Brain Software
Adapted with paragraph numerals for use in courses offered at
An Ever Better World Internet Academy
from original September, 1997 by Dr. Michael Hewitt-Gleeson

Chapter 11 - Necktop

1. Apparently Dr. Michael Hewitt-Gleeson was the first to coin the term 'necktop computer'. In the eighties, while on the lecture circuit in the US and Europe, I was invited to give the keynote address to a series of IBM conferences in Monte Carlo.

2. I introduced CVSTOBVS as 'software for the brain' and referred to the brain as a necktop computer. It highly amused the executives in the audience so I kept in my talks for a laugh. Now it's passe.

3. Soon there will be 200 million PC users worldwide. Today's PCs are around 2 gigabytes where a byte is just a single storage unit of information (at eight bits) or about one printed character. 2 gigs is 2 million kilobytes or 2 billion bytes. So, 200 million PCs multiplied by 2 billion bytes is …… Wow! that's a lot of personal computer power.

4. How many necktop users are there? There are presently (July 1997) about 5.7 billion necktop users on planet earth. This number is increasing at the rate of 3 necktop users every second or 1.7 million every week.

5. In your brain a byte is, say, the strength of a synapse but your necktop has rather more than 2 billion bytes or synapses. It is a vast network of about 100 billion neurons (quite possibly even ten times as many) and each one of your neurons has up to 50,000 connecting wires (dendrites) with synapses.

6. 100 billion neurons multiplied by 50,000 synapses multiplied by 5.7 billion necktops equals ... whew! that's a lot of brainpower on the planet.

7. Professor Jacob Schwartz of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University has put some figures together to give some idea of the capacity of your brain. He says that "rough quantitative guesses lead us to estimate that the long-term memory available to the brain is about 10,000 trillion bytes" and that "the computing rate needed to emulate the entire brain on a neuron-by-neuron basis may be as high as 1,000,000 trillion arithmetic operations per second".

8. Dr. Schwartz goes on to say that "It is interesting to compare these exceedingly coarse estimates with corresponding figures for the largest supercomputer systems likely to be developed over the next decade. These will probably not attain speeds in excess of 1 trillion arithmetic operations per second which is about one-millionth of the computation rate that we have estimated for your brain".

9. You and I, with our human brains are so preposterously over endowed with thinking hardware that it's almost impossible to comprehend. But let's try.

10. What if you were the major shareholder of the world's most intelligent enterprise, a network of ten billion computers linked together as parallel processors, producing a vast intellectual output of global messaging?

11. Well, you are!

Units of Intellect

12. Take a closer look. The atoms of your brain are called nerve cells or neurons. Each neuron is your fundamental intellectual unit - an information-processing system. The basic product of these units is: messaging.

13. Neurons are perfectly designed messaging systems. They have two ends: a receiving end and a transmitting end (or an input end and an output end).

14. At the receiving end each of your neurons has a convenient tree-like system of dendrites - input wires - which can receive information from other neurons. A neuron may receive messages in from thousands of other neurons and may, in turn, send its messages out to thousands of other neurons.

Messages In and Messages Out

15. Suppose we call a message in, a MI. And, a message out, a MO. So we have MIs and MOs.

16. A neuron receives MIs (messages in) from other neurons. It then sends a MO, a brief electrical pulse lasting about a thousandth of a second along its output wire, the axon. Axons are like 'telegraph wires' that transmit electrical signals along their own length. At the end of its wire the axon's electrical signal is transformed into a chemical output - a neurotransmitter.

17. A neurotransmitter is a package of chemical information which has an effect on the neuron that receives it in much the same way that a fax or an email is a package of information which has an effect on you when you receive it. The way this chemical package effects the neuron receiving it is by causing a change in its electro-chemical activity.

To Send or Not To Send, That's the Decision

18. Just as you may or may not respond to an email or fax you receive, your neuron behaves the same way. Sometimes a neuron responds to a MI. Sometimes it doesn't. When a particular cell sends out its own MO signal it's because it has received enough MIs from other cells to exceed a threshold amount.

19. Thus each of your nerve cells acts as a tiny decision unit. If the incoming messaging is above a certain level, it responds with a MO. If not, it stays silent. If your neuron does respond to its incoming messages we say it is excited, if it stays silent we say it is inhibited.

20. You have more than a trillion neurons - tiny molecular computers. Like other computers they have a broad selection of MOs that they can send out. Each of your neurons acts as a unit of control receiving MIs and sending MOs within the distributed network you call your brain. Each of these units is processing its inputs/outputs at the same time as are all the other units, so they achieve 'parallel computation'.

21. Your brain is the ultimate parallel processor! Its billions of parallel processing units are constantly taking in information MIs. These messages are processed and changed. Then new information MOs are sent out all over the global network. Your brain is the supreme intelligent enterprise. And guess what, you are the major shareholder.



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