The reality of the brain as a computer -1

Although great strides have been made in understanding how our brain actually works, it is still overall a great mystery. The main puzzle seems to be that of  how conscious thought can arise out of mere firing neurons and synapses. In many ways, the brain has been compared with an organic computer. Certainly, it organises and co-ordinates our bodies as efficiently as one. Why can it also think, whilst computers cannot? This interesting conundrum, though, is highlighted by the study of  so called artificial intelligence. (A.I.)

Can computers think?

Very complex computers compute. They process data.  Our brains process data, and we also think about that data. Why cannot computers do the same?

As a computer does, our brains are processing an immense amount of data simultaneously. In theory then, if we can think, a complex computer should be able to. This is not yet the case. Immensely powerful computers do very complex and difficult things in our society. Yet the goal of creating an independently thinking machine, an artificial intelligence, has not been achieved.

The Chinese room

To understand how computers work, there is a useful analogy called “The Chinese Room”. This involves a sealed room with a hatch into an outer chamber. In the sealed room there are symbols and a book of instructions. Someone passes other symbols though the hatch and a person in the sealed room matches the symbols according to the book of instructions and passes out those matched. The point is that the matcher does not have to understand what the symbols mean to produce an output. This equates to how a computer processes information, but does the brain work just like that? Are our brains nothing but organic computers?  Is our book of instructions part of our brain?Will more powerful computers of the future become self aware? Is it just a question of inputting a critical mass of data?

Aspects of reality

The comparison between us being capable of abstract thought, and powerful computers being unable to do,  is an interesting one. What it means for reality is also very important.

If computers can become capable of abstract thought, then this strengthens the case for consciousness being only a bi-product of a developed brain. If they do not, then this would strengthen the case for consciousness  coming into the brain from elsewhere. Whole new scenarios concerning our true nature and origins open up. What do you think?

 

 

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