Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

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.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Computing

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me