Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Deep learning nails correlation. Causation is another matter.

Why do people with bigger hands have a better vocabulary? That's one question deep learning can't answer.

GARY MARCUS: There's an old joke statisticians like to tell, which is that your vocabulary size is correlated with your hand size. And it's actually true. If you go across the whole population, measure everybody's hand size and everybody's vocabulary, then people with bigger hands, on average, have bigger vocabulary. But does that mean that having a bigger hand gives you a bigger vocabulary, as opposed to studying and reading books, which might?

Well, no. It just means that adults tend to know more words than kids, and they tend to have bigger hands. That something is causing them to learn words and causing them to grow their hands, they're not really quite the same thing. So causation, it would be if growing your hand actually made you grow your vocabulary. But that's not there. We just have a correlation.

Deep learning is kind of fancier than correlation, but to a first approximation that's what it's doing. It is correlation. It doesn't have ways of representing causal relationships.

So if we wanted to ask a deep learning system: Does growing bigger hands mean you have a bigger vocabulary? The deep learning system can say, well, I have a number of observations here, they certainly seem to be correlated. But it can't say that what causes your hand to grow is all kinds of metabolic processes, and what causes your vocabulary to increase is all kinds of learning experiences.

And so it has no way to even really get into the question of whether there's a causal relationship between your hand size and your vocabulary. It can just note that they're correlated. And that could be fine for some purposes. If you wanted to pick out the people in the population with the biggest vocabulary, maybe it will help. If you wanted to know what the mechanisms are, why these things are correlated, and whether one is causing the other -- which you'd probably want to know -- then deep learning is not your tool for that.

  • Did you know that people with bigger hands have larger vocabularies?
  • While that's actually true, it's not a causal relationship. This pattern exists because adults tend know more words than kids. It's a correlation, explains NYU professor Gary Marcus.
  • Deep learning struggles with how to perceive causal relationships. If given the data on hand size and vocabulary size, a deep learning system might only be able to see the correlation, but wouldn't be able to answer the 'why?' of it.

Remote learning vs. online instruction: How COVID-19 woke America up to the difference

Educators and administrators must build new supports for faculty and student success in a world where the classroom might become virtual in the blink of an eye.

Credit: Shutterstock
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • If you or someone you know is attending school remotely, you are more than likely learning through emergency remote instruction, which is not the same as online learning, write Rich DeMillo and Steve Harmon.
  • Education institutions must properly define and understand the difference between a course that is designed from inception to be taught in an online format and a course that has been rapidly converted to be offered to remote students.
  • In a future involving more online instruction than any of us ever imagined, it will be crucial to meticulously design factors like learner navigation, interactive recordings, feedback loops, exams and office hours in order to maximize learning potential within the virtual environment.
Keep reading Show less

Supporting climate science increases skepticism of out-groups

A study finds people are more influenced by what the other party says than their own. What gives?

Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new study has found evidence suggesting that conservative climate skepticism is driven by reactions to liberal support for science.
  • This was determined both by comparing polling data to records of cues given by leaders, and through a survey.
  • The findings could lead to new methods of influencing public opinion.
Keep reading Show less

What is counterfactual thinking?

Can thinking about the past really help us create a better present and future?

Jacob Lund / Shutterstock
Personal Growth
  • There are two types of counterfactual thinking: upward and downward.
  • Both upward and downward counterfactual thinking can be positive impacts on your current outlook - however, upward counterfactual thinking has been linked with depression.
  • While counterfactual thinking is a very normal and natural process, experts suggest the best course is to focus on the present and future and allow counterfactual thinking to act as a motivator when possible.
Keep reading Show less

DMT drug study investigates the ‘entities’ people meet while tripping

Why do so many people encounter beings after smoking large doses of DMT?

Pixabay
Mind & Brain
  • DMT is arguably the most powerful psychedelic drug on the planet, capable of producing intense hallucinations.
  • Researchers recently surveyed more than 2,000 DMT users about their encounters with 'entities' while tripping, finding that respondents often considered these strange encounters to be positive and meaningful.
  • The majority of respondents believed the beings they encountered were not hallucinations.
Keep reading Show less

Anti-vax disinformation spreads unchecked on Facebook

Despite fact check campaigns, anti-vaccination influence is growing.

Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite announcing plans to combat disinformation, anti-vax groups continue to gain influence on Facebook.
  • An analysis of over 1,300 Facebook pages with 100 million followers shows that anti-vaccination agendas are having a profound impact.
  • Only 50 percent of Americans are certain they'll receive an approved COVID-19 vaccine.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast