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Too Complex For A Computer, But Not For Your Brain

Defending the dwellers of meatspace.

By Rich_Maloof Aug 6, 2012 4:10PM

Photo: Tony Hutchings/Getty ImagesEver wonder how you measure up against a computer? Well, truth be told, you probably don’t have the memory of your household PC or the intel of an i7 chip. And you’re probably not as svelt as a Mac Air. Perhaps your drives are still floppy and you frequently need a restart. But your brain can do things even a supercomputer only dreams of.

According to the Mother Nature Network, where they stick up for their own, there are several challenges a human brain manages more effectively and efficiently than a computer can. The list isn’t made up entirely of activities in which humans should be expected to dominate, either, though we’re well within our rights to lord our skills over the silicon masses. They can’t strike up a conversation, can’t make a decent martini, and look completely ridiculous in a hat. Nonetheless, one would assume a computer’s chipset would beat our assets, particularly in tasks that entail heavy computations and predictions. Not so fast, Hal.

Here are five things Mother Nature herself says your brain does better than a computer.

Play Go.  The eons-old Chinese board game Go features a 19 by 19 grid and uncountable strategic scenarios. It takes something a Jedi mind to beat a professional Go master, known as a dan, and doing so will fry a computer’s brain faster than your own.

Solve crossword puzzles.  A computer program designed to solve crossword puzzles was entered into a competition back in 1999. The Proverb software never ascended beyond 147th place. Ha. What’s an 8-letter word beginning with C meaning “machine that stinks at word games”?

Play StarCraft.  Computers have put up a respectable fight against human competitors playing StarCraft, a real-time video game of universal dominance. They can calculate competitive algorithms faster than people can, but artificial intelligence comes up short on long-term strategy.

Create art.  Mother Nature notes the progressive work of Raymond Kurzweil in developing CyberArt, and technology often assists contemporary visual artists in creating works in various media. But on their own, computers haven’t produced anything with much more depth than a dot-matrix print-out. We’ve got Michelangelo’s David, they’ve got the tubes screensaver. Advantage humans.

Write.  The “infinite monkey theorum” holds that, given enough time, a monkey hitting random keys will eventually type out the Bible or the works of Shakespeare. How long before your PC can do that? We’re not just protecting our jobs here when we say that computers are a long way from knocking out their own blogs, poems, or works of fiction. Our money is on the primate.

Photo: Tony Hutchings/Getty Images

"back in 1999" That was 13 years ago! Have any of you seen the Jeopardy episode with Watson? I'm willing to bet that with a few modifications, Watson could kick butt at crossword puzzles just like it did at trivia. And of course they can't write novels! Novels and other literature intended for entertainment requires opinions and creativity, neither of which computers can have.
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