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Abstractions and contexts October 15, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in science.
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I know analogies are a very bad way of buttressing one’s arguments. But as a reader who did not read the previous post (and the comments that followed) might realize, even if you don’t know the background, this extract soooo makes you think.

The robot is observing a person opening a glass jar. The person approaches the robot and places the jar on a table near the robot. The person rubs his hands together and then sets himself to removing the lid from the jar. He grasps the glass jar in one hand and the lid in the other and begins to unscrew the lid by turning it counter-clockwise. While he is opening the jar, he pauses to wipe his brow, and glances at the robot to see what it is doing. He then resumes opening the jar. The robot then attempts to imitate the action.

Although classical machine learning addresses some issues this situation raises, building a system that can learn from this type of interaction requires a focus on additional research questions. Which parts of the action to be imitated are important (such as turning the lid counter-clockwise), and which aren’t (such as wiping your brow)?

Once the action has been performed, how does the robot evaluate the performance? How can the robot abstract the knowledge gained from this experience and apply it to a similar situation? These questions require knowledge about not only the physical but also the social environment.

As a follow-up to my comment here.

This extract is linked to from this document. I read this in Steven Pinker’s Blank Slate where he quotes one of the authors of this paper, Rodney Brooks from the MIT AI lab.

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