Our Brains are Similar to Computers

 In The Mind

We can say that our brains are essentially biologically-based machines and they share functions with some non-biological machines.  It is often helpful to use analogies to computer hardware and software as a means of better understanding the features of the mind.  As it happens, most computers have functions that are analogous to the cognitive functions that we are considering here.  Computers and brains are quite different at the physical level, but they have a similarity at the computational and information processing level.  For computers, the functions are usually implemented with silicon-based transistors and circuitry embedded onto a chip, while similar functions are implemented with neurons and other biological matter within the brain.

Generally speaking, computers have components through which data can be inputted and gathered, which can be likened to our sensory perception, since both instances involve raw external data being gathered and stored internally.  In both instances, the machine senses certain things in the world and it then stores information about this in some sort of short-term or long-term memory.  Naturally, computers take internally stored data and execute computations on it to produce new data, which can then also be stored.  This process can be likened to the analytic function that our minds have, since both cases involve some sort of logical analysis of existing data and the derivation of new data, new conclusions, and deeper understandings of the world that could not be directly perceived or gathered from any input device.

Also, computers run on a set of instructions that are stored as programs, which can be likened to the psychological processes that drive our behavior.  Computer instructions can sometimes be programmed into volatile memory sectors, or they can be embedded within the chip itself.  In the former case, the software instructions can change, whereas the latter case involves innate instructions that were always present on the chip from when it was fabricated, and these are immutable.  Embedded instructions can be likened to the innate capacities of our psychology, since both cases involve instructions that drive behavior and that are present throughout the life of the machine and that generally do not change.  Programmed software can be compared to the aspects of our psychology that can be learned and changed through our experiences in life.  For both computers and for brains, if some idea or concept is being considered for a future action, it might have come directly from innate capacities or analyzing concepts or from external perception.  Quite often, the conclusions and actions made are the result of all three of these functions working in conjunction in complex ways.

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