Q: What do you get when you interconnect billions and billions of transistors?
A: A whole lot of ON/OFF switches.
The brain is a ridiculously complicated network of electrochemically active cells (a.k.a. neurons), which are individually influenced by a large number of greatly complicated chemical machines (a.k.a. synapses), which are in turn individually activated by more particular chemicals and hormones, and even further influenced by microscopic structures which are coupled at the quantum level.
This is not the hierarchy of your typical computing machine. Technologists have long anticipated the future of vast computer networks–built upon the electrical transistor–that pass some unknown critical point of interconnections and become “conscious”. Welcome Hal.
Neurobiologists have long been frustrated by this expectation because the level of complexity of the brain as a whole and the level of complexity of its individual parts no where matches that of the computer chip. In fact, this expectation is still so unreasonable because of the remaining immense lack of understanding of how the brain works as a sum of all of its parts to generate the emergent behavior we experience every moment of our lives.
Lee Gomes of WSJ.com provides us with a nice reminder of how far we really still have to go to fully understand the brain… but, it is also a wonderful stimulus to excite us to push further on in the quest to understanding the mass in our skull… and understanding the nature of our existence.
“Linking Brains, Computers” :: Wall Street Journal.com:: July 9, 2008 :: [ READ ]