In science, we use statistics and experiments to figure out causal relationships. Researchers in artificial intelligence and machine learning have started to design software that allows computers to learn about causes the way that scientists do. Over the past 15 years, researchers in my laboratory have shown that children learn in much the same way.
In one experiment, we showed preschool children a simple machine with a switch on one side and two disks that spin on top. Then we showed them what would happen if you performed some experiments on the machine; for example, you take off one disk, flip the switch and see what happens to the other disk. They could use these data to correctly infer whether flipping the switch to make the blue disk turn would make the yellow disk spin (known as a causal chain structure in statistics) or flipping the switch would make both disks turn (a common cause structure).
Read the whole story: Scientific AmericanMore of our Members in the Media >