The link between the study of perception and building AI

The link between the study of perception and building AI
2020-05-25

Hello! I’m Josh and I studied at Aberdeen last year. Studying Psychology transformed my wildest dreams into a reality (perhaps not your classic dreams of following trodden paths to the peaks of Everest, but discovering the neural pathways to the peaks of brain activity). This Psychology conversion course is the beginning of an opportunity to embark on a career that will be truly rewarding, combining the analytical and scientific with work that is people focussed and empathetic. I have taken a brief interlude on my psychological journey (only figuratively, not literally – all cylinders still firing) – I used my new found confidence in data and statistics to get a job in data automation back home in London.

After graduating, I began thinking about the similarities between human beings and machine minds. I became curious about the link between the study of perception and building artificial intelligence. We are essentially biological machines that navigate the world using our senses to form predictions about the future based on current knowledge. In the background of our consciousness we are creating frameworks to recognise objects and faces (something you’ll learn about when you study perception). The same frameworks are applied to facial recognition and vehicle crash detection technologies. As AI progresses, we are essentially learning more about how to model the brain, and soon we’ll be building autonomous robots and wondering – what is consciousness and could it be generated in a machine ‘brain’? Psychologists will play a role in monitoring the mindsets of these machines, determining the characteristics deemed desirable of robots for them to be functioning members of society. If these machine minds become anything like our own, capable of using their senses to form hypotheses or ‘beliefs’ about the world, capable of remembering experiences and learning, capable of understanding complex ideas and being able to hold a conversation, then we will need to work on them or with them to monitor their responses to stimuli, guide their natural language programmes to be agreeable, with calibration becoming some form of counselling. Before we know it we’ll be living in an episode of Futurama!

The time since graduating has allowed me to reflect and think more about where to go next. I am putting together a proposal and looking for research opportunities on the self and the default mode network, and its interaction with rigid and creative thought – an area that has interested me for some time. I’m hoping that pursuing a topic where my passion lies will be the best decision in the long term. But I digress, enough about me! It is your turn to begin your journey and acquire the knowledge that you have long yearned for, or even better, discover something you’d never even considered! That is one of the real beauties of Psychology, you think you’ve seen it all but there is more beneath the surface than you could have imagined, as if your mind were the bedrock of your consciousness and you are the psychologist with his/her rock hammer ready.

Joshua Bugg studied the MSc Psychological Studies in 2018/19

Look out for future blogs from Josh where he shares his thoughts on the various topics he studied as part of his masters degree.

Published by The School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen

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