A common prediction among technologists-and a common fear among the general population-is that computers and robots will come to mimic and even surpass people. But there is no way this is likely to happen in the foreseeable future.The reason is that computers and people work according to very different principles. One obeys strict logic and yields precise, repeatable results. The other follows a complex, history-dependent mode of operation and yields approximate, variable results. One has been carefully designed according to well-determined goals. The other has been cobbled together over eons of evolutionary trial and error.
It’s good that computers don’t work like the brain. The reason I like my electronic calculator is because it is accurate. If it were like my brain, I wouldn’t always get the right answer. Together we are a more powerful team than either of us is alone: I think about the problems and the method of attack; it does the dull, dreary details of arithmetic or, in more advanced machines, of algebraic manipulations and integration.
The computer’s strength results from a large number of simple, high-speed devices following binary logic and working reliably and consistently. Errors in the operation of any of the underlying components are not tolerated and are avoided either by careful design to minimize failure rates or through error-correcting coding in critical areas.
The power of biological computation results from a large number of slow, complex devices-neurons-working in parallel through intricate electrical-chemical interactions. Errors are frequent-whole cells may die-but reliability is maintained through massive redundancy.