[Computer-go] 50k-100k patterns

Don Dailey dailey.don at gmail.com
Wed Aug 8 08:23:06 PDT 2012

On Wed, Aug 8, 2012 at 11:10 AM, Jim O'Flaherty, Jr. <
jim_oflaherty_jr at yahoo.com> wrote:

> All,
> My memory is a bit foggy on every detail and timing, but what follows is
> my own "thoughts" about learning Go and language acquisition.
> The term in biology and around neuroscience is "plasticity". It's a
> measurement as to the degree of "changeability" the brain has at any given
> time. What has been observed across many different domains is that this
> plasticity is extremely high in the brain until around pubescence. And then
> overall it begins to degrade (i.e. moving towards the old adage "it's hard
> to teach an old dog new tricks") throughout the lifetime of the individual.
> Of course, the brain has different modules which have different rates of
> degrade, some faster than others.

You have just dashed my hopes of become world champion in both Chess and Go
before I die.

> Another method of referring to brain plasticity has to do with
> "development windows". There is substantial empirical evidence suggesting
> that the degree of plasticity for a child between birth and 6 years old is
> considerably higher than that of a 6 to 12 (pre-pubescent) year old. And
> that it drops again around 18-20 year for females and around 22-25 for
> males. After that, it plateaus for about a decade and then begins a slow
> fall off (again, this is for the overall brain, not specifically for each
> particular module/area).
> Consider your own empirical evidence about how Go is taught in Japan and
> China. If an adult brain could learn as quickly and easily as a 6 yo brain,
> then the 8-10 years it takes to teach a 6yo to become a professional Go
> player ought to be roughly equivalent to an 20yo achieving a similar thing
> by 30yo. This just does not happen as a general rule, even for those who
> become consumed by the game and immerse themselves in deep study with
> teachers. And notice the age distribution of the title holders throughout
> the years. While there are statistical outliers, the bulk of the winners
> fall within a pretty narrow age range. This is the emergent effect of how
> plasticity works with the brain. And it's reasonable evidence to imply
> attempts to work outside the plasticity model generally fail (with the
> statistical outlier exceptions).
> The bottom line is that the brain has an aging and adaptation model that
> strongly follows the same biological models as the physical body. The young
> body is more pliable and more energetic. If you doubt this, notice how the
> Olympians for each sport typically fall into a very narrow biological age
> range. It's just the nature of organisms in general, and of homo-sapien in
> particular. So, teaching a young child's mind patterns while they are more
> impressionable will occur more rapidly and with less resistance (consider
> there are less things for which those patterns to compete with in terms of
> utilizing neural connectivity).
> So, while there is truth that an adult can do work to acquire an accent a
> child picks up unconsciously. The adult must always be consciously choosing
> the accent where the child never does. This points to where in the brain
> the bulk of the connections had to be made. And it also points out that the
> adult must expends the more scarce "concsious focus will poower" resources
> whereas for the child, it's leveraging much more abundantly available
> sub-conscious/intuitive aspect of their brain.
> One other thought that might help in seeing that a child's mind and
> learning is different at a fundamentally biological level - the great
> pruning. From fertilization until around the age of 6, a child's brain is
> continuing to grow new neurons and connections. The activity can be
> described as frenetic. However, around the age of 6, the neuron growth
> expansion slows down. And between the age of 6 and 10, the child's mind
> engages in a slowly accelerating process of neuron and dendritic pruning.
> By the age of 10, more than half of the neurons have disappeared and a
> large percentage of dendritic connectivity has dissipated. It's the first
> "wisdom over direction perception" cycle; i.e. the brain learning the
> abstract pattern and then letting go of much of the empirical facts that
> helped originate the pattern. This particular notion typically makes the
> OCD types quite nervous and uncomfortable, a category into which many Go
> players would fall {smirk}).
> So, if this "great pruning" has any real truth to it, it would likely be a
> large influencer in why both acquiring a language, an accent and learning
> intricate Go patterns prior to 6 are then "hard coded" at a very deep and
> abstract level into the resulting pruned network by the time the child has
> reached 10 years old. In effect, they have been imprinted deeply and
> subconsciously/intuitively in a way no adult can possibly match.
> Fascinating tangent! Totally related to may own AI research related to Go.
> Thank you,
> Jim
>   ------------------------------
> *From:* Darren Cook <darren at dcook.org>
> *To:* computer-go at dvandva.org
> *Sent:* Wednesday, August 8, 2012 7:12 AM
> *Subject:* Re: [Computer-go] 50k-100k patterns
> > Well, it might not be an irrefutable theory, but it's a lot more than
> > just a myth. Linguists and neuroscientists have been studying the
> > issue for decades. Check out
> > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_period_hypothesis
> Thanks for the interesting link.
> OK, "myth" was overstating it. But "I feel this is a theory that people
> should not assume is true, because there is a large body of
> counter-evidence" doesn't roll off the tongue so well :-)
> Something I suspect a lot of people on this list might have tried is
> learning Japanese kanji. I meet a lot of Japanese learners (even as
> young as in their early twenties) who throw their hands up and say they
> are too old to learn kanji. They've heard this myth (or whatever, see
> above) that only children, with their sponge-like brains, can do it.
> In fact it appears to be the opposite: my children go to the local
> Japanese school, so I've been able to see firsthand that Japanese school
> children spend at least one hour/day, 5 days/week, plus considerable
> homework/juku, for the first 6 years, dedicated to learning the first
> 1000 kanji. That is 2000 to 3000 hours. Plus using those kanji in all
> their other lessons.
> Adult learners, who actually try, can learn the same amount of kanji in
> far fewer total hours.
> There is a very under-rated theory, "premature literacy" (perhaps it is
> more well-known under another name??), that says children shouldn't
> learn to read/write their mother tongue until they are 10 or 11, as the
> brain isn't ready for it. (Or, I've even heard claims it damages the
> brain, so it cannot learn other stuff so well.)
> And, taking that further, so far in fact that I end up back on topic
> (!), it has always seemed to me that go patterns are more like written
> characters than sounds.
> >> More evidence that adult learners can learn new accents: the existence
> >> of impressionists.
> >
> > Impressionists like Debussy or like Degas? Or perhaps you mean
> > "impersonators"? :)
> Meaning two here!
>   http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Impressionists
> Darren
> --
> Darren Cook, Software Researcher/Developer
> http://dcook.org/work/ (About me and my work)
> http://dcook.org/blogs.html (My blogs and articles)
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