Ask a child what is cleverer – a brain or a computer? and you get a volley of conflicting answers thrown back at you. I can vouch for this personally, as I stood in front of a room full of ten year olds earlier this year and put that exact question to them. I was fascinated that the initial consensus was that a computer was cleverer; until a few bright sparks chipped in that actually…brains were more clever as it was a human brain that invented the computer. I liked their thinking.
A computer acts as is a great modern analogy for the brain, similarily the words processing, memory and wiring (did you spot my use of the word spark earlier too?) But, these metaphors only work in simplistic terms. It makes me wonder what scientists used for descriptors and comparisons for the brain before the invention of electricity in the early nineteenth century. Pondering this I find I want to know, but of course that’s harder to search for on the Internet. A rather ironic problem. The truth is we really only understand a fraction of what the brain is capable of, and whilst computers and technology are slowly taking over our day to day world – our brains are still the masters. And always have been.
We know brains and computers use electrical signals to transmit messages, and that the brain uses chemicals to send information and a computer uses electricity. Even though electrical signals travel at incredibly high speeds throughout the human nervous system, a computer can still send even faster signals. So, a little like Aesop’s Hare and Tortoise, a computer may well be faster; but it’s not necessarily as clever.
The ten year olds figured it out. Computers have a long way to go…but I still like the connection (there I go again…)