stars brains and computers

The human brain makes one million, billion (or whatever 10^16 comes out to be in words) synaptic operations per second.

Of course, you must take such statements with a grain of salt, considering that a number of such magnitude is completely incomprehensible. Large numbers all seem to blur into one category of “very big,” which is why the distance from the earth to the sun (appx 96,000,000 miles or one “astronomical unit” away) doesn’t mean much unless you are given some context to compare such a distance with. Here is another astronomical example for comparison just so you can get an idea of how large our solar system is: Proxima Centauri, the next closest star to our planet (after the sun), is 268,000 astronomical units away. That’s 268,000 x 96,000,000 miles. You can see from this example how random bits of information gain intelligible meaning when they are contextualized or juxtaposed with other similar facts in a sensible way. You now have a vague understanding of the distances between three celestial bodies in our solar system. Back to the original point.

Unless you are a psychologist or a polymath you must accept the idea that you really do not know what synaptic operations are or why they happen. If you were a psychologist you would probably say something about how they are the neuron connections that form in our brains due to sensory stimulation, that they are the work of transmitters that exchange electrical and chemical signals between the various components of the human nervous system. But that would only be doing the jig of scientific dialectic, you are speaking only to a small community of knowledgeable minds when you talk like that. Everyone else wonders what the hell you are talking about. Once the technical vocabulary has been developed we must try to understand the implications of possessing such a knowledge. We are creatures who study ourselves. We have developed a vocabulary for the inner workings of our own brains.

Now for the punchline:

A decade from now, our super computers will be five hundred times faster than the human brain.

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