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Old 7th October, 2001, 01:20 AM
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Organic Computers

Does anyone here know anything about nerve cells? I'm just wondering if nerve cells function in analog or digital. If those biology lessons from high school would only surface! I'm thinking they function in analog. If they function in analog this would pose some problems with organic CPUs interfacing with semiconductor based digital components. We would either need to come up with a semiconductor based DAC/ADC unit capable of keeping up with the organic components, or we would need to genetically engineer special nerve cells that function as DAC/ADCs, well I think we would anyway.

If anyone has any thoughts, ideas, questions, comment involving organic computing, that's what this thread is for. Sometimes the theoretical is just so much more interesting than reality . . .
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Old 7th October, 2001, 01:32 AM
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I'm not to sure on this actually, but I think that they may be analog, even though differant levels of pressure are sensed by how many nerve endings are set off there is pain which I think is from extreme sense so I would think that they are analog, if any one cares to correct me feel free
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Old 7th October, 2001, 11:46 AM
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I would disagree and say that they are digital.

When a nerve ending is stimulated there is a certain threshold level of stimulus required before an electrical impulse is generated in the nerve. However once the threshold has been reached, it doesn't matter how great a stimulus is applied, the voltage of the impulse is always the same size. Something like 0.7mV if my memory of A-level Biology is correct.

So essentially it is a digital system as the impulse is either there, or not and the intensity of the sensation such as pain that we feel is due to the number of nerves that have been stimulated.
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Old 7th October, 2001, 02:02 PM
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anologue, if we were digital, out brains would have to be the size of a bus to have our level of inteligence. If you read up on robotics ETC theres a few people who use a few basic anologue thingy's out of a calculator or something.... equivilent to something like an ant.... they are solar powered and actually hunt for light with NO PROGRAMMING AT ALL! they learn to walk around stuff, snap off a leg they learn to walk on 3... its incredible... digital ones of similar complexity just dont work... look at the thing they sent to mars!! it essentially did same as those analogue robots, but with a computer that would put any of ours to shame.....

also our brains can sustain damage and still function... remove ONE transistor from a CPU and its broken, our brain u can kill MILLIONS of brain cells and still operate at near peak efficiency!
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Old 7th October, 2001, 02:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Random Nonsense
anologue, if we were digital, out brains would have to be the size of a bus to have our level of inteligence. If you read up on robotics ETC theres a few people who use a few basic anologue thingy's out of a calculator or something.... equivilent to something like an ant.... they are solar powered and actually hunt for light with NO PROGRAMMING AT ALL! they learn to walk around stuff, snap off a leg they learn to walk on 3... its incredible... digital ones of similar complexity just dont work... look at the thing they sent to mars!! it essentially did same as those analogue robots, but with a computer that would put any of ours to shame.....
I remember reading about those little robots, they are call photivores. But I must not have picked up on the analog brain part. I definitely agree that analog computers can make for a more compact system, as you have more than just on and off, you have a whole spectrum of probabilities. However, it is a fact that analog computers are not as accurate as there digital counterparts, this might be why organic brains make such extensive use of "fuzzy logic". So if mankind ever does make a transition to organic computing, it may necessitate a hybrid digital/analog design.

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also our brains can sustain damage and still function... remove ONE transistor from a CPU and its broken, our brain u can kill MILLIONS of brain cells and still operate at near peak efficiency!
So when I finish the beer in about 30 seconds, and my number of dead brain cells rolls over to 1 billion, I'm screwed and will cease to function???
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Old 7th October, 2001, 02:36 PM
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hmmmmm thats a distinct possibility!!!! just out of interest u know how alcohol works? its just like carbon monoxide, it attached to haemoglobin better than oxygen, therefore starves your brain of oxygen and u get drunk! i seen an demo of this on TV.... about what happens when a plane de pressurises and u dont get the mask on in time!! they stuck a bloke in a big chamber thingy, and took the pressure down to what it is at at 36 000 feet in 30 seconds.... he was more or less incapacitated before it reached the low pressure!!! kinda cool... its why they say put your mask on before helping kids etc.... cos u would not be able to do either of em!

gawd i go on about pointless crap dont i?
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Old 7th October, 2001, 04:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by dimmreaper
However, it is a fact that analog computers are not as accurate as there digital counterparts, this might be why organic brains make such extensive use of "fuzzy logic". So if mankind ever does make a transition to organic computing, it may necessitate a hybrid digital/analog design.

