info + cogno
The brain – An intelligent computer?
Our understanding of how the human brain functions is deepening all the time thanks to the new methods available to us. We can observe the activity of entire regions of the brain or look at the function of single neuro-receptors or ion channels.
Nerve connections are examined under the microscope and the processes involved in perception are even simulated on the computer. Imaging techniques show up the energy used by different regions of the brain and allow scientists to infer which tasks are controlled by each area. Neural networks are adaptable and enable us to carry on learning throughout our lifetime.
It is quite conceivable that we may one day be able to answer the fundamental questions of how our brain processes information. However, is it possible to fully explain our free will, compassion, morals, decision making or the feeling of being in love on the basis of biochemical processes in the nerve cells?
Our intensely cross-linked nerve cells process the bits and bytes in the brain. Their interactions can be replicated on the computer and the brain itself can even be seen as a kind of computer. But no-one knows whether scientists will ever manage to fully replicate what happens in our nerve cells and create an artificial brain. That will entail simulating perception, learning, logical thinking, decision making, communication and action. The computer technology of the future is helping to develop systems capable of processing information and acting autonomously as we do: It is breathing life into robots.
The computers of tomorrow will be even faster. As-yet unexploited physical effects can also be used to increase performance or facilitate innovative construction principles: light lends itself to the processing of signals in an optical computer. Biocomputers use genetic substance as a memory and processing medium. Quantum computers in layered states can compute massive amounts of data in parallel. Faster and faster networks are linking individual computers and knowledge together to form a global computer.