The brain is an iceberg.

It is interesting how things that are easy for computers are difficult for humans, while things that are difficult for humans are easy for computers. And what this shows about our brains.

For example, a computer can easily and quickly do numerous 'difficult' math problems, yet getting it to recognize that an object viewed from different angles, something so easy for humans it doesn't even occur to us it something we are 'doing', is still out of reach for modern computers. As well numerous other basic human actions are out of reach, or extremely difficult for computers, like balance, recognition of smells, objects, navigation through spaces, being able recognize that a song performed by two different artists is the same song etc, all very difficult for robots or computers. It takes an enormous amount of computing power. Far more than to store lists or do algorithms.

While getting a person to memorize a phone book would be a monumental feat, yet incredibly simple for a computer, and require relatively little computing power.

Of course it makes sense that people wouldn't have evolved with the ability to do complex mathematics or memorize large lists with ease. Why would we have? I can't think of how it would have helped our ability to survive in the plains of Africa being able to quickly figure out the square root of the diameter of an elephants butthole.

The point I am trying to make with all this is:
Whenever we here about savants, like Kim Peek (the real Rainman, who I happened to ride in an elevator with at the SLC Library a little while ago. I said, 'Are you Kim Peek?' him: 'My name is Kim Peek' Me: 'I read a book about you!' Him: 'Going UP! Going to the fourth floor!' Me: It is an honor to meet you, I really enjoyed the book' Him(not looking at me at all): Gonna take my book back. Going UP! ) Who can do things like memorize a phone book, or other savants who can instantly recognize prime numbers or memorize pi to large decimal places. It seems amazing to us that the human mind has the potential to be capable of so much. (and can give rise to myths such as, we only use 10% of our brains) It gives us this sense that what our minds do is only scratching the surface of how much more they are capable of.

When in reality, those things are not that difficult at all. The things we currently do are far more difficult in terms of computing power. While our minds are not currently configured to do certain tasks, it is not because they are so much more complex or difficult than our minds are able. Our minds are millions probably billions of times more able than what those tasks require. They just aren't configured in those ways. I imagine that if we were somehow able to tweek our brains to handle such tasks, it would only take a minor amount of our minds computing power to handle it, rather than the extra 90% some people claim.
The stuff we currently do is far more complex than the things which wow us. They only wow us because we happen to not be able to do it. Its like as if my Macbook happened to not have a simple calculator built into it, so despite being able to play video games, it was wowed by a simple calculators ability to add numbers.

1 comment:

Vincent said...

The brain you speak of is an evolved tool. A bit overevolved and a freak of nature like the elk's antlers or the peacock's tail. I think the amazing thing is its ability to do all these things you mention in today's world when it was evolved I suppose to cope with big habitat changes where it had to succeed in tasks that other apes never even thought of. They might use a stick to poke at things, but you can catch a monkey by putting a handful of nuts in a hole big enough for its open hand but not its fist. Cannot overcome the acquisitive instinct to escape before the enemy comes to catch it.