One of the ways we learn is to observe. Infants do that a lot. They look around. What are they doing in their cute little heads? We don’t really know, but there are some interesting ideas. One is that an infant is formulating a model of the world. How do they do that? How does any living thing do that?
To learn we must have an initial hint. Once that occurs (a bias) we can align what we observe. With that bias of what the world is and how it might work, we test the model. That’s what babies do next. They start testing things, and that continues throughout their lives.
In an abstract sense, we take information that the senses provide and align it with what we think we know. We test the veracity of that knowledge through action and feedback. In essence, we try and maximize the alignment of new information to that of the past, and thus maximize the evidence of our own existence. We are alive, but how do we know? Through observing, doing, and responding to the effects we create that substantiate what we think we know. We make sense of the world, and the world makes sense to us.
The above is a very simplified version of Karl Friston’s Free Energy Principle, a concept that is being used to understand ourselves and teach computers to learn.
Not only is Friston brilliant and a likely candidate for a Nobel Prize but a leading light in Artificial Intelligence. His ideas, some very complex, are well worth studying.