CAN COMPUTERS THINK THE WAY HUMANS THINK

Since computers, like brain cells, are interconnected, it is logical to think that one day computers would work the same way human brain works. Neuro¬scientists and computer scientists tell us that human brain is different from a computer in many ways. It is well known that synapses are far more complex than electrical logic gates, and the interneuronal connections in human brain are much more than in any computer. The brain is a massively parallel machine; computers are modular and serial. The brain uses content-addressable memory, computers byte-addressable. The democratic nature of the brain prepares itself to deal with contradictions and thus for better solutions. Brain uses evolution; adults have far fewer synapses than many random synapses the toddlers have. There is no central clock in the brain, and its processing speed is not fixed. The human brain constantly rewires and self-organises itself.

No hardware/software distinction can be made with respect to the brain or the mind; the mind emerges directly from the brain, and changes in the mind are always accompanied by changes in the brain. Brain has body at its disposal so that it can "offload” its memory requirements to the environment in which it exists. Though the human brain has the capacity of learning things faster than computers, it is slower than computer in many functions (like multitasking capability and mathematically involved processes are better with computers). The brain is capable of imagination and is far superior to computers in matters related to common sense.

In the changing software landscape, artificial intelligence is becoming the most powerful tool to build a human-like machine. These developments raise mind-blowing (some quite frightening) possibilities. As is expected, some welcome these possibilities, some don’t. The question that is most bothersome is, “Should machines surpass human intelligence?” The related question is “Could machines ever surpass human intelligence?”

David Gelertner asks a counter question: Since computers are creating so much mess in the information cyberspace, should we not divert our attention to clear the mess, rather than creating additional mess? Should we not control ‘out of control’ cyber pollution, in addition to installing better security guards?

Gelertner thinks that no computer will be able to think like man unless it can ‘free-associate’. By ‘free association’ he meant, “When you stop work for a moment, look out the window and let your mind wander, you are still thinking. Your mind is still at work. This sort of free association is an important part of human thought”. Gelertner feels no computer will be able to think like we think, unless it can ‘hallucinate’. We hallucinate when we fall asleep and dream, and in the hallucinated state our mind redefines reality for us; outside reality disappears, inside thinking remains.

Gelertner contends that our level of ‘alertness’ is basic to human thought. In the low alertness state, our thoughts tend to move by themselves with no conscious direction from us. In this state of free association, each new thought resembles or overlaps or somehow connects to the previous thought. With fall in our alertness we lose contact with external reality. Eventually we sleep and dream. In the hallucinated state the thinker and his thought stream are not separate. The thinker inhabits his thoughts. No computer will be able to think like a human, unless it, too, can inhabit its thoughts; can disappear into its own mind.