Monday, November 27, 2017

Babies can estimate likelihoods

Here is some new baby research:
We use probabilities all day long as we make choices and plans. We are able to analyse risks and advantages in our choices by estimating the most probable consequences. We get better at this with experience, but how early in life do we start such calculations?

A new study by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig and Uppsala University in Sweden shows that six-month-old infants can estimate likelihoods. ...

The study subjected 75 infants aged, six months, 12 months and 18 months to animated film sequences. The short videos showed a machine filled with blue and yellow balls. ...

The researchers discovered that the babies stared the longest at the basket of yellow balls – the improbable selection.

“This might be because of the surprise as it consisted of the ‘rare’ yellow balls,” says Kayhan. ...

Researchers have previously shown that infants have an understanding of very elementary mathematics. Babies were seen to be very surprised when they were shown a box with two dolls in it but only found one when they opened the box later.
I am a little skeptical of this research, but let's just take it at face value.

Lots of big-shot physicists believe in a goofy theory called the many worlds interpretation (MWI). Besides being mathematically ill-defined and philosophically absurd, it suffers the defect that probabilities make no sense.

MWI says that all possibilities happen in parallel worlds, but has no way of saying that one possibility is more probable than any other. It has no way of saying that some worlds are more likely. If you suddenly worry that a meteorite is going to hit your head in the next ten minutes, MWI can only tell you that it will happen on one or more of those parallel worlds, and be unable to tell you whether that is likely or unlikely.

There is no measure space of the possible worlds, and no reason to believe that any or those worlds are any more real than any others.

Apparently one-year-old babies understand probability better than the big-shot physicists who believe in MWI.

If any of those physicists happens to step into a psychiatric facility, I would suggest that he keeps quiet about the MWI. He might get diagnosed with schizophrenia.

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