Cold Facts or Humane Brain?

“In terms of your ability to learn, are there ways that you wish you were more like a computer? Or are you better than any computer in all aspects of processing information? Explain.”

When I was in college, I struggled with Chemistry – balancing equations had always baffled me. I remember wishing one time, while studying for our Chem 31 departmental tests, that my brain was a sponge. You know, so that it could just soak up everything my professor taught us in class.

Flash drives were unheard of that time (we still used diskettes) but interestingly, it never crossed my mind to wish that I was a computer. It was only when I went back school to get my Nursing degree (and flash drives were becoming quite common) that I started wishing that my brain had a USB port. What with all the terms I had to remember about pathophysiology and the corresponding nursing diagnoses and treatment modalities.

Then there was the movie Avatar, where humanoid aliens could upload and download information around them (and connect to the goddess-figure Eywa) through neural appendages. I think this was around the time that I was reviewing for the California board exams.

The difference between the human brain and computers is profound, I think. Computers only store information that were uploaded to them. Certain computer programs or applications can do more complex tasks but behind all these lies careful programming by humans. I think what makes the human brain so much better when it comes to processing information is that we can also retrieve vicarious experiences and relate them to challenges we encounter, helping us make better decisions. Our brain is also able to create memories that evoke emotion depending on the type of information we are processing.

I remember reading Tom Godwin’s short story The Cold Equations when I helped my brother write a report for his 8th grade English class back in 2007. It was one story that showed that despite whatever advancements humans achieve in technology, it is the compassion that we feel when making the hard decisions that matter. It also makes us humane.

Here’s the link for the full text of Tom Godwin’s The Cold Equations:


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