Must Read on Pocket

This is one of the most-saved, read, and shared stories on Pocket.

Recommendations from Pocket Users

Diego Mendes

Shared January 10, 2017

Our brains are a marvel, but they are not machines. We oughta care for them like we care for the rest of our body.

Think how difficult this problem is. To understand even the basics of how the brain maintains the human intellect, we might need to know not just the current state of all 86 billion neurons and their 100 trillion interconnections, not just the varying strengths with which they are connected, and not just the states of more than 1,000 proteins that exist at each connection point, but how the moment-to-moment activity of the brain contributes to the integrity of the system. Add to this the uniqueness of each brain, brought about in part because of the uniqueness of each person’s life history, and Kandel’s prediction starts to sound overly optimistic

stacy-marie ishmael

Shared June 30, 2016

The difference between the two diagrams reminds us that visualising something (that is, seeing something in its absence) is far less accurate than seeing something in its presence. This is why we’re much better at recognising than recalling. When we re-member something (from the Latin re, ‘again’, and memorari, 'be mindful of’), we have to try to relive an experience; but when we recognise something, we must merely be conscious of the fact that we have had this perceptual experience before.

Nicole Leffel

Shared May 23, 2016

The faulty logic of the IP metaphor is easy enough to state. It is based on a faulty syllogism – one with two reasonable premises and a faulty conclusion. Reasonable premise #1: all computers are capable of behaving intelligently. Reasonable premise #2: all computers are information processors. Faulty conclusion: all entities that are capable of behaving intelligently are information processors.

Tom @ Voute .org

Shared November 4, 2016

About how the brain doesn't work - because we still don't know

Ben Huh

Shared May 22, 2016

Solid argument against brain as a computer.

Rurik Bradbury

Shared September 9, 2016

This---->

Bjarne Tveskov

Shared May 25, 2016

The brain is probably NOT anything like a computer, Kurzweil will get a long nose when he uploads himself to the cloud..

Alireza Ahmadi

Shared December 19, 2016

We are organisms, not computers

gidimeister

Shared January 24, 2018

The human brain does not work like a computer. It is infinitely more elegant and mysterious.

Rômulo .

Shared November 27, 2017

The faulty logic of the Information Processsing metaphor is easy enough to state. It is based on a faulty syllogism – one with two reasonable premises and a faulty conclusion. Reasonable premise #1: all computers are capable of behaving intelligently. Reasonable premise #2: all computers are information processors. Faulty conclusion: all entities that are capable of behaving intelligently are information processors.

Daniel Erickson

Shared June 1, 2016

Good thoughts here, but the author seems to think computer modeling can't represent a human brain. This is likely false.

rendan

Shared May 29, 2016

We are organisms, not computers. Get over it.

Nishan Pantha

Shared July 10, 2016

Another awesome read this week. Marvelous.

Will Myddelton

Shared October 10, 2018

Ways in which the brain isn't a computer, and how thinking it is can harm us. Thanks @leisa.

Fortunately, because the IP metaphor is not even slightly valid, we will never have to worry about a human mind going amok in cyberspace; alas, we will also never achieve immortality through downloading.

Alex Henke

Shared March 17, 2017

The human brain isn’t really empty, of course. But it does not contain most of the things people think it does

Alex Henke

Shared March 18, 2017

But here is what we are not born with: information, data, rules, software, knowledge, lexicons, representations, algorithms, programs, models, memories, images, processors, subroutines, encoders, decoders, symbols, or buffers

Alex Henke

Shared March 18, 2017

the idea that humans must be information processors just because computers are information processors is just plain silly

Alex Henke

Shared March 24, 2017

let’s call it the uniqueness problem – which is both inspirational and depressing

Alex Henke

Shared March 24, 2017

We are organisms, not computers. Get over it

Alex Henke

Shared April 19, 2017

86 billion neurons and their 100 trillion interconnections

Alex Henke

Shared April 11, 2019

But here is what we are not born with: information, data, rules, software, knowledge, lexicons, representations, algorithms, programs, models, memories, images, processors, subroutines, encoders, decoders, symbols, or buffers

Ayush Thakur

Shared May 29, 2016

Brain warping stuff

Dickson Otieno

Shared May 20, 2016

The idea that humans must be information processors just because computers are information processors is just plain silly.

Gero Nagel

Shared August 3, 2017

The brain is not a computer.

Sharat Satyanarayana

Shared November 6, 2017

Would love your thoughts on this: @vakibs @samim @srikipedia

Sharat Satyanarayana

Shared November 6, 2017

Fascinating long read in the brain.
TLDR; the information processing metaphor for the brain as a computer, is deeply flawed

Rex Arul

Shared May 20, 2016

We are, without doubt, built to make social connections

Rex Arul

Shared May 20, 2016

here is what we are not born with: information, data, rules, software, knowledge, lexicons, representations, algorithms, programs, models, memories, images, processors, subroutines, encoders, decoders, symbols, or buffers – design elements that allow digital computers to behave somewhat intelligently. Not only are we not born with such things, we also don’t develop them – ever

Rex Arul

Shared May 20, 2016

Is there a way to understand human intelligence without leaning on a flimsy intellectual crutch? And what price have we paid for leaning so heavily on this particular crutch for so long?

Rex Arul

Shared May 20, 2016

The idea that memories are stored in individual neurons is preposterous: how and where is the memory stored in the cell?

Rex Arul

Shared May 20, 2016

Think how difficult this problem is. To understand even the basics of how the brain maintains the human intellect, we might need to know not just the current state of all 86 billion neurons and their 100 trillion interconnections, not just the varying strengths with which they are connected, and not just the states of more than 1,000 proteins that exist at each connection point, but how the moment-to-moment activity of the brain contributes to the integrity of the system.

Kris Tozkousne

Shared November 3, 2016

Je lidský mozek jako počítač? Nebo je ta metafora jen nesmyslně předražená?

Možná by stačilo, kdybychom neantromorfizovali vlastní vynálezy.

Seyed Rasoul Jabari

Shared May 30, 2016

We are organisms, not computers.

Shreeniwas Iyer

Shared May 27, 2016

For my master's thesis, I thought about how computers can acquire skills of humans, but never assumed they functioned the same way.

Dr. Mukerjee who was my guide, always told me to be mindful that planes don't flap wings. That to replicate human behaviour, you didn't need to mimic it.

This is about the other way around. And this write up is spot on..

Aylin Yardimci

Shared May 29, 2016

The faulty logic of the IP metaphor is easy enough to state. It is based on a faulty syllogism – one with two reasonable premises and a faulty conclusion. Reasonable premise #1: all computers are capable of behaving intelligently. Reasonable premise #2: all computers are information processors. Faulty conclusion: all entities that are capable of behaving intelligently are information processors.

JJ Aung

Shared December 24, 2016

We are organisms, not computers. Get over it. Let’s get on with the business of trying to understand ourselves, but without being encumbered by unnecessary intellectual baggage. The IP metaphor has had a half-century run, producing few, if any, insights along the way. The time has come to hit the DELETE key

Zeljko Maric

Shared July 26, 2016

No matter how hard they try, brain scientists and cognitive psychologists will never find a copy of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in the brain – or copies of words, pictures, grammatical rules or any other kinds of environmental stimuli. The human brain isn’t really empty, of course. But it does not contain most of the things people think it does – not even simple things such as ‘memories

Curtis Steckel

Shared May 19, 2016

We are organisms, not computers. Get over it.

