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.
Dr. Gary Marcus is the director of the NYU Infant Language Learning Center, and a professor of psychology at New York University. He is the author of "The Birth of the Mind," "The Algebraic Mind: Integrating Connectionism and Cognitive Science," and "Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind." Marcus's research on developmental cognitive neuroscience has been published in over forty articles in leading journals, and in 1996 he won the Robert L. Fantz award for new investigators in cognitive development.
Marcus contributed an idea to Big Think's "Dangerous Ideas" blog, suggesting that we should develop Google-like chips to implant in our brains and enhance our memory.
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.
- Want to Teach the Difference Between Correlation and Causality ... ›
- Judea Pearl's 'The Book of Why' shakes up correlation vs. causality ... ›
- Correlation vs causation: Ice cream linked to shark attacks? - Big Think ›
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Using machine-learning technology, the genealogy company My Heritage enables users to animate static images of their relatives.
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- The AI can animate images by "looking" at a single facial image, and the animations include movements such as blinking, smiling and head tilting.
- As deepfake technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, some are concerned about how bad actors might abuse the technology to manipulate the pubic.
My Heritage/Deep Nostalgia<p>But that's not to say the animations are perfect. As with most deep-fake technology, there's still an uncanny air to the images, with some of the facial movements appearing slightly unnatural. What's more, Deep Nostalgia is only able to create deepfakes of one person's face from the neck up, so you couldn't use it to animate group photos, or photos of people doing any sort of physical activity.</p>
My Heritage/Deep Nostalgia<p>But for a free deep-fake service, Deep Nostalgia is pretty impressive, especially considering you can use it to create deepfakes of <em>any </em>face, human or not. </p>
How long should one wait until an idea like string theory, seductive as it may be, is deemed unrealistic?
- How far should we defend an idea in the face of contrarian evidence?
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- Science carries within it its seeds from ancient Greece, including certain prejudices of how reality should or shouldn't be.
Plato used the allegory of the cave to explain that what humans see and experience is not the true reality.
Credit: Gothika via Wikimedia Commons CC 4.0<p>When scientists and mathematicians use the term <em>Platonic worldview</em>, that's what they mean in general: The unbound capacity of reason to unlock the secrets of creation, one by one. Einstein, for one, was a believer, preaching the fundamental reasonableness of nature; no weird unexplainable stuff, like a god that plays dice—his tongue-in-cheek critique of the belief that the unpredictability of the quantum world was truly fundamental to nature and not just a shortcoming of our current understanding. Despite his strong belief in such underlying order, Einstein recognized the imperfection of human knowledge: "What I see of Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility." (Quoted by Dukas and Hoffmann in <em>Albert Einstein, The Human Side: Glimpses from His Archives</em> (1979), 39.)</p> <p>Einstein embodies the tension between these two clashing worldviews, a tension that is still very much with us today: On the one hand, the Platonic ideology that the fundamental stuff of reality is logical and understandable to the human mind, and, on the other, the acknowledgment that our reasoning has limitations, that our tools have limitations and thus that to reach some sort of final or complete understanding of the material world is nothing but an impossible, <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01K2JTGIA?tag=bigthink00-20&linkCode=ogi&th=1&psc=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">semi-religious dream</a>.</p>
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Physicist Hong Qin with images of planetary orbits and computer code.
Credit: Elle Starkman
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