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Some Assembly Required

Sun Mar 21 11:10:54 GMT 2004 Some Assembly Required

I was thinking more about this comment from We're safe for a while:

How can humans be so slow at simple things, even create machines
that can do this much faster? ....with that amount of memory in
our brains, why is it so hard to memorize things, study for a test,
etc? Even when we're slow doing routine tasks, imagine how much
processing we do when we see things, given that HDTV looks like
crap compared to our vision... let alone hearing...

That "idiot savants" can do incredible mathematical calculations shows that our brains are capable of different sorts of processing. Obviously there's no evolutionary benefit in a brain wired like that, so it's not something very common.

But other highly intensive processing is required. If I accidentally meet a friend I haven't seen for ten years, chances are we both will recognize each other - even though we have both aged, gained or lost weight, etc. That has to take incredible processing. If we've seen each other recently, we're probably able to spot each other at a distance just from shape and movement clues. No computer is ready for either of those tasks yet (though computer facial recognition is getting closer).

But the real test of processing power is a random set of parts, screws, fittings, and a set of instructions written by someone not all that familiar with your language: "The cross-bar A will be maded to fit so fine in the already created rack with bolts F and G not to be tightened so difficult". Most of us, with the aid of some cursing and fist banging, and perhaps a few pictures, will get cross-bar A where it belongs. When a machine can do that, it's time to start worrying.

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