Anantha Shankar K R

Shared May 27, 2016

Fascinating insight on the human brain and why one cannot think of it like a computer

Zdenek Farana

Shared June 4, 2016

"We are organisms, not computers. Get over it."

Seamus Cushley

Shared December 24, 2018

computers really do operate on symbolic representations of the world. They really store and retrieve. They really process. They really have physical memories. They really are guided in everything they do, without exception, by algorithms.

Humans, on the other hand, do not – never did, never will.

Adam Amran

Shared February 5, 2017

The computer metaphor of how our brain works is probably false. Fascinating read.

Darrell DeCosta

Shared May 21, 2016

Setting aside the formal language, the idea that humans must be information processors just because computers are information processors is just plain silly, and when, some day, the IP metaphor is finally abandoned, it will almost certainly be seen that way by historians, just as we now view the hydraulic and mechanical metaphors to be silly.

Jean Carlo Machado

Shared December 22, 2016

I tend not to agree but it's a good read.

Tim Metz

Shared June 30, 2017

Why your brain is not a computer.

Tim Kaboya

Shared January 28, 2017

Why the IP metaphor does not help with understanding the brain.

Ranjani Natarajan

Shared July 7, 2016

"The brain may not be like a computer after all." That's about it.

Ranjani Natarajan

Shared January 4, 2017

Could you one day download your brain? This article says "no, that's not how the human brain works".

Joe Green

Shared December 20, 2016

Seems to be a worthwhile endeavor.

Let’s get on with the business of trying to understand ourselves, but without being encumbered by unnecessary intellectual baggage.

Philipp von Hammerstein

Shared December 25, 2016

"We are organisms, not computers. Get over it." Great article why neuroscience may be based on false assumptions

Adam B

Shared July 6, 2016

The information processing (IP) metaphor of human intelligence now dominates human thinking, both on the street and in the sciences. There is virtually no form of discourse about intelligent human behaviour that proceeds without employing this metaphor, just as no form of discourse about intelligent human behaviour could proceed in certain eras and cultures without reference to a spirit or deity. The validity of the IP metaphor in today’s world is generally assumed without question.

Johann Richard

Shared May 19, 2016

“In short: your brain is not a computer”

Danilo Barboza

Shared May 25, 2016

Inspiring and mind blowing article on why the Information Processing metaphor doesn't fit very well for how our brain works.

Amal Rafeeq

Shared December 2, 2016

Robert Epstein knows what he's talking about.

Philo van Kemenade

Shared January 14, 2017

the brain is empty of representations and does not work like a computer, unlike the dominant Information Procession paradigm has supposed for half a century. it's time to let go of the metaphor of brain as computer and find other ways to understand the human mind.

Daniel Boos

Shared July 18, 2017

brain not = computer

Audra Williams

Shared February 10, 2018

So much to think about in here.

Kevin McCullagh

Shared June 5, 2016

neuroscience

Godiva Golding

Shared February 13, 2018

Wow! 5/5 Most interesting article I've read in a while.

Mourad DACHRAOUI

Shared January 3, 2017

We are organisms, not computers. Get over it. Let’s get on with the business of trying to understand ourselves, but without being encumbered by unnecessary intellectual baggage.

Avi A

Shared November 22, 2016

A contrarian view on how we've fallen into the habit of comparing our brain's functions to how a computer processes information

Phyoe Wai

Shared December 26, 2016

The information processing (IP) metaphor of human intelligence now dominates human thinking, both on the street and in the sciences. There is virtually no form of discourse about intelligent human behaviour that proceeds without employing this metaphor, just as no form of discourse about intelligent human behaviour could proceed in certain eras and cultures without reference to a spirit or deity. The validity of the IP metaphor in today’s world is generally assumed without question.

But the IP metaphor is, after all, just another metaphor – a story we tell to make sense of something we don’t actually understand. And like all the metaphors that preceded it, it will certainly be cast aside at some point – either replaced by another metaphor or, in the end, replaced by actual knowledge.

Manpreet Kaur

Shared January 20, 2017

"But the IP (Information Processing) metaphor is, after all, just another metaphor – a story we tell to make sense of something we don’t actually understand. And like all the metaphors that preceded it, it will certainly be cast aside at some point – either replaced by another metaphor or, in the end, replaced by actual knowledge."

Honza Felt

Shared January 30, 2017

Why downloading your brain to a computer is either 100s of years ahead of probably won't work at all. Ray Kurzweil doesn't like this perspective.

Amirreza H.A.

Shared January 2, 2017

visualising something (that is, seeing something in its absence) is far less accurate than seeing something in its presence. This is why we’re much better at recognising than recalling. When we re-member something (from the Latin re, ‘again’, and memorari, ‘be mindful of’), we have to try to relive an experience; but when we recognise something, we must merely be conscious of the fact that we have had this perceptual experience before.

Muskan Sukarchakia

Shared January 15, 2018

We've heard this before, but never so eloquently critiqued.

If you and I attend the same concert, the changes that occur in my brain when I listen to Beethoven’s 5th will almost certainly be completely different from the changes that occur in your brain. Those changes, whatever they are, are built on the unique neural structure that already exists, each structure having developed over a lifetime of unique experiences.

Silvia Minu Patriche

Shared May 20, 2016

But here is what we are not born with: information, data, rules, software, knowledge, lexicons, representations, algorithms, programs, models, memories, images, processors, subroutines, encoders, decoders, symbols, or buffers – design elements that allow digital computers to behave somewhat intelligently. Not only are we not born with such things, we also don’t develop them – ever.

J Y Nona

Shared November 8, 2016

"This is why, as Sir Frederic Bartlett demonstrated in his book Remembering (1932), no two people will repeat a story they have heard the same way and why, over time, their recitations of the story will diverge more and more. No ‘copy’ of the story is ever made; rather, each individual, upon hearing the story, changes to some extent – enough so that when asked about the story later (in some cases, days, months or even years after Bartlett first read them the story) – they can re-experience hearing the story to some extent, although not very well (see the first drawing of the dollar bill, above)."

Ayush Chaturvedi

Shared January 2, 2017

Super...

Filip Victor

Shared January 10, 2017

Fortunately, because the IP metaphor is not even slightly valid, we will never have to worry about a human mind going amok in cyberspace; alas, we will also never achieve immortality through downloading.

yokesh sharma

Shared January 31, 2017

How human brain differs significantly from computers ?

Dave Miller

Shared February 15, 2017

Fascinating

Joey Clouvel

Shared June 21, 2017

Lots of shortcomings and biased views.. I disagree with this article.

Joni Baboci

Shared August 1, 2017

A healthy newborn is also equipped with more than a dozen reflexes – ready-made reactions to certain stimuli that are important for its survival. It turns its head in the direction of something that brushes its cheek and then sucks whatever enters its mouth. It holds its breath when submerged in water. It grasps things placed in its hands so strongly it can nearly support its own weight. Perhaps most important, newborns come equipped with powerful learning mechanisms that allow them to change rapidly so they can interact increasingly effectively with their world, even if that world is unlike the one their distant ancestors faced

Joni Baboci

Shared August 1, 2017

In his book In Our Own Image (2015), the artificial intelligence expert George Zarkadakis describes six different metaphors people have employed over the past 2,000 years to try to explain human intelligence.

In the earliest one, eventually preserved in the Bible, humans were formed from clay or dirt, which an intelligent god then infused with its spirit. That spirit ‘explained’ our intelligence – grammatically, at least.

The invention of hydraulic engineering in the 3rd century BCE led to the popularity of a hydraulic model of human intelligence, the idea that the flow of different fluids in the body – the ‘humours’ – accounted for both our physical and mental functioning. The hydraulic metaphor persisted for more than 1,600 years, handicapping medical practice all the while.

By the 1500s, automata powered by springs and gears had been devised, eventually inspiring leading thinkers such as René Descartes to assert that humans are complex machines. In the 1600s, the British philosopher Thomas Hobbes suggested that thinking arose from small mechanical motions in the brain. By the 1700s, discoveries about electricity and chemistry led to new theories of human intelligence – again, largely metaphorical in nature. In the mid-1800s, inspired by recent advances in communications, the German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz compared the brain to a telegraph.

Each metaphor reflected the most advanced thinking of the era that spawned it. Predictably, just a few years after the dawn of computer technology in the 1940s, the brain was said to operate like a computer, with the role of physical hardware played by the brain itself and our thoughts serving as software. The landmark event that launched what is now broadly called ‘cognitive science’ was the publication of Language and Communication (1951) by the psychologist George Miller. Miller proposed that the mental world could be studied rigorously using concepts from information theory, computation and linguistics.

Joni Baboci

Shared August 1, 2017

So what is occurring when Jinny draws the dollar bill in its absence? If Jinny had never seen a dollar bill before, her first drawing would probably have not resembled the second drawing at all. Having seen dollar bills before, she was changed in some way. Specifically, her brain was changed in a way that allowed her to visualise a dollar bill – that is, to re-experience seeing a dollar bill, at least to some extent.

The difference between the two diagrams reminds us that visualising something (that is, seeing something in its absence) is far less accurate than seeing something in its presence. This is why we’re much better at recognising than recalling. When we re-member something (from the Latin re, ‘again’, and memorari, ‘be mindful of’), we have to try to relive an experience; but when we recognise something, we must merely be conscious of the fact that we have had this perceptual experience before. 

Joni Baboci

Shared August 1, 2017

Misleading headlines notwithstanding, no one really has the slightest idea how the brain changes after we have learned to sing a song or recite a poem. But neither the song nor the poem has been ‘stored’ in it. The brain has simply changed in an orderly way that now allows us to sing the song or recite the poem under certain conditions. When called on to perform, neither the song nor the poem is in any sense ‘retrieved’ from anywhere in the brain, any more than my finger movements are ‘retrieved’ when I tap my finger on my desk. We simply sing or recite – no retrieval necessary

Joni Baboci

Shared August 1, 2017

Because neither ‘memory banks’ nor ‘representations’ of stimuli exist in the brain, and because all that is required for us to function in the world is for the brain to change in an orderly way as a result of our experiences, there is no reason to believe that any two of us are changed the same way by the same experience. If you and I attend the same concert, the changes that occur in my brain when I listen to Beethoven’s 5th will almost certainly be completely different from the changes that occur in your brain. Those changes, whatever they are, are built on the unique neural structure that already exists, each structure having developed over a lifetime of unique experiences.

This is why, as Sir Frederic Bartlett demonstrated in his book Remembering (1932), no two people will repeat a story they have heard the same way and why, over time, their recitations of the story will diverge more and more. No ‘copy’ of the story is ever made; rather, each individual, upon hearing the story, changes to some extent – enough so that when asked about the story later (in some cases, days, months or even years after Bartlett first read them the story) – they can re-experience hearing the story to some extent, although not very well (see the first drawing of the dollar bill, above).

Joni Baboci

Shared August 1, 2017

Worse still, even if we had the ability to take a snapshot of all of the brain’s 86 billion neurons and then to simulate the state of those neurons in a computer, that vast pattern would mean nothing outside the body of the brain that produced it. This is perhaps the most egregious way in which the IP metaphor has distorted our thinking about human functioning. Whereas computers do store exact copies of data – copies that can persist unchanged for long periods of time, even if the power has been turned off – the brain maintains our intellect only as long as it remains alive. There is no on-off switch. Either the brain keeps functioning, or we disappear. What’s more, as the neurobiologist Steven Rose pointed out in The Future of the Brain (2005), a snapshot of the brain’s current state might also be meaningless unless we knew the entire life history of that brain’s owner – perhaps even about the social context in which he or she was raised.

Think how difficult this problem is. To understand even the basics of how the brain maintains the human intellect, we might need to know not just the current state of all 86 billion neurons and their 100 trillion interconnections, not just the varying strengths with which they are connected, and not just the states of more than 1,000 proteins that exist at each connection point, but how the moment-to-moment activity of the brain contributes to the integrity of the system. Add to this the uniqueness of each brain, brought about in part because of the uniqueness of each person’s life history, and Kandel’s prediction starts to sound overly optimistic. (In a recent op-ed in The New York Times, the neuroscientist Kenneth Miller suggested it will take ‘centuries’ just to figure out basic neuronal connectivity.)

Robert Oswald

Shared June 6, 2016

The human brain is not a computer

Karina Mitropoulou

Shared June 1, 2016

We are organisms, not computers. Get over it.

Yue Han

Shared August 6, 2016

That is all well and good if we functioned as computers do

Hans Kaliaden

Shared October 19, 2016

A truly brilliant article. Must read for all neuroscientists.

Alexey Gopachenko

Shared December 5, 2016

..it just needs to change in the orderly way..

Mehdi H

Shared January 5, 2017

the idea that humans must be information processors just because computers are information processors is just plain silly, and when, some day, the IP metaphor is finally abandoned, it will almost certainly be seen that way by historians, just as we now view the hydraulic and mechanical metaphors to be silly.

Mathieu D

Shared January 26, 2017

Mind blowing (!) read

Dziban Naufal

Shared May 29, 2017

Brain isn't a computer, but more than that!
Early paradigm about "computer-like brain function" have to be ruined and research have to develop new definition of brain function that composed by evidences.. but i know that wont be inexpensive 😂

Raisa Roo

Shared July 16, 2018

How interesting. We seem to limit our comprehension of our own mind and thoughts by comparing ourselves to computers.

Trey Gordner

Shared March 20, 2017

Our ancestors described our bodies as hydraulic systems. Our own "brain as computer" metaphor is just as misguided.

"the IP metaphor is, after all, just another metaphor – a story we tell to make sense of something we don’t actually understand. And like all the metaphors that preceded it, it will certainly be cast aside at some point – either replaced by another metaphor or, in the end, replaced by actual knowledge."

Mehmet Tataroglu

Shared December 21, 2016

a snapshot of the brain’s current state might also be meaningless unless we knew the entire life history of that brain’s owner – perhaps even about the social context in which he or she was raised.

David R.

Shared November 15, 2017

But here is what we are not born with: information, data, rules, software, knowledge, lexicons, representations, algorithms, programs, models, memories, images, processors, subroutines, encoders, decoders, symbols, or buffers – design elements that allow digital computers to behave somewhat intelligently. Not only are we not born with such things, we also don’t develop them – ever.

