Do humans learn the same way as computers? Cognitive psychologists have debated this question for decades, but in the past few years the remarkable accomplishments of deep-learning computer systems have fanned the flames, particularly among researchers who study object recognition.
Humans effortlessly know that a tree is a tree and a dog is a dog no matter the size, color or angle at which they’re viewed. In fact, identifying such visual elements is one of the earliest tasks children learn. But researchers have struggled to determine how the brain does this simple evaluation. As deep-learning systems have come to master this ability, scientists have started to ask whether computers analyze data—and particularly images—similarly to the human brain. “The way that the human mind, the human visual system, understands shape is a mystery that has baffled people for many generations, partly because it is so intuitive and yet it’s very difficult to program” says Jacob Feldman, a psychology professor at Rutgers University.
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