MadSci Network: Computer Science

Re: How much RAM to duplicate Human senses?

Date: Wed May 25 05:55:40 2005
Posted By: Ross Clement, Faculty, Department of Artificial Intelligence & Interactive Multimedia, University of Westminster
Area of science: Computer Science
ID: 1115452405.Cs

This is a much more difficult question than you might think. There are about 100 billion neurons in the human brain.

So, if we assumed that every neuron required, say, eight floating point numbers to represent its state, then that is about:

8 x 8 x 100,000,000,000 = 6,400,000,000,000 bytes.

Or, about 6.4 terabytes if I have counted my zeros correctly.

However, we still have a poor understanding of exactly how neurons work. There is a very large gap between what we understand about the functions of individual neurons, and how they combine to create conciousness. Some computer programs such as Neural Networks attempt to reason by the same method as the human brain, but in reality many people are yet to be convinced that the simple model of neuron activity and learning used in Neural Networks is what neurons in a human (or animal) actually do. A. K. Dewdney wrote a very readable book criticising pseduoscience called "Yes, We Have No Neutrons". This includes a chapter that criticises Neural Networks from that point of view. Neural networks are a powerful learning tool, but are not, in my opinion, sufficient to explain all of human reasoning and learning.

Hence, we return to my estimate of eight eight-byte floating point numbers to represent the state of a neuron. Where did I get that from? I made it up. But, even if I searched the biological literature to find out exactly how much is known about how neurons work and what they do, we're still missing much of the knowledge we need to explain how they work together to achieve human intelligence.

Note that I've estimate the number of bytes required to represent all neurons in the brain. Not all of these will be required for the senses. There is still research into what parts of the brain are involved in senses and how they work. I know this from first experience as I was a volunteer for research to compare the activity in the human brain in young healthy volunteers to Alzheimers patients. And I was placed right inside King's College's brain scanning machine while a mask on my face wafted in essential oils through that I had to identify and push a button. The point of this research was mainly to investigate what parts of the brain were involved, which

There is some work to create artificial noses. A page at the American Association of Artificial Intelligence has a description.

And my colleague who shares my office researches into artificial noses, and the use of neural networks to build them, though his publications are mainly in academic journals.

V.S. Kodogiannis, P. Chountas, A. Pavlou, I. Petrounias, H.Chowdrey, C. Temponi, "Electronic Nose: Clinical Diagnosis based on Soft Computing Methodologies", in 2002 IEEE Int. Symposium of Intelligent Systems, IS 2002, Varna, Bulgaria, Sept. 2002, pp. 254-259, ISBN: 0-7803-7601-3.

Apologies if I've gone a bit beyond simply answering your question the way you asked it.

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