Osi Aju

Shared January 8, 2018

Humans are organisms, not computers.

Art Lukas

Shared October 9, 2017

These days we think the brain is a computer because computer is the hottest most sophisticated technology we know. Back in the day when hydraulic engineering was the hot stuff we thought the body fluids were the expkanation of what goes on in the brain. All these models are just examples of limits of our imagination.

Micah Towery

Shared March 7, 2017

The 'brain is a computer' metaphor is a disaster. It's time we dumped it.

Paul Sweeney

Shared May 23, 2016

The time we live in, infuses our thinking with dominant metaphors for how the human brain "thinks" and what "consciousness' is. IP is just the latest manifestation.

Ezra

Shared May 25, 2016

"But here is what we are not born with: information, data, rules, software, knowledge, lexicons, representations, algorithms, programs, models, memories, images, processors, subroutines, encoders, decoders, symbols, or buffers – design elements that allow digital computers to behave somewhat intelligently. Not only are we not born with such things, we also don’t develop them – ever.

We don’t store words or the rules that tell us how to manipulate them. We don’t create representations of visual stimuli, store them in a short-term memory buffer, and then transfer the representation into a long-term memory device. We don’t retrieve information or images or words from memory registers. Computers do all of these things, but organisms do not."

Emil Mork

Shared July 5, 2016

Interesting longread - brains are not computers

Timo Litzius

Shared October 11, 2016

computers really do operate on symbolic representations of the world. They really store and retrieve. They really process. They really have physical memories. They really are guided in everything they do, without exception, by algorithms.

Humans, on the other hand, do not – never did, never will. Given this reality, why do so many scientists talk about our mental life as if we were computers?

Josh Mason-Barkin

Shared October 26, 2016

This will, quite literally, blow your mind.

Ezra

Shared January 1, 2017

we will never have to worry about a human mind going amok in cyberspace, and we will never achieve immortality through downloading

Patrick Dsouza

Shared February 15, 2017

Brilliant

Matt Okane

Shared June 18, 2018

The empty brain
Your brain does not process information, retrieve knowledge or store memories. In short: your brain is not a computer

What’s in a brain? Photo by Gallery Stock
Robert Epstein is a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California. He is the author of 15 books, and the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today. 
4,200 words


No matter how hard they try, brain scientists and cognitive psychologists will never find a copy of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in the brain – or copies of words, pictures, grammatical rules or any other kinds of environmental stimuli. The human brain isn’t really empty, of course. But it does not contain most of the things people think it does – not even simple things such as ‘memories’.

Our shoddy thinking about the brain has deep historical roots, but the invention of computers in the 1940s got us especially confused. For more than half a century now, psychologists, linguists, neuroscientists and other experts on human behaviour have been asserting that the human brain works like a computer.

To see how vacuous this idea is, consider the brains of babies. Thanks to evolution, human neonates, like the newborns of all other mammalian species, enter the world prepared to interact with it effectively. A baby’s vision is blurry, but it pays special attention to faces, and is quickly able to identify its mother’s. It prefers the sound of voices to non-speech sounds, and can distinguish one basic speech sound from another. We are, without doubt, built to make social connections.

A healthy newborn is also equipped with more than a dozen reflexes – ready-made reactions to certain stimuli that are important for its survival. It turns its head in the direction of something that brushes its cheek and then sucks whatever enters its mouth. It holds its breath when submerged in water. It grasps things placed in its hands so strongly it can nearly support its own weight. Perhaps most important, newborns come equipped with powerful learning mechanisms that allow them to change rapidly so they can interact increasingly effectively with their world, even if that world is unlike the one their distant ancestors faced.

Senses, reflexes and learning mechanisms – this is what we start with, and it is quite a lot, when you think about it. If we lacked any of these capabilities at birth, we would probably have trouble surviving.

But here is what we are not born with: information, data, rules, software, knowledge, lexicons, representations, algorithms, programs, models, memories, images, processors, subroutines, encoders, decoders, symbols, or buffers – design elements that allow digital computers to behave somewhat intelligently. Not only are we not born with such things, we also don’t develop them – ever.

We don’t store words or the rules that tell us how to manipulate them. We don’t create representations of visual stimuli, store them in a short-term memory buffer, and then transfer the representation into a long-term memory device. We don’t retrieve information or images or words from memory registers. Computers do all of these things, but organisms do not.

Computers, quite literally, process information – numbers, letters, words, formulas, images. The information first has to be encoded into a format computers can use, which means patterns of ones and zeroes (‘bits’) organised into small chunks (‘bytes’). On my computer, each byte contains 8 bits, and a certain pattern of those bits stands for the letter d, another for the letter o, and another for the letter g. Side by side, those three bytes form the word dog. One single image – say, the photograph of my cat Henry on my desktop – is represented by a very specific pattern of a million of these bytes (‘one megabyte’), surrounded by some special characters that tell the computer to expect an image, not a word.

Computers, quite literally, move these patterns from place to place in different physical storage areas etched into electronic components. Sometimes they also copy the patterns, and sometimes they transform them in various ways – say, when we are correcting errors in a manuscript or when we are touching up a photograph. The rules computers follow for moving, copying and operating on these arrays of data are also stored inside the computer. Together, a set of rules is called a ‘program’ or an ‘algorithm’. A group of algorithms that work together to help us do something (like buy stocks or find a date online) is called an ‘application’ – what most people now call an ‘app’.

Forgive me for this introduction to computing, but I need to be clear: computers really do operate on symbolic representations of the world. They really store and retrieve. They really process. They really have physical memories. They really are guided in everything they do, without exception, by algorithms.

Humans, on the other hand, do not – never did, never will. Given this reality, why do so many scientists talk about our mental life as if we were computers?

In his book In Our Own Image (2015), the artificial intelligence expert George Zarkadakis describes six different metaphors people have employed over the past 2,000 years to try to explain human intelligence.

In the earliest one, eventually preserved in the Bible, humans were formed from clay or dirt, which an intelligent god then infused with its spirit. That spirit ‘explained’ our intelligence – grammatically, at least.

The invention of hydraulic engineering in the 3rd century BCE led to the popularity of a hydraulic model of human intelligence, the idea that the flow of different fluids in the body – the ‘humours’ – accounted for both our physical and mental functioning. The hydraulic metaphor persisted for more than 1,600 years, handicapping medical practice all the while.

By the 1500s, automata powered by springs and gears had been devised, eventually inspiring leading thinkers such as René Descartes to assert that humans are complex machines. In the 1600s, the British philosopher Thomas Hobbes suggested that thinking arose from small mechanical motions in the brain. By the 1700s, discoveries about electricity and chemistry led to new theories of human intelligence – again, largely metaphorical in nature. In the mid-1800s, inspired by recent advances in communications, the German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz compared the brain to a telegraph.

The mathematician John von Neumann stated flatly that the function of the human nervous system is ‘prima facie digital’, drawing parallel after parallel between the components of the computing machines of the day and the components of the human brain 

Each metaphor reflected the most advanced thinking of the era that spawned it. Predictably, just a few years after the dawn of computer technology in the 1940s, the brain was said to operate like a computer, with the role of physical hardware played by the brain itself and our thoughts serving as software. The landmark event that launched what is now broadly called ‘cognitive science’ was the publication of Language and Communication (1951) by the psychologist George Miller. Miller proposed that the mental world could be studied rigorously using concepts from information theory, computation and linguistics.

