Brain vs Computer:
Principles of information encoding

Once I visited a great library with many many books. Momentarily, a bitter thought came up in my mind: “ so much information and all is disconnected. Words on pages are just blobs of ink, and only inside the human mind they integrate together”. After this, I became convinced — we store information in the wrong way!

Basics of computer codes

80 years ago when the first computers were created, people chose the most obvious and simple way to encode something: just assign a unique number to every object. Computers use binary numbers so for N objects we need at least log2(N) bits. For example, the letters you read right now are enumerated and each has its own code. Medium uses a common UTF-8 encoding, that has 1112064 symbols. However, each symbol requires not log2(1112064))=21 bit. Some symbols that are more frequently used are encoded shorter, and some longer. For example, the letter “A” is encoded as 01000001 (1 byte, 8bits), and Ukrainian “ї” (like in a word naїve) as 1101000110010111 (2 bytes). The letter “A” has a shorter code because it is used far more often worldwide. Other symbols, like ख़, ௵ or smiles 😆😉, are encoded even longer (3, 4 bytes). Since each letter has a variable-length code we can write the whole text with fewer bits.

Principles of information encoding in the brain

1.Brain integrates information
It is hard to explain what information is, but we could try to understand what integration is. Imagine you threw a die (singular of dice, I guess), it rolls on one among six sides. Let’s assume that each time it rolls “two”, the light in the room turns on. For some unreasonable causal link two pieces of matter are connected “die 2” — “lights on”. It appears that information in the brain is written in such a way to save this connection. Neurons that encode dice state “two” are connected with neurons that encode “lights on”. Even if you get outside the room, you will almost certain that you hold in your hand a light switcher. The brain constantly integrates cause and effects, this helps to make predictions about the future, thus helps to survive. But it is not always good, sometimes a person might perceive a mere correlation as a cause and effect and will live with wrong predictions (or start the superstition, like “black cat has crossed your path, you are in huge trouble”).

Scientist from Ukraine. Author of a blog about artificial intelligence @AITerritory

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