Computers vs. Human Brains

Have you ever wondered about the differences between a computer and a human brain? Do they both operate by the same deterministic principles?

Typical computers (as of FEB-2012) have very few processors per computer, and they run software code that’s highly deterministic in nature.

Some people believe that the neural net wiring – the hardware wiring of your physical brain, is equivalent to computer software, and that your brain operates in a deterministic manner just like computers do. They believe your thoughts are controlled 100% by the four fundamental forces of physics in a bottom-up manner.

There’s a flaw in that line of thinking.

When a computer executes software code, there isn’t a higher-level entity called a “thought” that emerges inside the physical machine. A “thought” may be modeled as a complex pattern of neurological activity that occurs in a distributed and parallel manner within the 3-space of a physical brain; it’s not a linear sequence of high-speed singular events similar to what happens inside a computer.

When people look at a computer that’s operating, there’s a tendency to personify the computer processes and believe the computer is “thinking”. In a way, it’s okay for people to believe that, but it’s also important to realize what’s really happening; the computer is emulating/simulating previous human thinking. There isn’t any such thing as a “computer thought” (as of FEB-2012).

Let’s go a little further with this and look at the sequence of events when the high-level conclusion from one computer algorithm (i.e., an output result) interacts with another high-level conclusion from a different algorithm. Let’s compare that interaction with how two human thoughts interact inside a physical brain.

First, in order for a typical computer to produce an output result, a conclusion if you will, an algorithm (i.e., software program) runs in a highly deterministic manner. There are no free will forces (i.e., living forces) that emerge during that process.

Now let’s say that two different algorithms are run on a computer, and they each produce a different conclusion/output. How might those two outputs then interact with one another? Well, let’s say those two conclusions/outputs are fed into a third algorithm which then determines how they interact. The first two outputs (i.e., the first two conclusions) effectively cause another higher-level output/conclusion to occur, but the final result is still totally deterministic in nature since it’s based upon the software code in the third algorithm. In summary, all three of the computer processes that we're looking at here are totally deterministic in nature from the bottom-up. The logic written into those three algorithms is based upon previous human thoughts, and the four fundamental forces of physics effectively control all of the events inside the computer 100%. The intelligent interaction between those three algorithms was preprogrammed and it originated from previous human thinking.

Now let’s take a look at a physical human brain and see if there’s something fundamentally different that happens when two conclusions/thoughts interact.

Yes, I agree that the “hardware wiring” or “firmware” within your physical brain enables your thoughts to emerge. But there’s a simple idea that shows something much more happens at your thought level – something more than deterministic interaction at the electro-chemical level: One thought has the ability to affect another thought within your physical brain. I can’t stress how important that is. Even if you believe that a thought is nothing more than a complex distributed pattern of neurological activity inside your physical brain, the fact remains; the entity that exists at the pattern level exerts some kind of force. If you don’t believe the entity can exert forces, then you must believe that one thought in your mind cannot affect another thought in your mind, and all of your logic somehow comes preprogrammed from a super low deterministic level (i.e., the four fundamental forces of physics). Is it possible that the source of your logical thinking originates from the four fundamental forces of physics? I don’t think so. Your logic emerges from higher level processes in your physical brain and those processes exert new emergent forces. Thoughts interact with one another at the thought level.

In summary, a fundamental difference exits between the way a typical computer operates and a human brain operates; your brain has emergent thoughts that exert forces at the thought/pattern level, whereas a computer doesn’t.

In the future when computers are comprised of many processors that coordinate simultaneously in parallel, thereby processing millions/billions of instructions simultaneously, computers will likely exert much greater living forces. It will also be important for computers to be able to revise their own software code on the fly. I believe that computers will eventually develop new emergent entities/properties that are similar to human thoughts, and those new entities will exert living forces in a manner similar to human thoughts. That hypothesis is consistent with what we observe in nature, since the living things all around us are complex organisms with millions/billions of events happening simultaneously which thereby cause higher level living forces to emerge.