Friday, December 16, 2011

The Automated Learning has You


One of these days, we might have automated learning on our doorsteps.  Imagine just plugging in the Spanish module and learning a new language in a few hours.

Boston University and ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Japan are working on a way to improve visual tasks through use of an fMRI.  The idea is to induce brain activity that is the same as known state and thereby carrying over proficiency.

In other words, the visual cortex of a human brain is able to learn through perception.  They use decoded fMRI neurofeedback to let certain areas of the brain activate so that it matches the activation pattern on a specific area of interest.  Repeating the activation patterns was shown to increase the visual performance.

What’s interesting is that the subjects didn’t even have to be aware of what they were learning.

Currently the method only seems to work with visual perceptual learning, but the future might hold ways to teach motor skills victims of accidents, or automated learning.

While this is both bright and shiny, the potential problems with it are great.  Think about it.  It will allow anyone to learn anything without any effort at all.  So for one thing, people will all be same.  And another thing to think about is the problem with learning something without working hard.  Just getting a skill without any work will make you use it irresponsibly.  The hard work and persistence it takes to learn a skill is in itself training for you to use it responsibly.  Just think of what would happen if anyone could learn how to build a hydrogen bomb in an hour.  Or how to shoot properly with a gun.  The instant-gratification age has already broken down the sense of responsibility in people.  Instant skills could make it even worse.

But it would be freakin’ cool.


  1. Interesting idea. Wonder if that will ever come to light?

  2. Michelle : Haha, indeed.

    J.C. : My guess is that they might get the visual perceptual skills thing up and running, but I doubt they would be able to get much further with the rest, since they have thus far only proved that the visual cortex is plastic enough for such a transfer of proficiency.