Philosophy of Programming

The Computer and the Brain - Book

Published over 3 years ago • 1 min read

I just read a good book.

The booked is called "The Computer and the Brain". I'm going to add it to the PoP reading list. It was supposed to be a longer book and it was supposed to be a 1-2 week long lecture series, but the author passed away before it could be delivered. The author is John von Neumann.

The vast, vast, vast bulk of ideas in the book are likely well-known to anyone with a formal education in computer science -- or with a formal education in neurophysiology.

But how many of us have studied both? So, some portion of the book may be new information on that basis.

One bit that stood out to me above ALL other bits is this quote:

"The nervous system is a computing machine which manages to do its exceedingly complicated work on a rather low level of precision: according to the above, only precision levels of 2 to 3 decimals are possible. This fact must be emphasized again and again because no known computing machine can operate reliably and significantly on such a low precision level."

Earlier in the text, he explains how the brain and nerves are massively parallel. (1x10^4 connections actually) But they are analog (not digital) and make a lot of errors, and so are only precise to 2 or 3 decimals. Yet, there is so much redundancy, it can overcome the errors and become reliable.


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