A team of scientists has developed an algorithm that captures our learning abilities, enabling computers to recognize and draw simple visual concepts that are mostly indistinguishable from those created by humans. The work, which appears in the latest issue of the journal Science, marks a significant advance in the field—one that dramatically shortens the time it takes computers to “learn” new concepts and broadens their application to more creative tasks.
“Our results show that by reverse engineering how people think about a problem, we can develop better algorithms,” explains Brenden Lake, a Moore-Sloan Data Science Fellow at New York University and the paper’s lead author.
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Ref: Human-level concept learning through probabilistic program induction. Science (11 December 2015) | DOI: 10.1126/science.aab3050
People learning new concepts can often generalize successfully from just a single example, yet machine learning algorithms typically require tens or hundreds of examples to perform with similar accuracy. People can also use learned concepts in richer ways than conventional algorithms—for action, imagination, and explanation. We present a computational model that captures these human learning abilities for a large class of simple visual concepts: handwritten characters from the world’s alphabets. The model represents concepts as simple programs that best explain observed examples under a Bayesian criterion. On a challenging one-shot classification task, the model achieves human-level performance while outperforming recent deep learning approaches. We also present several “visual Turing tests” probing the model’s creative generalization abilities, which in many cases are indistinguishable from human behavior.