Minds vs. Machines: How far are we from the common sense of a toddler?

CVPR 2020 Workshop, June 15, Seattle, WA (held virtually)

Children are MESSes - Model Building Exploratory Social Learning Systems

Alison Gopnik

Abstract: In a remarkably short time, human infants construct structured common sense representations of the people and objects around them. What learning mechanisms make this possible? My colleagues and I propose an interaction between three different kinds of learning mechanisms, model-building, intrinsically-motivated exploration, and social learning. All of these processes have been explored extensively in developmental studies. Moreover, they have all been applied to the understanding of objects, agents and space. However, these learning processes have been much less prominent in recent AI approaches to learning, such as deep learning and classic reinforcement learning. We have begun to remedy this situation by constructing computational versions of these types of learning, and their interaction and in parallel, researching the nature of these learning mechanisms in human children and infants. I will report preliminary findings from this research.

Speaker bio: Alison Gopnik is a professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley. She received her BA from McGill University and her PhD. from Oxford University. She is an internationally recognized leader in the study of cognitive science and of children’s learning and development and was one of the founders of the field of “theory of mind”, an originator of the “theory theory” of children’s development and introduced the idea that probabilistic models and Bayesian inference could be applied to children’s learning. She has held a Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences Fellowship, the Moore Distinguished Scholar Fellowship at the California Institute of Technology, the All Souls College Distinguished Visiting Fellowship at Oxford, the King’s College Distinguished Visiting Fellowship at Cambridge, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is an elected member of the Society of Experimental Psychologists, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of the Cognitive Science Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

She is the author or coauthor of over 120 journal articles and several books including “Words, thoughts and theories” MIT Press, 1997, and the bestselling and critically acclaimed popular books “The Scientist in the Crib” William Morrow, 1999, “The Philosophical Baby; What children’s minds tell us about love, truth and the meaning of life”, and “The Gardener and the Carpenter”, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, the latter two won the Cognitive Development Society Best Book Prize in 2009 and 2016. She has also written widely about cognitive science and psychology for The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Science, Scientific American, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, New Scientist and Slate, among others. Her TED talk on her work has been viewed more than 4 million times. And she has frequently appeared on TV and radio including “The Charlie Rose Show”, “The Colbert Report”, “Radio Lab” and “The Ezra Klein Show”. Since 2013 she has written the Mind and Matter column for the Wall Street Journal.

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