This kind of thinking was taken to its ultimate expression in the short book The Computer and the Brain (1958), in which the mathematician John von Neumann stated flatly that the function of the human nervous system is ‘prima facie digital’. Although he acknowledged that little was actually known about the role the brain played in human reasoning and memory, he drew parallel after parallel between the components of the computing machines of the day and the components of the human brain.

Propelled by subsequent advances in both computer technology and brain research, an ambitious multidisciplinary effort to understand human intelligence gradually developed, firmly rooted in the idea that humans are, like computers, information processors. This effort now involves thousands of researchers, consumes billions of dollars in funding, and has generated a vast literature consisting of both technical and mainstream articles and books. Ray Kurzweil’s book How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed (2013), exemplifies this perspective, speculating about the ‘algorithms’ of the brain, how the brain ‘processes data’, and even how it superficially resembles integrated circuits in its structure.

The information processing (IP) metaphor of human intelligence now dominates human thinking, both on the street and in the sciences. There is virtually no form of discourse about intelligent human behaviour that proceeds without employing this metaphor, just as no form of discourse about intelligent human behaviour could proceed in certain eras and cultures without reference to a spirit or deity. The validity of the IP metaphor in today’s world is generally assumed without question.

But the IP metaphor is, after all, just another metaphor – a story we tell to make sense of something we don’t actually understand. And like all the metaphors that preceded it, it will certainly be cast aside at some point – either replaced by another metaphor or, in the end, replaced by actual knowledge.

Just over a year ago, on a visit to one of the world’s most prestigious research institutes, I challenged researchers there to account for intelligent human behaviour without reference to any aspect of the IP metaphor. They couldn’t do it, and when I politely raised the issue in subsequent email communications, they still had nothing to offer months later. They saw the problem. They didn’t dismiss the challenge as trivial. But they couldn’t offer an alternative. In other words, the IP metaphor is ‘sticky’. It encumbers our thinking with language and ideas that are so powerful we have trouble thinking around them.

The faulty logic of the IP metaphor is easy enough to state. It is based on a faulty syllogism – one with two reasonable premises and a faulty conclusion. Reasonable premise #1: all computers are capable of behaving intelligently. Reasonable premise #2: all computers are information processors. Faulty conclusion: all entities that are capable of behaving intelligently are information processors.

Setting aside the formal language, the idea that humans must be information processors just because computers are information processors is just plain silly, and when, some day, the IP metaphor is finally abandoned, it will almost certainly be seen that way by historians, just as we now view the hydraulic and mechanical metaphors to be silly.

If the IP metaphor is so silly, why is it so sticky? What is stopping us from brushing it aside, just as we might brush aside a branch that was blocking our path? Is there a way to understand human intelligence without leaning on a flimsy intellectual crutch? And what price have we paid for leaning so heavily on this particular crutch for so long? The IP metaphor, after all, has been guiding the writing and thinking of a large number of researchers in multiple fields for decades. At what cost? 

In a classroom exercise I have conducted many times over the years, I begin by recruiting a student to draw a detailed picture of a dollar bill – ‘as detailed as possible’, I say – on the blackboard in front of the room. When the student has finished, I cover the drawing with a sheet of paper, remove a dollar bill from my wallet, tape it to the board, and ask the student to repeat the task. When he or she is done, I remove the cover from the first drawing, and the class comments on the differences.

Because you might never have seen a demonstration like this, or because you might have trouble imagining the outcome, I have asked Jinny Hyun, one of the student interns at the institute where I conduct my research, to make the two drawings. Here is her drawing ‘from memory’ (notice the metaphor):


And here is the drawing she subsequently made with a dollar bill present:


Jinny was as surprised by the outcome as you probably are, but it is typical. As you can see, the drawing made in the absence of the dollar bill is horrible compared with the drawing made from an exemplar, even though Jinny has seen a dollar bill thousands of times.

What is the problem? Don’t we have a ‘representation’ of the dollar bill ‘stored’ in a ‘memory register’ in our brains? Can’t we just ‘retrieve’ it and use it to make our drawing?

Obviously not, and a thousand years of neuroscience will never locate a representation of a dollar bill stored inside the human brain for the simple reason that it is not there to be found.

The idea that memories are stored in individual neurons is preposterous: how and where is the memory stored in the cell?

A wealth of brain studies tells us, in fact, that multiple and sometimes large areas of the brain are often involved in even the most mundane memory tasks. When strong emotions are involved, millions of neurons can become more active. In a 2016 study of survivors of a plane crash by the University of Toronto neuropsychologist Brian Levine and others, recalling the crash increased neural activity in ‘the amygdala, medial temporal lobe, anterior and posterior midline, and visual cortex’ of the passengers.

The idea, advanced by several scientists, that specific memories are somehow stored in individual neurons is preposterous; if anything, that assertion just pushes the problem of memory to an even more challenging level: how and where, after all, is the memory stored in the cell?

So what is occurring when Jinny draws the dollar bill in its absence? If Jinny had never seen a dollar bill before, her first drawing would probably have not resembled the second drawing at all. Having seen dollar bills before, she was changed in some way. Specifically, her brain was changed in a way that allowed her to visualise a dollar bill – that is, to re-experience seeing a dollar bill, at least to some extent.

The difference between the two diagrams reminds us that visualising something (that is, seeing something in its absence) is far less accurate than seeing something in its presence. This is why we’re much better at recognising than recalling. When we re-member something (from the Latin re, ‘again’, and memorari, ‘be mindful of’), we have to try to relive an experience; but when we recognise something, we must merely be conscious of the fact that we have had this perceptual experience before. 

Perhaps you will object to this demonstration. Jinny had seen dollar bills before, but she hadn’t made a deliberate effort to ‘memorise’ the details. Had she done so, you might argue, she could presumably have drawn the second image without the bill being present. Even in this case, though, no image of the dollar bill has in any sense been ‘stored’ in Jinny’s brain. She has simply become better prepared to draw it accurately, just as, through practice, a pianist becomes more skilled in playing a concerto without somehow inhaling a copy of the sheet music.

From this simple exercise, we can begin to build the framework of a metaphor-free theory of intelligent human behaviour – one in which the brain isn’t completely empty, but is at least empty of the baggage of the IP metaphor.

As we navigate through the world, we are changed by a variety of experiences. Of special note are experiences of three types: (1) we observe what is happening around us (other people behaving, sounds of music, instructions directed at us, words on pages, images on screens); (2) we are exposed to the pairing of unimportant stimuli (such as sirens) with important stimuli (such as the appearance of police cars); (3) we are punished or rewarded for behaving in certain ways.

We become more effective in our lives if we change in ways that are consistent with these experiences – if we can now recite a poem or sing a song, if we are able to follow the instructions we are given, if we respond to the unimportant stimuli more like we do to the important stimuli, if we refrain from behaving in ways that were punished, if we behave more frequently in ways that were rewarded.

