Unsupervised Thinking
a podcast about neuroscience, artificial intelligence and science more broadly

Monday, September 30, 2019

Episode 49: How Important is Learning?

The age-old debate of nature versus nurture is now being played out between artificial intelligence and neuroscience. The dominant approach in AI, machine learning, puts an emphasis on adapting processing to fit the data at hand. Animals, on the other hand, seem to have a lot of built in structure and tendencies, that mean they function well right out of the womb. So are most of our abilities the result of genetically-encoded instructions, honed over generations of evolution? Or are our interactions with the environment key? We discuss the research that has been done on human brain development to try to get at the answers to these questions. We talk about the compromise position that says animals may be "born to learn"---that is, innate tendencies help make sure the right training data is encountered and used efficiently during development. We also get into what all this means for AI and whether machine learning researchers should be learning less. Throughout, we ask if humans are special, argue that development can happen without learning, and discuss the special place of the octopus in the animal kingdom.

Follow special guest Alex Antrobus on twitter

We read:
Functional Brain Development in Humans
A critique of pure learning and what artificial neural networks can learn from animal brains
Weight Agnostic Neural Networks

And we mentioned previous episodes/topics:
Global Science
Training and Diversity in Computational Neuroscience
Studying the Brain in Light of Evolution

To listen to (or download) this episode, (right) click here

As always, our jazzy theme music "Quirky Dog" is courtesy of Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

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