The Human Brain.

From: Mike & Donna Deering (
Date: Sat Jun 22 2002 - 00:32:00 MDT

Estimates of how much conventional computing hardware is required for human level intelligence based on observations of the human brain have been seriously inflated for the following reasons.

#1. The human brain uses a lot of it's neurons for autonomic bodily maintenance functions like blood pressure, heart rate, endocrine system control, balance and locomotion, motor control of speech, and many others that we don't generally associate with higher level reasoning tasks and would certainly not assist in solving the protein folding problem or design of a nano assembler.

#2. The human brain is very physically robust in a dangerous environment with delicate components, by using massive neural redundancy. Redundant neurons are rewired around damaged areas to recover functions lost in strokes or other trauma. You can lose half your brain with only a slight reduction in effective IQ according to neuroscientists.

#3. The computational methodologies resulting from evolutionary functional adaptations are very inefficient and subject to optimization by intelligent design.

#4. Estimates of the number of neurons times the maximum firing rate to get the computational capacity are highly inflated due to the fact that at any given moment not all the neurons are doing productive work. If all the neurons were firing at their maximum rate you would have something like super epilepsy. Many neural circuits are specialized for a function and are idling if the function isn't being presently called.

#5. The human brain as a technological problem solving device is seriously screwed up. Many of the supposedly "productive functions" are actually counter productive and it is a miracle that any useful problem solving gets done at all.

Therefore, I estimate, that the $1000 desk top of 2002 is not more than three doublings away from human level complex problem solving general deliberative software implementation capability.


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