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Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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Today's Big Idea: Artificial Intelligence

The Big Idea for Sunday, August 19, 2012

What's the difference between your brain and a computer? It depends on who you ask of course, because it's a question that gets at the "big questions" of human consciousness. Are we mechanistic entities, systems that can be learned, programmed, and reproduced one day in the form of artificial intelligence? Is language a set of rules that can be unlocked and automatically translated?

David Bellos, a renowned translator, says no. Some problems of AI are and always will be unsolvable, because they're not merely technical in nature. Language and the brain functions in nuanced and complex ways that will never be replicated.

Others, like Stephen Hawking, see the brain as a switchboard. Dr. Michio Kaku argues that the line between the two has to do with the amazing flexibility of the human brain. Yes, it's a learning machine, but it's one that is constantly changing and adapting. Until computers can mirror that function -- which is a long way off -- there will be major differences in the way brains and computers operate.


  1. 1 What's Lost (And Found) In Machine Translation
    Megan Erickson Think Tank
  2. 2 Can We Download Our Brains?
    Michio Kaku
  3. 3 The Electronic Brain? Your Mind Vs. a Computer
    Megan Erickson Re-Envision
  4. 4 Orwell and the Refugees
    Andrea Chalupa Experts' Corner

Today's Big Idea: Artificia...

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