Computers and the Human Brain
The Question Everyone Wants to Know: Will AI Really Outsmart Us All?
Almost any time someone speaks of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, the topic of computers “taking over” arises. To imply that Artificial Intelligence could overtake humanity would mean that computers as we know them today, would have to function on the level of the human brain. While many argue that they already do that by computing numbers and executing functions, the topic is, in reality, much more complicated.
How are computers and the human brain different? Aren’t they both just systems computing different things?
The human brain is comprised of several neurotransmitters that are responsible for sending, receiving and transmitting information to other parts of the brain, body and very vital human organs to further help them function, but most importantly, tell our bodies how to function. Human brains are incredibly efficient. They require far less energy or “juice” than dim lighting, and they can do so much with so little. The human brain operates off of several different aspects: chemicals, memories, feelings and emotions.
It is responsible for helping us get through decades of complex and the most difficult years of life and all types of different situations, yet it actually requires far less data than a computer operating system.
Impressively enough, the brain of a feline cat is considered far more efficient than the newest and latest iPad.
The brain of a feline is said to have “1,000 times more data storage and a million times quicker to act on it.” (1.) Yet, in order for the brain to be able to operate as it does, it works off of its own memory and creates its own independent thoughts. For example, if we wanted to type the letter “A” on a computer, of course, we know we want to type the letter and can independently do so, however, for a computer, a computer would not be able to independently come up with that thought or type the letter on its own.
Computers, as we well know, are a little bit more complex in different ways. They do not process chemicals, memories in the same manner, feelings or emotions. The primary hardware of a computer that is responsible for transmitting information is called a processor. Processors are responsible for converting input data to information output. A computer cannot create its own thoughts, and in fact, it requires human input to function.
Although computers have been designed to operate much like the human brain, they still have limitations and restrictions when it comes to their “human like” capabilities, even though they don’t always appear as limitations. For example, a recent poker tournament proved that computers did hold an advantage over humans when playing poker, but the advantage was due largely in part to its lack of emotion. The computer was able to “think” using its programming alone, without any emotions attached to betting or money in general. As a result, it won. Though the computer may be able to win at poker, it wouldn’t be able to assist a customer who’s trying to best plan for the best college to attend, and it wouldn’t be able to recognize an irate customer disgruntled over a billing error.
It’s important to note however,that the human brain when compared to a computer, actually has many intriguing comparisons. “Computers are said to work much like the human brain in that both systems access and configure information in stages. First, input is received, next the input is processed, then the information is stored to memory, it is then configured, and lastly output is created.” (2) Through much research and studies, both the human brain and computers have shown that they do, in fact, operate and behave much like the human brain in many circumstances.
“Specifically, the Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart (CAPTCHA) that requires humans to decipher letters and/or numbers in order to prove they are not bots is a key indicator that computers are unable to function at the capacity of the human brain. Two important human processes will be compared and contrasted with a computer’s in identifying their differences. These qualities refer to ventral and dorsal processing as well as bottom up and top down processing. Dorsal processing can be related to bottom up processing. Both involve the acknowledgement of objects and characteristics about them that computers and humans alike can pull from memory (in humans) or a cryptic algorithm (in computers). This means that the information is already there and needs to be acquired. Ventral and top down processing, on the other hand is something that is unique to humans in that is requires associations of actions with these objects and information from experience with them.” (2)
Simply stated, computers and the human brain have many similarities, as one should expect. After all, the computer’s intention has always been to make the human life easier by performing cognitive tasks for us. When we visit the bank, we feel a bit safer knowing that if our paperwork is lost, the computer systems and their network will keep track of the money we have. When we drive on the highway, we rely on computer systems to properly and safely control traffic lights for our commute. When we invest money, we rely on complex software to analyze our potential returns. However, at the end of the day, computers, Artificial Intelligence and the networks that connect them, are only as strong as their superbly efficient counterparts that created them: the human brain.