AI vs. Human Development and “Learning”

by licalvin

In our previous class discussions, we talked extensively about the main difference between AI and human beings in learning and development. Beyond the veracity of such questions is what I find to be a famously fallacious argument made over and over again throughout the course of the discussion. Many people claimed that we see robots “learning” through trial and error through genetic algorithms. The issue I took was when that process was equated to our own psychological development. For the longest time, the dominant psychological view was behaviorism, which stated that we are who we are because we are conditioned to be such through repeated trial and error. Or through learned behavior, i.e. “conditioning”. In a famous book published by the then young professor Noam Chomsky (the famous linguist and even more famous neo-marxist) lambasted, made fun of, and tore apart the behaviorist’s psychological paradigm on human development. Now almost nobody believes in the behaviorist school of psychology as applied to human growth and development. I think it’s important that we be careful when we make assertions of our psychological constitution when the larger community of psychologists have long ago abandoned such assertions.

Here’s his wikipedia page:

And a picture, which may be copyrighted… thank the lord SOPA hasn’t been passed yet 🙂




2 Comments to “AI vs. Human Development and “Learning””

  1. I have to disagree with your statement. I mentioned both genetic algorithms and learning through trial and error during the discussion. I brought up genetic algorithms to discuss how a computer could evolve from it’s initial environment. This is done when a bit (or gene) is “mutated,” thus introducing a novel entity into the environment that can be used to generate a solution to a problem. However, I was not relating genetic algorithms to the way humans learn. I was actually relaying it back to how creativity is an evolutionary process. In an environment where everything remains the same, nothing new or interesting can be introduced. It takes a mutation of the norm to generate a novel idea. This is one such idea that has not been “abandoned.” Genetic algorithms state that we are who we are because of evolution.

    Later in the discussion, I brought up the fact that robots can learn how to walk through trial and error. This is in fact based off of behaviorist psychology, and yet somehow, it works. It is dangerous to assume that how humans learn is the only way to define learning. Furthermore, your statement that “nobody believes in the behaviorist school of psychology as applied to human growth and development” is simply not true. While Chomsky’s argument may have led to the so called “cognitive revolution,” many argue that there are traces of behaviorism in current psychological research (cognitive behaviorism, clicker training, etc). In fact, Chomsky’s main argument was attacking verbal behaviorism (he was a linguist, after all), which in no way proves that trial and error is not an effective learning mechanism.

  2. I wouldn’t take these comments so personally. I did not insinuate that you were the one that drew the analogy and questioned our development as humans as any different than that of modern AI, but someone did and that’s who I was referencing (sorry, I don’t know your name).

    I don’t contest the efficacy of genetic algorithms nor their ability to get things done. is a great example of that coming to life. In terms of your critique, I admit, I probably overgeneralized when I said “nobody”, and while there is such thing as conditioned behaviors, even in humans, the support for growth and development of major human traits as behaviorism are now considered tenuous at best.

    And finally, yes, Chomsky’s main argument surrounds linguistics, but it was the seminal book that opened up and undermined the notion that our main faculty of learning is through trial and error.

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