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
    Three Men In A Boat, 30 Nov 2005 @ 7:34am

    Re: Brains that work smarter

    Conan Doyle in A Study In Scarlet has Sherlock Holmes say:
    "You see," he explained, "I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."

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