10^13 neurons

So, I’ve talked about this a bunch of times, but I wanted to dedicate a post to it because (like my discussions of money vs. value) I repeatedly get the feeling that I’m talking about this, but only a few people are understanding what I’m saying. I find that frustrating, because the ideas involved in this are just not that complicated and I’m pretty sure that *our children* understand them – until that functionality is beaten out of them in the process of making them “productive citizens”

Now, a lot of this comes down to what you believe. I believe that western science is measuring something meaningful when they measure what happens inside the human mind. What this tells us is that our mind – the part of us that is, as best we know, having the conscious experience, being the observer, actually on the ride so to speak – is a collection of 100 billion individual nerve cells, or neurons. These cells are each fairly advanced little puppies – they have excite and inhibit inputs, they are electrochemical in nature and are affected by a whole host of neurotransmitters (30?).

One of the things I’ve done to try to demonstrate the amount of computing power involved is just compare neurons to transistors. Your very-high-end computer might have 5 or 6 billion transistors. And, as I’ve talked about, a transistor is a lot less powerful than a neuron – especially in the ways we use them in modern computers, where they always operate in saturated mode and are simple switches. We also tend to be rather wasteful with our silicon in computers, since we use programs to design computer chips that are more oriented in getting results than in using as few transistors as possible.

There are other points I might make too – like, in a CPU in a modern computer, only the transistors involved in, for example, the currently executing instruction are actually part of the circuit being used right now. Our brains are massively parallel, and everything is turned on at least a little.

What does it all add up to? Well, whatever else you would or wouldn’t find, you would find that our minds are a lot more computer than the machine you’re reading this on. They’re a lot of other things too – they are clearly NOT turing machines although they emulate them just fine. However, the point that I keep trying to make is that the computer you’re sitting in front of has no problem generating a credible 3D reality with credible, functional physical laws.. amongst many other things. And it represents a lot less computing power than you do.

So, as a result, I would argue that there’s a lot of things that are unknowable.. and whether or not your conscious experience has much to do with the inputs you’re wired to, whether there actually is a “real world” (also a point that the quantum people debate endlessly), and the like fall under the category of unknowables.

Now, I can’t rewire my conscious experience in any meaningful way that I’ve yet discovered. It occasionally rewires *itself* and I experience brief periods of realities other than the one I have come to think of as the default. I would *like* it if it did more of this, as I definitely enjoy a sense of magic in my life. I also have come to suspect (as in fact I was told a few years ago – but I’ve come to accept the potential truth therein) that the difference between the person in utopia and the person in hell is what software they’re running.

My assumption is that people who really solidly adhere to one religion or other either do so *because* they get this affect out of it (believing in their religion places them in a utopia), or because they’re one of those people who need very strong black-and-white rules to not feel like they’re adrift in what is, in essence, a sea of unknowability.

Leave a Reply