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bits and brains

kenneth Collins kpaulc at earthlink.net
Mon Jan 3 12:15:48 EST 2000

Bill Skaggs wrote:
> joshcahoon at cs.com (JoshCahoon) writes:
> > How do people go about estimating the informational capacity of the brain in
> > terms of bits? And how do they apply bits to the capacity of consciousness? I'm
> > reading The User Illusion by Tor Norretranders, and he keeps contending that
> > consciousness processes about 16 bits per second, while the entire brain
> > processes about 11-16 million bits per second. Do ya'll think there is any
> > basis for these estimates?
> Are you sure you're stating these numbers correctly?  16 bits per
> second seems much too low -- that's less than 3 ascii characters per
> second!
> As for the brain, the number also seems too low.  There are around 10
> billion nerve cells in the human neocortex, and I think most people
> would say that each one processes at least a few bits per second
> (though it isn't clear how much of this processing is actually
> *used*).  This would give on the order of 100 billion bits per
> second.

more billions of neurons in the cerebellum. more billions in subcortical
nuclei. more billions of glia.

and, with respect to =each= cell's functioning, g'zillions of ions, each
of which is, in a physically-real way, an 'infinity' unto itself.

it's 'depressing' to experience folks shoe-horning such Awesome-Wonder
stuff into this or that contemporaneous 'technological' vogue.

cheers, Bill, ken collins

> If the numbers you give were in bits per *millisecond* rather than
> bits per second, they would be more reasonable.
>         -- Bill

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