Feel­ing random? Then you’re likely young

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

Out­liers doesn’t want to sound too para­noid . . . but mankind’s great­est hope for bat­tling the takeover of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence may lie with the young. A new study pub­lished re­cently in PLOS Com­pu­ta­tional Bi­ol­ogy in­di­cates that peo­ple’s abil­ity to make random choices or mimic a random process peaks at around age 25— mean­ing that this is also the age we’re best equipped to out­smart com­put­ers.

Sci­en­tists be­lieve that the abil­ity to be­have in a ran­dom­ized way arises from some of the most highly de­vel­oped cog­ni­tive pro­cesses, and that a link ex­ists be­tween ran­dom­ized be­hav­ior abil­i­ties and cre­ativ­ity.

To study how age af­fects random be­hav­ior, a team of re­searchers at the Al­go­rith­mic Na­ture Group in Paris as­sessed more than 3,400 peo­ple ages 4 to 91 by hav­ing them per­form tasks re­quir­ing them to be­have ran­domly. These in­cluded list­ing the hy­po­thet­i­cal re­sults of a se­ries of 12 coin flips so they would “look random to some­one else,” guess­ing which card would ap­pear when se­lected from a shuf­fled deck, and list­ing the hy­po­thet­i­cal re­sults of 10 rolls of dice.

Re­searchers an­a­lyzed the par­tic­i­pants’ choices ac­cord­ing to al­go­rith­mic ran­dom­ness and found that age was the only fac­tor that af­fected their abil­ity to be­have ran­domly. Think of it as a sort of re­verse Tur­ing test for random be­hav­ior.

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How good are you at pre­dict­ing the re­sults of coin tosses? Your age prob­a­bly has a big ef­fect on the an­swer.

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