Sentient Stuff

Those of us who have worked in the data storage industry often wonder how our computers match up to the processor we carry around in our own heads. Comparisons are difficult to come by — we can estimate the average number of neurons in a human brain (~ 86 billion), but they are quite different from the “bits” that comprise computer memory. If they functioned in the same binary way, we would have the storage equivalent of a typical flash drive, and we’d have to start deleting less important memories by the time we reached sixth grade.

Each neuron shares information with about 1000 others, putting the total number of connections at around a trillion. We also know that neurons cooperate with one another in storing memories, resulting in an overall estimated capacity of several Petabytes. This amount of computer memory would store about 3 million hours of video. If you think of your life as one big reality TV show, that’s about 300 years’ worth of narcissistic binge watching.

The size of an individual human memory is difficult to estimate; our more detailed memories probably take up the most room. As we grow and learn, some memories are discarded to clear up space, while others are just too good to let slip away. A great deal of information we consume is just not worth remembering in the first place. Computers and brains have much in common. <continue reading>

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