most scientists are currently wondering whether computer use makes children smarter or not. Very few have ever stopped to wonder if the opposite may be true.
One of the most often-encountered difficulties with creating viable artificial intelligences is getting these constructs to handle nuances and uncertainty. The human brain is uniquely equipped to do so, but replicating this ability is proving to be very difficult.
This is where toddlers' brains come in, scientists say. Even at a young age, kids are capable of adapting to changes in their environments by using a variety of cognitive abilities that would make even the most advanced computer jealous.
Apparently, the human brain is capable of testing hypotheses, detecting statistical patterns and drawing conclusions even at a fragile age. “Children are the greatest learning machines in the universe. Imagine if computers could learn as much and as quickly as they do,” researcher Alison Gopnik explains.
The expert, a UCB developmental psychologist, is the author of several books on the topic, including “The Scientist in the Crib” and “The Philosophical Baby.” She and her team are designing numerous experiments to test their hypotheses about the behavior of small children.
“Young children are capable of solving problems that still pose a challenge for computers, such as learning languages and figuring out causal relationships,” adds the director of the UCB Computational Cognitive Science Lab, Tom Griffiths.
“We are hoping to make computers smarter by making them a little more like children,” he says.
In the long run, computers able to replicate this behavior could become capable of interacting with humans in a more intelligent, intuitive and responsive manner, allowing for the development of computer tutoring programs and phone-answering robots, among other applications.
“Your computer could be able to discover causal relationships, ranging from simple cases such as recognizing that you work more slowly when you haven’t had coffee, to complex ones such as identifying which genes cause greater susceptibility to diseases,” Griffiths concludes.