- Three pounds of nerve tissue underneath the skull are capable of perceiving, thinking and acting with a finesse that cannot be matched by any computer.
- The brain achieves this feat of cognition, in part, by carefully timing the signals that flash across the trillions of connections that link billions of brain cells.
- Seeing a flower pot causes groups of neurons to fire in a brief time interval to activate a part of the brain that registers that particular object at just that one moment.
- Understanding how this timing system works will both lead to better understanding of our behavior and enable the building of new computing and electronic equipment that, like the brain, functions more efficiently than conventional digital machines.
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Our brains are better than Google or the best robot from iRobot.
We can instantly search through a vast wealth of experiences and emotions. We can immediately recognize the face of a parent, spouse, friend or pet, whether in daylight, darkness, from above or sideways—a task that the computer vision system built into the most sophisticated robots can accomplish only haltingly. We can also multitask effortlessly when we extract a handkerchief from a pocket and mop our brow while striking up a conversation with an acquaintance. Yet designing an electronic brain that would allow a robot to perform this simple combination of behaviors remains a distant prospect.
This article was originally published with the title The Language of the Brain.