So when I finish the beer in about 30 seconds, and my number of dead brain cells rolls over to 1 billion, I'm screwed and will cease to function???

Just like I suggested, digital is great for precision, it's far better than humans at it, but then the fuzzy logic nature of our brain gives us more scope for interpretation, when you train a computer to recognise your voice in a speech recognition program it learns your voise pattern and the way you say words exactly and only recognises you, or someone trying really hard to sound like you, even then it gets things wrong. Humans on the other hand if we hear a word once we would recognise it no matter who was saying it (with the exception of pikeys ). Of course I wouldn't like to have to program one of these inacurrate processing units or deal with the customer complaints department when people start moaning about them giving varying answers etc..
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Old 7th October, 2001, 05:33 PM
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Everything runs and interacts based on electrical charges, but what makes it work in the body (which differs from computers/machines) is that the electrical charge and information is produced and stored using analog devices/organs/tissues/cells/ etc.

They are working on organic memory as we speak, which will push harddrives into a distant memory. (I apologise for the pun)

In a few years we'll be less concerned with wattage and more with sugar content of our harddrive's liquid lunch .
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Old 9th October, 2001, 02:37 PM
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Looks like cooling would become a bad thing. Get your CPU too cold and it DIES! Or gets a cold, and doesn't work as well, and you have to feed it medication. How's that for suck.

As for OUR brains, I believe we're analog. We don't transmit 1s and 0s across our neurons. It's all analog signal up in our heads.
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Old 9th October, 2001, 03:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Pinky
They are working on organic memory as we speak, which will push harddrives into a distant memory. (I apologise for the pun)
But the human brain stores information for long terms chemically using a string of atoms, called RNA, that is very similar to DNA. So why develop organic data storage and retrieval systems, when we could borrow chemical data storage and retrieval from Nature(or God, or Darwin, or what/whoever) . . .
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Old 9th October, 2001, 03:28 PM
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Quote:
Does anyone here know anything about nerve cells? I'm just wondering if nerve cells function in analog or digital.
I don't know much myself, but my girlfriend (a geneticist) knows plenty:

They're, erm, both. And there are differences between the type of cells you're looking at.

A neuron (brain cell) has multiple connections (axons) to neighbouring cells. Electrical impulses between them are due to the movements of two salts, sodium phosphate and potassium phosphate.

Apparently, when an axon "fires", certain protein structures on the cell membrane effectively pump sodium ions (I think) outside the cell, resulting in a net charge spike of -70mV. By another process I didn't understand, potassium ions rush in to fill the negative charge centre resulting in a potential difference of about +5mV (approx the galvanic potential between sodium ions and potassium ions).

Anyway, the resulting imbalance lasts long enough for some sort of ion exchange with the next axon, giving it a charge imbalance. Sodium and potassium then trade places again to leave the first axon at neutral p.d.

This process is thus digital (high and low currents).

Each cell can, however, fire one, several or all its axons at any given time. What causes it to do this is a combination of incoming voltages, internal chemistry and external chemistry (presence of neurotransmitters, drugs, hormones etc). This component is definitely analogue.

As regards a mind/machine interface: electrically, it's definitely possible, but whether the brain will want to make use of the eletronics is questionable.

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just out of interest u know how alcohol works
It's quite a lot more complex than that - nobody ever enjoyed being poisoned by monoxide.
Alcohol does bind to haemoglobin to some extent. It also affects the sodium/potassium uptake of neurons, changing your brain's firing pattern. It also binds to certain receptors in the brain that are known to stimulate pleasure. It also (stop when you've had enough) precipitates certain proteins into an insoluble crud which can lie across nerve endings. It also partially dehydrates you. It also interferes with a lot of chemical processes (the analogue component of the brain).

It's amazing what these gene-jacks know
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Old 9th October, 2001, 03:47 PM
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Um . . . Thanks! Looks like organic computing could get pretty complex if some companey actually tried to develop such a product.

