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Pigeons Can Understand Space and Time, Researchers Say

Pigeons Can Understand Space and Time, Researchers Say


Pigeons can Understand Space and Time, Match Wits with AI – Study.

Published via (The Jerusalem Post online edition)

Can pigeons – those gray, brownish omnipresent birds with bobbling necks that, with crows, seem to have taken over Israel skies and public squares – match wits with artificial intelligence? Using associative learning, in some ways, a pigeon’s peck can mirror high tech.

Pigeons can match wits with artificial intelligence (AI) at a very basic level, according to psychologists at the University of Iowa who studied the workings of the pigeon brain and how the “brute force” of the bird’s learning shares similarities with AI.

The researchers published their study in Current Biology under the title “Resolving the associative learning paradox by category learning in pigeons,” giving the pigeons complex categorization tests that high-level thinking, such as using logic or reasoning, would not aid in solving. Instead, by virtue of exhaustive trial and error, the pigeons eventually were able to memorize enough scenarios in the test to reach nearly 70% accuracy.

The researchers equate the pigeons’ repetitive, trial-and-error approach to artificial intelligence, said experimental psychology Prof. Ed Wasserman of the university’s psychological and brain science department and the study’s corresponding author.

Computers employ the same basic methodology, the researchers contend, being “taught” how to identify patterns and objects easily recognized by humans. Because of their enormous memory and storage power—and growing ever more powerful in those domains—computers far surpass anything the pigeon brain can conjure.

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Still, the basic process of making associations, which is considered a lower-level thinking technique, is the same between the test-taking pigeons and the latest AI advances.

“You hear all the time about the wonders of AI, all the amazing things that it can do,” he said. “It can beat the pants off people playing chess or any video game, for that matter. It can beat us at all kinds of things. How does it do it? Is it smart? No, it’s using the same or equivalent system to what the pigeon is using here.”

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