Pattern Recognition: A Double-Edged Sword

Why is pattern recognition so great?

Just take a second to think about pattern recognition. Long ago, cavemen recognized the patterns of the seasons. This helped humans prepare for seasonal changes (…and not die ). In recent history, scientists and inventors spotted patterns in nature and society. We got discoveries and cool stuff. Sounds pretty sweet, right? Not so fast there..

Why does pattern recognition suck?

Even though humans are really good at recognizing patterns, sometime we fall into the trap of spotting patterns that aren’t actually there. The stars in the night sky can become gods and goddesses. The pattern I see in stock market means I’m gonna lose my retirement account. The burn marks in my grilled cheese kinda looks like a face (That one is pretty sweet!)

Where do we find false patterns?

False patterns creep up in situations where there is a lot of randomness. For example, a random blob of ink could look like a face, or a cloud could kinda look like a boat. Our minds are constantly trying to make sense of the world through patterns, whether or not there is any true meaning.

How do we deal with it?

Most of the time, we are pretty smart in determining if these patterns we see are actually true. After a bit of investigation, we could conclude that something happened just by chance, or it was a great coincidence. However, there is still a lot of room to let a false pattern slip by our reasoning and logic.

Why do computers recognize false patterns?

Reason 1. Computers recognize false patterns because humans are the one’s programming computers. Humans can make mistakes which are programmed into the computer. This isn’t really the computer’s fault, so we’ll just ignore this one.

Gosling and Culkin Shirt-ception

So why is this dangerous?

Even though computers suck at knowing context, they are amazing at repetition and speed. Computers have no trouble repeating the same mistakes a hundred, a thousand, or a million times. They just follow the algorithms that were programmed.

In conclusion…

False patterns that humans just “obviously know are false” pose a great danger when creating pattern recognition systems for computers. As technology and research advances, we will have to be mindful of the speed and scale at which computers operate. We should create systems that recognize their own limits and fail gracefully.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store