John von Neumann Explains (in 1956) Why Computers Won’t Replace Brains
A recent EPUB essay, “Brains and Computers: Amino Acids versus Transistors” updates the last published work of John von Neumann to guide readers step-by-step through the digital components and processes that constitute the World Wide Web and then through the biological components and processes that constitute the human brain.
Von Neumann, principal architect in 1945 of the design from which all subsequent electronic computers trace their lineage, wrote his last research paper, “The Computer and the Brain”, as he was dying of bone cancer in 1956.
Writing at the dawn of both the computer era and the molecular biochemistry era, von Neumann understood the essential characteristics of both. In “The Computer and the Brain” he explained why attempts to replicate human intelligence using devices based on the design of electronic computers would fail. Computers require arithmetical precision. Brains do not. The nervous systems of living organisms have evolved to interpret and act upon vast quantities of ambiguous information without relying on computational accuracy.
Nearly 60 years later, a steady stream of books and articles predict that ongoing enhancements to computer functionality will enable artificial intelligence to surpass human intelligence in the not-too-distant future. But the writers who make such predictions consistently neglect to provide a complete side-by-side comparison of digital with biological intelligence. Von Neumann made this comparison his main theme in “The Computer and the Brain”, utilizing the limited information available in 1956. Referencing subsequent advances in both computer science and neuroscience, “Brains and Computers” brings von Neumann’s comparison up to date.
“Brains and Computers” is intended for readers of high school age and up with an interest in biology, technology and artificial intelligence.
Copies will be available at no cost during a five-day free book promotion on amazon.com that starts Sunday, February 8 and continues through Thursday, February 12. Von Neumann’s “The Computer and the Brain” is still in print and available for purchase. Regrettably, von Neumann himself is not available for comment.
To obtain a review copy of “Brains and Computers”, either before or after the Feb. 8-12 free book promotion, contact the author.
- Contact Information
- Tuck Newport
- Bronson Canyon Research
- (1) 323-469-7527
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