The Battle of AI and the Brain

Bill Abbate

Everyone is captivated by artificial intelligence (AI) today. Countless people are writing about it. You can find it all over social media and the news. Even Congress is looking into it!

There are many doomsayers out there, but what is the reality of AI? Let’s look at the differences between it and the brain to understand the two better.

Our complex brain and its mysteries

While we have learned a great deal about the brain because of the fields of neuroscience and psychology, we have barely scratched the surface. The brain is wonderfully complex. How it operates, and the workings of our minds remain a mystery to science and medicine.

Search the web, and you will find numerous articles about these mysteries. One of the more profound information sources on the subject comes from the Allen Institute of Brain Science. Most telling is how little we know about the brain.

When Christof Koch, Ph.D., Chief Scientist and President of the Institute, was asked how close we are to understanding the brain, he stated:

“We don’t even understand the brain of a worm.”

To elaborate on his statement, the worm they studied has only 307 neurons with about 7,000 connections between them. To this day, there is little understanding of how these connections lead to the worm’s behavior.

With the vast complexity of the average human brain and its 86+ billion (86,000,000,000) neurons with about 100+ trillion (100,000,000,000,000) synapses (connections,) we have a great deal to learn!

If you want to know more about the quantum computer in your head and its estimated 100 billion quantum bits, check out this article by Geoffrey James in Inc.: Why Physicists Say Your Brain Might Be More Powerful Than Every Computer Combined.

With the extreme complexity of the human brain, behaviors, emotions, senses, memory, autonomic systems, consciousness, intelligence, the ability to think and simulate the future, and its many other functions, can we ever understand it completely?

Artificial intelligence

For all of the power of a modern supercomputer, it is still only a machine. It cannot think as humans can, no matter how much “artificial intelligence” it has. It can only do computations, albeit far faster than the human brain.

But is AI actually a form of intelligence? The definition of intelligence according to the Oxford Languages Dictionary is:

intelligence — noun — the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.

Since AI is a program on a machine/computer programmed by a being with actual intelligence, I’ll leave the decision to you to determine how “intelligent” it is.

Do you know anything artificial that could fully replicate even the simplest creature well enough to replace it? Can anything artificial substitute Leonardo da Vinci and his painting, the Mona Lisa? He lived more than 500 years ago and created the painting in 1503!

Look at the definition of artificial from the Oxford Languages Dictionary:

artificial — adjective — made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, especially as a copy of something natural. (of a situation or concept) not existing naturally; contrived or false.

Nothing artificial can ever replace the real thing, regardless of whatever science fiction puts forth. There is another false word: fiction. The definition of fiction is something imaginary and untrue.

Think of the many artificial things that exist in our world. They always have their issues. Artificial sweeteners may mimic sweetness to our taste buds, often with an aftertaste. But look at the controversy surrounding them. Are they or are they not healthy and safe?

What about artificial flowers? Give some to someone you love, and watch the reaction! They can never replace the real thing to them.

Many things, like faux leather, plastics, polyester, nylon, synthetic rubber, etc., are manufactured through chemical processes. Many of these chemicals are toxic and harmful to living things.

It takes the human brain, knowledge, imagination, and thought processes, with its actual intelligence, to create artificial or imitations of real things. This is where the separation between AI and our brains begins — reality vs. the fantasy or illusion of intelligence.

How long will it be before a machine that operates on 0s and 1s can replicate our five senses, emotions, ability to think and create, or have consciousness and a soul? Even with quantum computing on the horizon, it is no match for the brain in complexity, much less in its power consumption!

What about our ability to use good judgment and make morally responsible life and death decisions? Current technology is far from being able to do such things.

Sure, you can program AI to fake specific human abilities by its programming, but the chance of it making nuanced human decisions is a very long way off if it ever happens at all.

There is a large gap between AI and the human brain, such as:

  • programming vs. thought
  • sensors and programming vs. our five senses
  • processing vs. soul and spirit
  • unconsciousness vs. consciousness
  • inert vs. living
  • insentient vs sentient
  • no will vs. free will
  • known vs. mysterious
  • predictable vs. unpredictable
  • 0s and 1s vs. knowledge and wisdom

The above is only a partial list of differences between AI and humans. I would love to hear your thoughts and would appreciate any input you wish to provide.

Is there a potential for AI to endanger humanity? Sure, if it is wrongly programmed to do so.

Can we trust that it will never be programmed to harm us? No, so long as humans are involved, there is little to stop it. We are the source of any destruction AI causes. It only does what we program it to do.

Final thoughts

To be human is to be human. A machine is only a machine. It will forever be that way. I love science fiction as much as the next guy and enjoy the many films that attempt to predict amazing developments we may see in the future. But remember, fiction comes from the imagination and is untrue by definition.

An original is always an original or one-of-a-kind. Artificial anything is always an attempt to make a copy and can never be an exact duplicate in every detail. So it will be for the human race. No matter how “intelligent” a computer can become, it is highly doubtful it will ever come anywhere near the complexity of the human brain in a human being.

Lastly, what about ingenuity, creativity, morals, philosophy, free will, and the vast unseen world of the spiritual? None of this would exist without the constancy of truth. Hopefully, one day, humankind will come to know truth and its influence on all beings and all things. Not truth as we attempt to define it, but literal truth created by God.

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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