Cognitive Computing: Can Computers Ever Truly Compete with the Human Brain?

Have you heard about artificial intelligence (AI)? It is an old term used for describing computers that can think for themselves. Yes, you read it right. AI infers that machines can think for themselves and that they can mimic human characteristics like decision-making and problem-solving. The science of artificial intelligence centers around the idea of manufacturing intelligent machines that can perform tasks at or above the level of human intelligence.

Another term with a similar meaning that is becoming popular these days is “cognitive computing.” It refers to the use of computer models in stimulating the human thought process during complex, ambiguous, and uncertain conditions. Cognitive computing is somewhat overlapping with AI, as both the terms refer to machines that act or process information in similar ways to the human brain. Cognitive computing systems are designed so that they can produce data from various sources. They are included with technologies like language processing, pattern recognition, and data mining so that they can imitate the working of a human brain.

But the point here is that how can you make a machine work like a human brain? Are computers and brains not different? What are the similarities that cause them both to work alike? Let’s find out the answers to these questions!   

How does the brain work?

The human brain is a very complex, abstract, but sophisticated system. It is made up of almost 100 billion neurons and processes several tasks at one time. For instance, breathing, listening, talking, walking, seeing, imagining, touching, smelling, learning, decision making, and monitoring, etc. These tasks require great processing but your brain does it effortlessly. Most importantly, the human brain has a specialized memory encodes, stores, retains, and recalls information throughout your life. Neurons are the building cells of the brain. They are living cells and serve as storage units. The neural junctions between the neurons conduct nerve impulses which are crucial to carrying messages all around the body. Chemical and electrical signals from the whole body are sent and received by the brain. These signals control various corporal procedures as the brain interprets them. Every signal has a message for the brain; some are kept within and others are relayed across the body through the spine and nerves.

How this is different from the way computers work?

A computer, on the other hand, is an electronic device that can perform computations and arithmetic, logical questions. Comparing it with the human brain, the computer still very far behind. This is because it doesn’t have a thought process and can’t perform operations of the human brain. Considering its manufacturing, computers are made of a variety of electronic components like capacitors, logic gates, diodes, silicon chips, etc. These components are carefully assembled for the proper working of a computer. As far as memory is concerned, a computer has a specific memory depending on the memory of the hard disk. With various technological advances, the memory of computers is being enhanced day by day.    

For establishing secure connections between computer devices, topologies like mesh, star, and bus are used. However, the human brain doesn’t follow any topology. It keeps making new connections every time it learns something new. Plus, the retrieval of information from the brain is much complex than a computer which has specified folders and files in it. Talking about speed, the brain has a lesser processing speed than a computer. It is because of the enormous neural connections within it.    

Here are some quick differences that can help to distinguish between the working of a computer and the brain. 

  1. The memory of the brain grows instantly. It just needs to connect the synaptic link. However, the memory of a computer doesn’t grow until it is added with some external device like a memory chip. 
  2. The human brain can replace damaged functioning pathways and has an inbuilt backup but backups in the computer are constructed manually.
  3. Brain health can be affected by various factors like diet, sleep, emotions, etc. However, computers need electricity only!
  4. For the brain to transmit information, chemicals are needed to fire the action potential of the neurons. While computers use electrical signals for data transmission.  
  5. The brain has a phenomenal processing power but is slower than a computer because of the slow action of neurons. Also, the former is self-organized while the latter is pre-programmed.
  6. The brain works on the number system while the computer works on binary language. Also, the brain uses an experiential approach to learn whereas the computers have distributive learning i.e. they only know and learn the things that are residing in memory.

What types of things the human brain does better than computers?

There are many things that a brain can do better than a computer. For example, the brain can recognize handwritten patterns and voices but a computer cannot. The thought process of the brain is much complex and thus has a problem-solving approach. The brain can obviously make better decisions than a computer. Also, the brain can interpret emotion and has a heuristic approach toward learning. However, a computer lacks emotions and can work out logical tasks only.

How computers might become more like the human brain?

Many researchers all around the world are involved in this apparently impossible mission of making a computer more like the human brain. A project named “Human Brain Project” is currently being carried out which aims at studying the human brain in exceptional detail and then simulating its processes inside a computer device. It offers a common platform to study the brain at the cellular and genomic level, its anatomy, systems, theoretical processing, and everything important to know.

Scientists are hopeful that they can create a device that can work like a human brain but as the working of the brain is much complex, it may take a considerable time to work such a wonder out.