Misleading headlines notwithstanding, no one really has the slightest idea how the brain changes after we have learned to sing a song or recite a poem. But neither the song nor the poem has been ‘stored’ in it. The brain has simply changed in an orderly way that now allows us to sing the song or recite the poem under certain conditions. When called on to perform, neither the song nor the poem is in any sense ‘retrieved’ from anywhere in the brain, any more than my finger movements are ‘retrieved’ when I tap my finger on my desk. We simply sing or recite – no retrieval necessary.

A few years ago, I asked the neuroscientist Eric Kandel of Columbia University – winner of a Nobel Prize for identifying some of the chemical changes that take place in the neuronal synapses of the Aplysia (a marine snail) after it learns something – how long he thought it would take us to understand how human memory works. He quickly replied: ‘A hundred years.’ I didn’t think to ask him whether he thought the IP metaphor was slowing down neuroscience, but some neuroscientists are indeed beginning to think the unthinkable – that the metaphor is not indispensable.

A few cognitive scientists – notably Anthony Chemero of the University of Cincinnati, the author of Radical Embodied Cognitive Science (2009) – now completely reject the view that the human brain works like a computer. The mainstream view is that we, like computers, make sense of the world by performing computations on mental representations of it, but Chemero and others describe another way of understanding intelligent behaviour – as a direct interaction between organisms and their world.

My favourite example of the dramatic difference between the IP perspective and what some now call the ‘anti-representational’ view of human functioning involves two different ways of explaining how a baseball player manages to catch a fly ball – beautifully explicated by Michael McBeath, now at Arizona State University, and his colleagues in a 1995 paper in Science. The IP perspective requires the player to formulate an estimate of various initial conditions of the ball’s flight – the force of the impact, the angle of the trajectory, that kind of thing – then to create and analyse an internal model of the path along which the ball will likely move, then to use that model to guide and adjust motor movements continuously in time in order to intercept the ball.

That is all well and good if we functioned as computers do, but McBeath and his colleagues gave a simpler account: to catch the ball, the player simply needs to keep moving in a way that keeps the ball in a constant visual relationship with respect to home plate and the surrounding scenery (technically, in a ‘linear optical trajectory’). This might sound complicated, but it is actually incredibly simple, and completely free of computations, representations and algorithms.

We will never have to worry about a human mind going amok in cyberspace, and we will never achieve immortality through downloading

Two determined psychology professors at Leeds Beckett University in the UK – Andrew Wilson and Sabrina Golonka – include the baseball example among many others that can be looked at simply and sensibly outside the IP framework. They have been blogging for years about what they call a ‘more coherent, naturalised approach to the scientific study of human behaviour… at odds with the dominant cognitive neuroscience approach’. This is far from a movement, however; the mainstream cognitive sciences continue to wallow uncritically in the IP metaphor, and some of the world’s most influential thinkers have made grand predictions about humanity’s future that depend on the validity of the metaphor.

One prediction – made by the futurist Kurzweil, the physicist Stephen Hawking and the neuroscientist Randal Koene, among others – is that, because human consciousness is supposedly like computer software, it will soon be possible to download human minds to a computer, in the circuits of which we will become immensely powerful intellectually and, quite possibly, immortal. This concept drove the plot of the dystopian movie Transcendence (2014) starring Johnny Depp as the Kurzweil-like scientist whose mind was downloaded to the internet – with disastrous results for humanity.

Fortunately, because the IP metaphor is not even slightly valid, we will never have to worry about a human mind going amok in cyberspace; alas, we will also never achieve immortality through downloading. This is not only because of the absence of consciousness software in the brain; there is a deeper problem here – let’s call it the uniqueness problem – which is both inspirational and depressing.

Because neither ‘memory banks’ nor ‘representations’ of stimuli exist in the brain, and because all that is required for us to function in the world is for the brain to change in an orderly way as a result of our experiences, there is no reason to believe that any two of us are changed the same way by the same experience. If you and I attend the same concert, the changes that occur in my brain when I listen to Beethoven’s 5th will almost certainly be completely different from the changes that occur in your brain. Those changes, whatever they are, are built on the unique neural structure that already exists, each structure having developed over a lifetime of unique experiences.

This is why, as Sir Frederic Bartlett demonstrated in his book Remembering (1932), no two people will repeat a story they have heard the same way and why, over time, their recitations of the story will diverge more and more. No ‘copy’ of the story is ever made; rather, each individual, upon hearing the story, changes to some extent – enough so that when asked about the story later (in some cases, days, months or even years after Bartlett first read them the story) – they can re-experience hearing the story to some extent, although not very well (see the first drawing of the dollar bill, above).

This is inspirational, I suppose, because it means that each of us is truly unique, not just in our genetic makeup, but even in the way our brains change over time. It is also depressing, because it makes the task of the neuroscientist daunting almost beyond imagination. For any given experience, orderly change could involve a thousand neurons, a million neurons or even the entire brain, with the pattern of change different in every brain.

Worse still, even if we had the ability to take a snapshot of all of the brain’s 86 billion neurons and then to simulate the state of those neurons in a computer, that vast pattern would mean nothing outside the body of the brain that produced it. This is perhaps the most egregious way in which the IP metaphor has distorted our thinking about human functioning. Whereas computers do store exact copies of data – copies that can persist unchanged for long periods of time, even if the power has been turned off – the brain maintains our intellect only as long as it remains alive. There is no on-off switch. Either the brain keeps functioning, or we disappear. What’s more, as the neurobiologist Steven Rose pointed out in The Future of the Brain (2005), a snapshot of the brain’s current state might also be meaningless unless we knew the entire life history of that brain’s owner – perhaps even about the social context in which he or she was raised.

Think how difficult this problem is. To understand even the basics of how the brain maintains the human intellect, we might need to know not just the current state of all 86 billion neurons and their 100 trillion interconnections, not just the varying strengths with which they are connected, and not just the states of more than 1,000 proteins that exist at each connection point, but how the moment-to-moment activity of the brain contributes to the integrity of the system. Add to this the uniqueness of each brain, brought about in part because of the uniqueness of each person’s life history, and Kandel’s prediction starts to sound overly optimistic. (In a recent op-ed in The New York Times, the neuroscientist Kenneth Miller suggested it will take ‘centuries’ just to figure out basic neuronal connectivity.)

Meanwhile, vast sums of money are being raised for brain research, based in some cases on faulty ideas and promises that cannot be kept. The most blatant instance of neuroscience gone awry, documented recently in a report in Scientific American, concerns the $1.3 billion Human Brain Project launched by the European Union in 2013. Convinced by the charismatic Henry Markram that he could create a simulation of the entire human brain on a supercomputer by the year 2023, and that such a model would revolutionise the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders, EU officials funded his project with virtually no restrictions. Less than two years into it, the project turned into a ‘brain wreck’, and Markram was asked to step down.

We are organisms, not computers. Get over it. Let’s get on with the business of trying to understand ourselves, but without being encumbered by unnecessary intellectual baggage. The IP metaphor has had a half-century run, producing few, if any, insights along the way. The time has come to hit the DELETE key.

Neuroscience Cognition & Intelligence Data & Information All topics →
View at aeon.co 18 May, 2016
Support Aeon

‘I support Aeon because I value excellence over up-to-the-minute, depth over speed, beauty over fact-dropping.’

Ole S, Germany, Friend of Aeon

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.

But we can’t do it without you.

