Scientists are trying to build a schizophrenic computer
So since I’ve been a blogger, I’ve written some pretty interesting things. I have also written about some rather strange things and even some quite absurd things. However, this story may only be a separate story.
A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin in collaboration with researchers at Yale University aimed to create the thought of a schizophrenic mind on a computer. Yes, it’s true, they try to make a computer schizophrenic by using a virtual network.
Their research is based on something known as the theory of hyperlearning about schizophrenia. This theory argues that schizophrenia results from the inability to forget or ignore non-essential information.
In their work, the research teams taught a series of stories to a computer model known as DISCERN. By using natural language processing, the computer is able to map the different stories in a way similar to that of the human brain. In the researchers’ model, a dopamine release simulation was used to mark important information as DISCERN learned the stories. This means that DISCERN has more or less forgotten and perceived more information as important.
When the researchers asked DISCERN to retract the stories, the computer did so by producing strange and delusional stories from the information given to it. According to the Science Blog, “After retraining with the high learning rate, DISCERN began to put itself at the centre of fantastic and delirious stories that incorporated elements from other stories that it had been told to remember. In one response, for example, DISCERN claimed responsibility for a terrorist bomb attack.”
In another case, DISCERN began to show signs of “derailment” – responding to requests for a specific memory with a mixture of dissociated sentences, abrupt digressions and constant jumps between the first and third person, and vice versa.
Although this study is very interesting and the computer showed similarities with real schizophrenic symptoms that were disturbing, DISCERN is not concrete evidence of the hyperlearning hypothesis. It is simply a simulation and the relevance of the result is interpreted by man. However, the study’s unique approach of modelling the cause of a brain disorder and comparing the results to real cases is surprising overall and could even prove to be a powerful new tool for physicians, psychologists and psychiatrists.