By Roger Dobson
14 September 2003
Forecasters who predicted that computers are poised to become more powerful than the human brain have got it hopelessly wrong.
For the first time, researchers have calculated that the power of a single brain in terms of memory capacity and discovered that it is greater than all the computers ever made.
While even the biggest computer has a capacity of around 10,000,000,000,000 bytes (10 to the power of 12), the human brain has a colossal 10 followed by 8,432 noughts, say the scientists who made the calculations in the journal Brain and Mind.
The researchers, who point out that memory is the foundation of natural intelligence, say that the size of the memory capacity of human brains has been a mystery until now because no one has developed the right mathematical models for working it out.
The number of neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain is known - around 100 billion - and many analysts have used this for the basis of claims that computers will soon be superior to the brain.
But the researchers looked beyond that and used a series of algorithms to work out the total capacity, including the huge number of different neural connections.
Ironically, the discovery could be used to change the way that computers are designed. Instead of adding more bytes, they could mimic the human brain, with more emphasis on connections.
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