Support Aeon
Video/
Mental Health
A haunting exploration of a Holocaust survival story that offers no redemption

8 minutes


Idea/
Self-Improvement
You’re simply not that big a deal: now isn’t that a relief?

Melissa Dahl

Essay/
Love & Friendship
Buddhists in love

Lovers crave intensity, Buddhists say craving causes suffering. Is it possible to be deeply in love yet truly detached?

Lisa Feldman Barrett John Dunne

Video/
Neuroscience
What is your dog really thinking? MRI brain scans might soon provide the answer

7 minutes


Idea/
Mind & Body
Psychogenic shivers: why we get the chills when we aren’t cold

Félix Schoeller

Essay/
Mood & Emotion
The myth of ‘mad’ genius

The Romantic stereotype that creativity is enhanced by a mood disorder is dangerous, and dissolves under careful scrutiny

Christa L. Taylor

Essays
Ideas
Videos
About
Contact
Partners
RSS Feed
Donate
Community Guidelines
Follow Aeon

Follow @aeonmag

© Aeon Media Group Ltd. 2018. Privacy Policy.

Eric Eastland

Shared May 29, 2016

"[The metaphor] encumbers our thinking with language and ideas that are so powerful we have trouble thinking around them."

rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5/5

Jiayao Yu

Shared December 22, 2016

Important piece for system thinkers.

Clélio Souza de Melo

Shared December 26, 2016

The idea, advanced by several scientists, that specific memories are somehow stored in individual neurons is preposterous; if anything, that assertion just pushes the problem of memory to an even more challenging level: how and where, after all, is the memory stored in the cell?

Jason Khym

Shared December 31, 2016

This article disputes the IP theory

For more than half a century now, psychologists, linguists, neuroscientists and other experts on human behaviour have been asserting that the human brain works like a computer.

Seb Sigloch

Shared April 10, 2018

Must read

Berat Doğan

Shared May 31, 2018

A baby’s vision is blurry, but it pays special attention to faces, and is quickly able to identify its mother’s

Ravi Kawade

Shared August 24, 2018

Great read, a fascinating outlook amomg many to keep in mind.

Younes Boukhaffa

Shared May 24, 2016

Excellent writing on how we are humans and not computers

Wouter du Toit

Shared May 25, 2016

One of the most important articles you'll read.

Anna Baglione

Shared March 19, 2019

Interesting take on the brain and IP theory.

Derek VerLee

Shared May 22, 2016

I agree with many of the statements but not the conclusion. Fundamentally I think that this takes a view of computing that is too narrow.

M T

Shared May 23, 2016

Brains change in order to account for new experiences.
These changes are guided by, and build over previous changes.
Therefore each brain will change in a unique way, depending on what has shaped it before, and produce a reaction different to any other brain.
A better example is how one is changed by a concert vs. showing outrage at whatever news item of the day.
In this way brains do not recall memories; you cannot draw a five dollar bill from memory to any degree of accuracy, despite having seen one thousands of times.
Instead, a brain must interrogate its architecture, and draw meaning from that.
It's an organic growth, a coming together of natural cascades. It is more like the patterns that emerge from mixing paint, moving water eroding or pressure differentials creating rain than any sort of machine or logical creation. It's intuitive and imprecise.
Therefore it cannot be downloaded - the architecture could be copied, but the architecture itself must interpret the neurons, connections, and hormones.
The brain has always been compared to the latest technology of the day, from spirits to hydraulics to mechanics to binary. It's just another metaphor in an obvious pattern of applying the newest information to the brain. It's just one story on the line of stories to explain to ourselves why we are intelligent, and there is no reason to believe that this is the final station for this line of thought.

Mariah Camille Oliveros

Shared November 16, 2016

A brilliant, deviant perspective as to how the brain works. The author argues that, contrary to popular belief, human brains don't function as computers do; although both can behave intelligently.

Yet again, the amount of knowledge and understanding that is beyond the grasp of mankind is staggering.

Matt Klein

Shared December 26, 2016

Excellent expansion about how we've been thinking about our brains all wrong.

Mike Ram

Shared August 13, 2017

Setting aside the formal language, the idea that humans must be information processors just because computers are information processors is just plain silly, and when, some day, the IP metaphor is finally abandoned, it will almost certainly be seen that way by historians, just as we now view the hydraulic and mechanical metaphors to be silly.

Siddharth Srinivasan

Shared August 19, 2017

A lot of misconceptions of the human brain are cleared up.

nah ngn

Shared November 27, 2017

"A healthy newborn is also equipped with more than a dozen reflexes – ready-made reactions to certain stimuli that are important for its survival. It turns its head in the direction of something that brushes its cheek and then sucks whatever enters its mouth. It holds its breath when submerged in water. It grasps things placed in its hands so strongly it can nearly support its own weight. Perhaps most important, newborns come equipped with powerful learning mechanisms that allow them to change rapidly so they can interact increasingly effectively with their world, even if that world is unlike the one their distant ancestors faced."

Joe Murray

Shared February 1, 2018

Mind blown. :-) read this, then you'll laugh at that <-- (maybe)

TheBlogz _in

Shared May 12, 2018

do you have a empty brian.?

read this out

Josh Dillon

Shared May 21, 2016

Thanks Graham!

Mat Mathews

Shared July 4, 2016

Reminds me of Dijykstra's warnings on anthromorohism in reverse.

A R

Shared October 25, 2016

Agree. @

The time has come to hit the DELETE key.

Luis M. Aceituno

Shared November 6, 2016

Where do I get one of those computers?

On my computer, each byte contains 64 bits

Jacob Jones

Shared November 22, 2016

Fascinating and informative, this is a great reminder of the power of metaphor and analogy.

Mandee Mostrom

Shared December 10, 2016

Interesting.

Greg Legorreta

Shared December 18, 2016

Good stuff

strangey

Shared December 23, 2016

computers really do operate on symbolic representations of the world. They really store and retrieve. They really process. They really have physical memories. They really are guided in everything they do, without exception, by algorithms.

Humans, on the other hand, do not – never did, never will.

Prashanth Mohan

Shared February 9, 2017

Changes the perception of our Brain's functionality!

alexandra f

Shared April 14, 2017

this was really eye-opening

Fatima Rana

Shared April 20, 2017

this is some cool food for thought and also makes me feel way better lol anyway

"The difference between the two diagrams reminds us that visualising something (that is, seeing something in its absence) is far less accurate than seeing something in its presence. This is why we’re much better at recognising than recalling. When we re-member something (from the Latin re, ‘again’, and memorari, ‘be mindful of’), we have to try to relive an experience; but when we recognise something, we must merely be conscious of the fact that we have had this perceptual experience before."

Paul Matheson

Shared June 29, 2017

No, the human brain is not a computer.

m m

Shared October 20, 2017

memories’.

Our shoddy thinking about the brain has deep historical roots, but the invention of computers in the 1940s got us especially confused. For more than half a century now, psychologists, linguists, neuroscientists and other experts on human behaviour have been asserting that the human brain works like a computer

m m

Shared October 20, 2017

Senses, reflexes and learning mechanisms – this is what we start with, and it is quite a lot, when you think about it. If we lacked any of these capabilities at birth, we would probably have trouble surviving.

