Scientists gain insight into ‘expertise’

July 24th, 2012 - 5:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, July 24 (IANS) Using a traditional Chinese board game and artificial intelligence (AI), scientists have figured out how people become experts in their chosen fields.

Expertise is a special knowledge of specific domain far beyond the capacity of an average person.

The findings of researchers from the Sydney and Charles Sturt universities will improve our understanding of how we think and help to develop more flexible artificial intelligences, according to the journal Nature’s Scientific Reports.

“In a rare achievement we used artificial neural networks, made up of hundreds of thousands of neurons (brain or nerve cells) each, to model how an expert rapidly evaluates a situation and narrows their choices down to the best options,” said Michael Harre from the Sydney’s School of Psychology, who led the study.

Researchers used thousands of records of professional and amateur matches of Go, a game for two players which originated in China over 2,000 years ago.

“Using the data from these matches we replayed the amateur and professional games using our artificial neural networks,” said Harre, according to a Sydney statement.

“What we were able to do is model the mental processes that experts develop by using simplified versions of biological networks. Critically the networks we modelled not only change the way players think about the game, but they can literally change the way players unconsciously ’see’ the game.”

This is the first time that these subtle changes in how experts perceive their environment have been modelled. They are critically important for experts to recognise and use but are overlooked by non-experts.

We might think of expertise as something done by air traffic controllers, neurosurgeons or Go champions, but all humans demonstrate expertise.

Our ability to master speech, instantly recognise a face in the crowd or read the social cues in a conversation are all examples of very high-order ‘expertise’ that any artificial intelligence is still decades away from achieving.

“For this reason this research gives us new insight into the development of human thought. How do we develop our earliest perceptions into highly complex thinking,” said Harre.

“It also promises to help develop artificial intelligence systems that are similarly flexible to humans; able to adapt to new learning environments while maintaining a stable and consistent ‘mind’,” Harre added.

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