The Brain, Computers and Mental Capacity – What have we Learned in the Last 20 Years?
Thursday, 14 October 2021 from 13:15 – 14:30 hrs at Room 1
As we know from brain research, all mental activity – to perceive, think, feel, plan, want, etc. – leaves traces in the brain. This is because mental activity is due to neuronal activity, i.e. nerve cells passing electrical impulses between one another other via physical connections (synapses). This changes the very connections through which signals pass by making them stronger. In contrast, connections that are not used get weaker. Thus, the processing of information changes the connections in the hardware doing the processing. This is called the memory, i.e., the storage of information. Therefore, there is no such physical separation between the processing and the storing information in the brain.
In contrast, computers consist of a special-purpose chip (or a few of them) that process information – the so-called central processing unit (CPU). In addition to this processing unit, there is a “hard disk” (or another chip) that stores information. Thus, the processing and the storage are two distinct processes that happen within two separate structures. The CPU of the computer does not increase capacity or speed when the computer has downloaded information into memory. In contrast, brains cannot and do not download information, but constantly change by processing information – a process we call “learning”, the result of which is increased mental capacity.
On the basis of this fundamental understanding, we can conclude, (1) that the more the brain processes, the more it stores. (2) The more information the brain has stored, the better it can process information in the same domain. (3) Whenever we “outsource”, i.e. let the computer do the work for us, learning does not take place. (4) As a result, our mental capacity does not increase and may decrease. (5) Outsourcing early in life, when basic implicit and explicit learning takes place in many domains, is a fundamental mistake, as it decreases mental capacity. (6) The more is learned in early life, the easier it is to continue learning throughout the entire life. (7) Mental capacity is the foundation of “Lifelong learning”. It is attained during the educational period of the individual, i.e., from the age of 0 to about 25 years.