Imitation and Innovation in AI: What Four-year-olds Can Do and AI Can’t (Yet)

4 May 2023 – 17:00 BST (note unusual time)

Alison Gopnik
Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Affiliate Professor of Philosophy, Department of Psychology, UC Berkeley

It’s natural to ask whether large language models like LaMDA or GPT-3 are intelligent agents. But I argue that this is the wrong question. Intelligence and agency are the wrong categories for understanding them. Instead, these Al systems are what we might call cultural technologies, like writing, print, libraries, internet search engines or even language itself. They are new techniques for passing on information from one group of people to another. Cultural technologies aren’t like intelligent humans, but they are essential for human intelligence.  Many animals can transmit some information from one individual or one generation to another, but no animal does it as much as we do or accumulates as much information over time. New technologies that make cultural transmission easier and more effective have been among the greatest engines of human progress, but they have also led to negative as well as positive social consequences.  Moreover, while cultural technologies allow transmission of existing information cultural evolution also depends on innovation, exploration and causal learning.  I will present results from a novel environment showing that young children outperform even SOTA LLM’s and RL agents in an exploratory causal learning task.

Biography:  Alison Gopnik is a professor of psychology, affiliate professor of philosophy, and member of the Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research Group at the University of California at Berkeley, where she has taught since 1988. She received her BA from McGill University and her PhD. from Oxford University. She is a world leader in cognitive science, particularly the study of learning and development. She is the author of over 130 journal articles and several books including the bestselling and critically acclaimed “The Scientist in the Crib” William Morrow, 1999, “The Philosophical Baby” Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2009 and “The Gardener and the Carpenter” Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2016. She is a Guggenheim fellow, and fellow of the Cognitive Science Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and President of the Association for Psychological Science.

She writes the Mind and Matter science column for the Wall Street Journal, and she has also written widely about cognitive science and psychology for The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, New Scientist, The New Yorker, Science, and Slate, among others. She has frequently appeared on TV and radio including “The Charlie Rose Show”, “The Colbert Report” “Radio Lab” and “The Ezra Klein Show”. Her TED talk has been seen over 5.2 million times. She has three sons and four grand-children and lives in Berkeley with her husband, Alvy Ray Smith.