But here is what we are not born with: information, data, rules, software, knowledge, lexicons, representations, algorithms, programs, models, memories, images, processors, subroutines, encoders, decoders, symbols, or buffers – design elements that allow digital computers to behave somewhat intelligently. Not only are we not born with such things, we also don’t develop them – ever.

m m

Shared October 20, 2017

computers really do operate on symbolic representations of the world. They really store and retrieve. They really process. They really have physical memories. They really are guided in everything they do, without exception, by algorithms.

Humans, on the other hand, do not – never did, never will. Given this reality, why do so many scientists talk about our mental life as if we were computers?

m m

Shared October 20, 2017

The information processing (IP) metaphor of human intelligence now dominates human thinking, both on the street and in the sciences. There is virtually no form of discourse about intelligent human behaviour that proceeds without employing this metaphor, just as no form of discourse about intelligent human behaviour could proceed in certain eras and cultures without reference to a spirit or deity. The validity of the IP metaphor in today’s world is generally assumed without question.

But the IP metaphor is, after all, just another metaphor

Keith Spencer

Shared February 1, 2018

A nice companion piece to David Golumbia’s corpus on how we view computers as the dominant metaphor/analogy/world view nowadays.

Jonathan Biddle

Shared March 18, 2018

Fascinating.

Adam Ambrozy

Shared December 23, 2018

Perhaps most important, newborns come equipped with powerful learning mechanisms that allow them to change rapidly so they can interact increasingly effectively with their world, even if that world is unlike the one their distant ancestors faced.

Chris Drynan

Shared May 20, 2016

been saying this for years... meditation and isolation tanks will tell us more about the brain than Neuroscience ever will...

Mark R

Shared July 8, 2016

Very interesting article and likely has a lot of truth to it

Bob Oyee

Shared May 19, 2016

Sobre cómo la metáfora de que el cerebro funciona como una computadora es incorrecta, y nos lleva a predecir erróneamente el futuro, además de limitar nuestra comprensión del mismo, perjudicando el avance de la neurología.

Gabriel Carvalho

Shared June 6, 2016

IP-based Cognitive Science = BS

Andrekw

Shared June 12, 2016

The information processing (IP) metaphor of human intelligence now dominates human thinking, both on the street and in the sciences. There is virtually no form of discourse about intelligent human behaviour that proceeds without employing this metaphor, just as no form of discourse about intelligent human behaviour could proceed in certain eras and cultures without reference to a spirit or deity. The validity of the IP metaphor in today’s world is generally assumed without question.

Pablo Contreras

Shared October 11, 2016

"We don't retrieve anything from our brain... we don't store anything there" 🤘🏽 Gotta love #science ❤️️

Lee Allgood

Shared October 22, 2016

A very interesting read. Fascinating how truly complex we are.

Faraz Forghanparast

Shared November 14, 2016

Brilliant analysis!

Max Prax

Shared December 5, 2016

Organic brains are NOT like computers. Get over it.

Aurimas Račas

Shared December 19, 2016

So apparently neuroscientists say that brain is NOT like a computer. It does not store data. It experiences it. Sounds weird at first, but the author makes a good case that we simply don't understand how brain works just yet. And on the way, we may as well discover completely new paradigms. Hydraulics, computers, what's next?

The invention of hydraulic engineering in the 3rd century BCE led to the popularity of a hydraulic model of human intelligence, the idea that the flow of different fluids in the body – the ‘humours’ – accounted for both our physical and mental functioning. The hydraulic metaphor persisted for more than 1,600 years, handicapping medical practice all the while.

Lennart G.

Shared December 22, 2016

the idea that humans must be information processors just because computers are information processors is just plain silly

Amanda

Shared December 28, 2016

no one really has the slightest idea how the brain changes after we have learned to sing a song or recite a poem. But neither the song nor the poem has been ‘stored’ in it. The brain has simply changed in an orderly way that now allows us to sing the song or recite the poem under certain conditions. When called on to perform, neither the song nor the poem is in any sense ‘retrieved’ from anywhere in the brain, any more than my finger movements are ‘retrieved’ when I tap my finger on my desk. We simply sing or recite – no retrieval necessary.

Oskar Garbers

Shared December 29, 2016

So ... what if I don't remember what I've read? Can it be retrieved?

John Graber

Shared December 29, 2016

Absolutely fantastic deconstruction of the prevailing, dominating conception of the brain as having strong similarities to a computer.

Roberto Barcelos

Shared January 16, 2017

Very interesting

Badri

Shared January 22, 2017

The common conception of the human brain is that it works somewhat like a computer. But actually, that's only one of a series of metaphors that have been applied, in the course of technological progress, to a process we still don't fully understand.

Alexis Mejía

Shared February 3, 2017

metaphor – a story we tell to make sense of something we don’t actually understand. And like all the metaphors that preceded it, it will certainly be cast aside at some point – either replaced by another metaphor or, in the end, replaced by actual knowledge.

Badri

Shared February 23, 2017

Forgive me for this introduction to computing, but I need to be clear: computers really do operate on symbolic representations of the world. They really store and retrieve. They really process. They really have physical memories. They really are guided in everything they do, without exception, by algorithms.

Humans, on the other hand, do not – never did, never will. Given this reality, why do so many scientists talk about our mental life as if we were computers?

In his book In Our Own Image (2015), the artificial intelligence expert George Zarkadakis describes six different metaphors people have employed over the past 2,000 years to try to explain human intelligence.

Saurabh Shukla

Shared April 7, 2017

Your brain does not process information, retrieve knowledge or store memories. In short: your brain is not a computer

Ryan Applegate

Shared July 6, 2017

MENU
 / 

Donald Mitchell

Shared August 27, 2017

Very interesting and compelling argument against the Brain as Computer metaphor. No clear alternative metaphor given, but it certainly provides evidence of what not to think concerning the brain.

Kevin O'Boyle

Shared August 29, 2017

This article provides great context, from the neurosciences perspective, on a long-standing philosophical debate in computer science — so long standing, it predates computers.

There are two philosophical camps: "Hard AI" and "Soft AI". The Hard AI camp asserts that is possible, with existing computer technology to build "intelligent" machines. The soft AI camp assert that computers do not think. Period. Soft AI is engaged in creating useful analogs to intelligence: speech recognition, expert systems, self driving cars, etc. but rejects the notion that there is any intelligence or consciousness in machines — at least as they currently exist. In reality, this is a settled debate. Modern computers run on logic gates and software that form a "formal system". Kurt Gödel's "Incompleteness theorem" demonstrated unequivocally the limits the formal systems.

P

Shared October 29, 2017

Why the "computer" analogy of how the brain work is wrong, and what it means for the idea of replicating one's mind. Amazing refreshing long read.

Alexander Chernyatiev

Shared October 31, 2017

Gcv

Pamela Rose

Shared January 9, 2018

Very interesting.

Saurav J. Medhi

Shared June 23, 2018

Maths and Science and ?

Si Hang Xie

Shared October 22, 2018

Fundamentally changed the way I perceive consciousness and by extension, reality.

Rachel

Shared February 19, 2019

But here is what we are not born with: information, data, rules, software, knowledge, lexicons, representations, algorithms, programs, models, memories, images, processors, subroutines, encoders, decoders, symbols, or buffers – design elements that allow digital computers to behave somewhat intelligently. Not only are we not born with such things, we also don’t develop them – ever.

kitblake

Shared March 2, 2019

the