Monday, May 02, 2005

Brain as Computer?

Some work in artificial intelligence (a/k/a computational intelligence) and in computer science has tried to make hay out of the analogy between computers and brains. Recent work in the biology of the brain, however, suggests that if the brain is a computer, the brain-computer is quite unlike the digital computer (this we already knew!) and -- moreover! -- that the architecture of the brain is also rather unlike computers that make use of parallel processing. Furthermore, some people in the field -- the field of the biology of the brain -- now think that at the perceptual level brains use sensory inputs to make predictions about the attributes of the thing that is being perceived: they suspect that the brain takes a few sensory inputs, does a bit of processing (but initially not much), and then proceeds by searching in memory for similar or analogous mental constructs based on similar sets or constellations of sensory inputs. This sequence of operations is not necessarily the end of the process but such a sequence, I gather, is the way (some people think) the brain gets things started, and quickly so. See the pdf manuscript by an anonymous author, Advances in Cellular and Systems Knowledge of the Nervous System(Feb. 9, 2005), document self-identified as part of something called "Nervous System 2029 Project."
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