Artificial Intelligence Acquires Animal-like Number Sense

An artificial intelligence (AI) computer model has started understanding numbers intuitively. Scientists made this observation as part of a research study to train the AI model on how to recognize a range of objects. The findings are reported in Science.


Learning Numbers

The research was conducted by a team of scientists including Andreas Nieder, a neurobiologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany. Their mission was to train the AI computer model to identify a range of objects. The model is made up of virtual brain cells and is called an artificial neural network.

The AI training process involved giving the neural network access to an extensive library containing over 1.2 million images of various objects, including animals and vehicles. These were all labeled so that the virtual brain could make relevant associations in the process of learning. What the team of scientists witnessed, thereafter, was truly remarkable.

The AI model went much further than expected. The image library kind of training is commonly used with AI models. The team proceeded to show the AI model dot patterns to see how it might respond to different pattern arrangements of 30 dots. It appears that the AI formed a number sense on its own with receiving specific instructions and guidance in this process. The computer model was able to show a rudimentary understanding of numbers and various changing quantities on its own.

The advantage of working with an AI brain model is that scientists could see what had changed in the nature and structure of the virtual neurons. The AI model developed virtual neurons with the ability to identify and respond to different quantities. The researchers also observed that these new neurons were similar in how they function to number neurons that are present in animals such as humans and birds. These number neurons are responsible for an intuitive sense of numbers that allows various creatures to estimate different quantities.

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