Day 051 - Defining things

Submitted by Sam on 10 July, 2011 - 23:22

In order to have a notion of a “thing” we first have to be able to distinguish a group of properties which seem to stay the same whilst other things change, or that change in ways that we can predict. Our 'thing-recognition' processes have evolved to isolate an integral constellation of properties to accurately define an entity, whether a spoken word or a physical object or anything that can have a name. This ability is so elementary to us that we hardly ever consider how marvellously complex it is, given that we never see (or hear, or feel, or taste) the same thing in exactly the same way twice – invariably we always experience it from a slightly different perspective, perhaps against a different background, from a higher perspective, or under a different shade of light. Whilst our ability to differentiate things seems simple because it is 'second nature' to us, this is only because we are unconscious of the great network of processes in our brain that make the fantastically intricate computations that allow us to make such distinctions possible.

Even the most advanced robots today lack the visual object-recognition capabilities that a two year-old child possesses, and fail to attain the language capabilities of a four year old child. A two-year old child can recognize classes of objects, and can classify a black shoe as a shoe, despite never having seen a black shoe of that exact style, colour or size before, but yet our robots cannot reliably classify because we have yet to be able to replicate the complex object-identification processes in our brains. A four year-old child can understand language in noisy environments and in a variety of accents, whilst our voice-recognition algorithms break down under such conditions.

Humans are able to discard a great deal of sensory information in order to perceive only what is most essential to each scene – without this ability we would be unable to learn because our memories would never sufficiently correlate with current appearances.

Attribution Noncommercial Share Alike
This text, Day 051 - Defining things, by Sam Haskell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.
Drupal theme by Kiwi Themes.