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Is the human brain an elaborate organic computer? Since the time of the earliest electronic computers, some have imagined that with sufficiently robust memory, processing speed, and programming, a functioning human brain can be replicated in silicon. Others disagree, arguing that central to the workings of the brain are inherently non-computational processes. Do we differ from complex computer algorithms? Are there essential features of the physical make-up and workings of a brain that will prevent us from creating a machine that thinks? And if we should succeed in constructing a computer that claims to be sentient, how would we know if it really is?
This program is part of the Big Ideas Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.
Bill Weir is an award-winning broadcast journalist, anchor and special correspondent for CNN. With a focus on our connected planet, he created and hosted The Wonder List with Bill Weir.Read More
Kristen Harris is one of the world’s leading neuroscientists investigating synapse structure and function. She has been a professor of neuroscience at Harvard, Boston University, Georgia Health Sciences University, and since 2006 in the Center for Learning and Memory at the University of Texas at Austin.Read More
Gregory Wheeler is an American logician, philosopher, and computer scientist, who specializes in formal epistemology. Much of his work has focused on imprecise probability.Read More
Murray Shanahan is a professor of cognitive robotics at Imperial College London. In the 1980s, he studied computer science as an undergraduate at Imperial College, and then obtained his Ph.D. from Cambridge University (King’s College).Read More
R. Douglas Fields is a developmental neurobiologist and author of The Other Brain, a popular book about the discovery of brain cells (called glia) that communicate without using electricity. He is an authority on neuron-glia interactions, brain development, and the cellular mechanisms of memory.Read More