The Brain and Computation

Further to my previous posts about the brain being a computer, take a look at this special semester at the Simons Institute at Berkeley:  The Brain and Computation. Note the very high quality of the people involved, and the unashamed analogy between brains and computers.


  1. EnkidumCan'tLogin says

    Your posts on this issue are, frankly, weird. I’m not sure if any of the people participating in the Berkeley program advocate that the brain is a computer (I know the work of a few of them, and haven’t seen any of them do so), and there is no “unashamed analogy” that I can see on your linked page. Indeed, to the extent that a philosophical position is being adopted on that page, it certainly doesn’t seem to be particularly friendly to a straightforward statement of “the brain is a computer”.

    The first theme the program will look at is “Open questions in brain science which have an important computational component”. If the brain was a computer, full stop, wouldn’t that cover all of brain science, period? Why bother specifying anything in this way?

    As other commenters have stated on your previous posts, saying “the brain is a computer” is fairly meaningless without a great deal of work being done at specifying exactly what you mean. Which you seem very reluctant to do.

    • shallit says

      If the brain was a computer, full stop, wouldn’t that cover all of brain science, period?

      Say what? How does that follow? The thing on my desk is a computer, but not everything about it has an “important computational component”. For example, there is the physics of the silicon chips, the design of the interface, and so forth.

      Nobody said “everything about the brain can be understood if you realize the brain is a computer”. There are obviously extremely important details involving the chemistry and biology of the brain we need to know to determine how the computation the brain performs is being done. I have never said otherwise.

      As for what I mean by “The brain is a computer”, I’ve said it over and over, so I don’t know how you missed it. The brain is a computer in the sense that it stores and processes information. Furthermore, we have good reason to believe that the brain can be modeled by a conventional computer, and that the brain is no more powerful than a conventional computer. I don’t know why you say I am being “reluctant”. What more do you want?

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