Ok, so how many Axons do Neurons have? Or does this too vary?
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Old 9th October, 2001, 04:34 PM
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Ok, so how many Axons do Neurons have? Or does this too vary?
It varies. If a neuron finds it needs more axons, it'll grow some more. Unlike neuron regeneration (which is very very slow but does happen) axon generation is fast. This is the basis of short-term memory.

Quote:
Looks like organic computing could get pretty complex if some companey actually tried to develop such a product
On it's own, probably not. Scientists have already managed to make a primitive protein calculator for adding binary numbers - using algae.

Mind/machine interface could be tricky. Apparently, the best places for making the bridge would be at the language-centres and optical centres of the brain, since these are most used to dealing with random input/output functions. Could still drive the host insane tho'.

Quick question: if you had an organic computer, based on brain-cell technology, would it be considered alive? Would it be wrong to kill your computer?
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Old 9th October, 2001, 05:57 PM
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Old 9th October, 2001, 07:11 PM
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It always surprises me some of the stuff people know on a hardware forum, but can you tell me why my short term memory is crap and why I forget names of people I've just met but I remember other stuff like the clothes they were wearing when I first met them forever
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Old 9th October, 2001, 08:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Kaitain

Anyway, the resulting imbalance lasts long enough for some sort of ion exchange with the next axon, giving it a charge imbalance. Sodium and potassium then trade places again to leave the first axon at neutral p.d.

This process is thus digital (high and low currents).

Each cell can, however, fire one, several or all its axons at any given time. What causes it to do this is a combination of incoming voltages, internal chemistry and external chemistry (presence of neurotransmitters, drugs, hormones etc). This component is definitely analogue.
Well, I never toot my own horn with the purpose of saying "I told you so", but if you insist on consulting biology majors on something an English major had already clearly and correctly explained, so be it:

Quote:
Everything runs and interacts based on electrical charges, but what makes it work in the body (which differs from computers/machines) is that the electrical charge and information is produced and stored using analog devices/organs/tissues/cells/ etc.


Pinky aint no dummie. Don't interpret my silliness for stupidity (though it's definitely a fine, grey line ).
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Old 9th October, 2001, 08:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Phil
It always surprises me some of the stuff people know on a hardware forum, but can you tell me why my short term memory is crap and why I forget names of people I've just met but I remember other stuff like the clothes they were wearing when I first met them forever
Maybe it's all that dope you smoke Pip Either that or it has something to do with the way your brain sorts data, perhpas your brain prioritizes data oddly, like say it determines the color of something to be more important than it's name.
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Old 9th October, 2001, 08:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by dimmreaper
Maybe it's all that dope you smoke Pip Either that or it has something to do with the way your brain sorts data, perhpas your brain prioritizes data oddly, like say it determines the color of something to be more important than it's name.
it's not really things like colours etc.. that I'm better at remembering, it's just my short term memory in general is usually crappy and occasinally perfect. I'll forget things I've just been told, and have to check my watch 2-3 times before I remember what time it is. But my long term memory is great, I remember things I've only seen for a brief few seconds for years, as long as no one asks me to remember it straight after, for instance today an episode of st: voyager was on bbc and I had seen it on sky ages ago (more than a year ago) and from the first few seconds I could remember exactly what happens and even the name of the episode, even though I'd only seen it once over a year ago, but if someone asks me tomorrow what episode was on last night I wo't be able to remember . It sounds more serious than it is when I explain it I'm not a dependant and don't really have any problems with it it's just odd
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Old 9th October, 2001, 08:57 PM
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Hmm, interesting Phil.

Personally I have a damn near photographic memory for everything I read. This always gave me an edge in school, as I could cram at the last minuet and ace a test on damn near any subject matter(cept' history).

But I have difficulty associating people or objects with there names, and I often can not associate numbers with objects people or events (phone numbers of my friends, the year that the Roman empire fell ex. . .)

Oddly, I can be talking about something, drop the conversation for 30 seconds and not even remember what I was talking about. And I always forget to take things with me, don't know how many times I've got in my truck to leave for work and then realized I locked my keys in the house on the dinningroom table.
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Old 9th October, 2001, 09:03 PM
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