Re: Fwd: We Can Understand Anything, But are Just a Bit Slow

From: Robin Lee Powell (
Date: Thu Apr 27 2006 - 11:57:47 MDT

On Thu, Apr 27, 2006 at 01:40:48PM -0400, Philip Goetz wrote:
> On 4/24/06, Robin Lee Powell <> wrote:
> > On Mon, Apr 24, 2006 at 12:52:57PM -0400, Richard Loosemore
> > wrote:
> > > I'm confused: was your point that Phil's comment was so
> > > foolish that it deserved only sarcasm?
> >
> > Yes.
> I invite you to hypothesize any algorithm for processing n items
> in memory, where any of the n items can be combined with any of
> the other n-1 items, that takes computional resources linear in n.
> THAT is the foolish notion.


"not linear" != "exponential".

> I don't think comparing monkeys to humans is as good as
> considering what we know about algorithms, because it is hard to
> make objective measurements about the outcomes, and because there
> are so many complicating factors. Nevertheless, a human brain has
> a volume of about 1600 cubic centimeters, and a neocortical
> surface area of about 1570 square centimeters. A rhesus monkey
> has a brain volume of 70-90 cubic centimeters, and a macaque
> monkey has a neocortical surface area of about 72 square
> centimeters.

Monkeys are pretty far away.

    The largest known brain volume of the gorilla is 650 cc, and the
    smallest known in humans are 855 cubic centimeters. Brain
    volumes of Australopithecus , the most primitive possible human
    ancestor identified, ranges from 435 to 650 cc (other say 413 to
    530 cc), well within the gorilla and chimpanzee range. However,
    the part of the brain responsible for our greater mental
    dexterity than other primates, the cerebral cortex, is well
    developed in A. africanus (Dart, 1925) compared to other great

That's not enough difference between us and australopithecus to
explain what is apparently a *great* difference in cognition, if the
computer requirements for the difference are exponential.


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