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Pigeon Power

Can a pigeon match wits with artificial intelligence? At a very basic level, yes.

In a new study, psychologists at the University of Iowa examined the workings of the pigeon brain and how the “brute force” of the bird’s learning shares similarities with artificial intelligence.

The researchers gave the pigeons complex categorization tests that high-level thinking, such as using logic or reasoning, would not aid in solving. Instead, the pigeons, by virtue of exhaustive trial and error, 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. Computers employ the same basic methodology, the researchers contend, being “taught” how to identify patterns and objects easily recognized by humans. Granted, computers, because of their enormous memory and storage power—and growing ever more powerful in those domains—far surpass anything the pigeon brain can conjure.

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