Bleeding Edge

by Mike Masnick




Brains That Work Smarter, Not Harder

from the how-it-all-works dept

More data isn't always a good thing. As has been pointed out plenty of times, efforts for things like data retention often have the opposite of the intended effect (catching criminals) because it hides the good data with all the bad data. Is it any surprise that our brains feel the same way? Clive Thompson is talking about some research that took people by surprise, noting that smarter people tend to be better at ignoring useless data, rather than storing more data. Traditionally, it's been assumed that the brain is sort of like a big hard drive -- and people who can remember more tend to be smarter. However, this research suggests that it's not the ability to remember more, but to remember the right things. In some ways this isn't that surprising. After all, intelligence often seems to come from the ability to do better pattern matching than others -- and having the right data, rather than too much data can often help make those patterns clearer. It would be interesting to see what sort of impact this would have on artificial intelligence research. Many AI projects seem to have worked on the basis of cramming the system with more and more and more data in the hopes that some sort of intelligence would eventually emerge. Perhaps the focus should be more on teaching it how to ignore data.

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  1. identicon
    The Stalwart, 29 Nov 2005 @ 7:45pm

    More Data

    Furthermore, more data can lead to false confidence. The Square-Root Law states that an x-fold increase in the amount of data collected will only lead to a result that is more informed by √x.
    Misunderstanding this will lead the human brain to make mistakes in judgment and will, as you state, cause tech-folks to give data storage and mining an undeservedly high priority.

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