UCL News


Scientists to automate thought

6 July 2006

A brain scanning experiment at UCL could help to create computers that make decisions in the same way as humans, heralding huge potential benefits for businesses.

Such computers would be able to identify trends and make accurate decisions about complex information much quicker than people, potentially replacing human participation in data analysis procedures.

The project, conducted at the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit of UCL, used a functional Magnetic Resonance Imager (fMRI) to scan volunteer's brains as they played a computerised gambling programme.

Dr Nathaniel Daw, one of the project's leaders, presented subjects with a series of slot machines that paid out different amounts of money, leaving them to find the best one.

"If we can understand how people solve problems using past experience we can design better decision-making machine algorithms that could be used in something like an autonomous robot, or in perfecting systems such as those used by Amazon.com to price books with," said Daw. …

If human intelligence can be mimicked and applied to computers, machines would be able to think about the data they are receiving, identify patterns and make decisions for a business. …

James Brown, 'Computing'