Brain Power/The Human Computer
I would like to preface the rest of this post by pointing out that from a philosophical view, the human brain cannot be directly compared to a computer. Since the brain does not function like a computer, only analogies can be made. Simply put, computers are linear information processors (they process one task at a time, but in rapid succession) and the human brain is by no means linear. Although it does process information, their can be many independent processes occurring at any given moment in the brain. Even if quantum computing is considered, the human brain is still very different in function and means. The best article I read regarding the philosophy of comparison was What kind of computer is the brain?
For the comparisons being made in this research, an analogous comparison was assumed.
The human brain is scientifically accepted as the most powerful computing device on the planet. Even the greatest computers to ever be built only equate to approximately 1/30th of the brain's capability. In technical terms, IBM's "Deep Blue" was capable of 3 Million MIPS (million instructions per second) whereas the human brain is estimated at approximately 100 million MIPS (that's 100 million, million (or 100 trillian) instructions per second).
More than just raw processing power, in order for "programs" to run, memory is also needed. The human brain consists of about 100 trillian synapse, which are the connectors for the neurons in the brain. Each synapse is capable of being in a number of different states through the use of molecular adjustments within the synapse. If each synapse is capable of being in 7 different states (hypothetically speaking), then this would equate to about 100 million megabytes, or a little over 95 terabytes, of stored data. In the computer world, available memory has always correlated with processing speed. Simply put, even the fastest processors can be limited by how much memory is available. Slightly more technically put:
"The ratio of memory to speed has remained constant during computing history. The earliest electronic computers had a few thousand bytes of memory and could do a few thousand calculations per second. Medium computers of 1980 had a million bytes of memory and did a million calculations per second. Supercomputers in 1990 did a billion calculations per second and had a billion bytes of memory. The latest, greatest supercomputers can do a trillion calculations per second and can have a trillion bytes of memory."
The quote above is taken from an article by Hans Moravec of the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute. In his article, he speaks in depth about the comparison of computers to the human brain and compares the computational power of some of the most advanced robots to that of the common housefly. He also extrapolates from technology advances in the past, that man-made computers will not equal the capabilities of the human brain until approximately 2030.
Atlas of the Human Brain
Wikipedia: The Human Brain
The Human Brain Project
Thanks to Free1978 from TLEC comments for inspiring this research.