Monday, March 9, 2009

Is It Finite or Infinite?

It seems, to me at least, that today's society takes too many things for granted! The most frequent appears to be that more is always better'. Of this I am most certainly not convinced. This brings up the question in the title of the post; 'Is it finite or infinite?' Let's look at this from the aspect of 'knowledge'.

If knowledge is truly finite, it then follows that there is a limit to its realm. With this limit, we should be able to establish some sort of unit of knowledge by which it may be measured. What that unit actually is, would take some pretty deep thinking to establish. We do know that a 'memory' (neurophysiologically speaking how a memory is stored) is established by a network of nerve cells (called neurons) forming new connections within the brain. For argument's sake, let assume that our arbitrary unit of knowledge is measured in units we will refer to as a 'neuro'. So for 'one fact' to be remembered (thereby becoming part of our knowledge) it will require one neuro.

Our neuro will, of course, require the space occupied by those nerve cells that make it up. We should then be able to calculate out how much storage space it will take if a person is to 'know everything'. I suspect that some readers will already know where this post is headed, but I will continue!

Scientists have already establish that the average human brain weight is between 1200 g - 1500 g. It contains, an “Average number of neurons in the brain = 100 billion” 1. So our ability to know or remember pieces of knowledge is most definitely finite. I'm not so convinced that knowledge is finite, are you?

1 Eric H. Chudler, Ph.D.;Brain Facts and Figures; <> Accessed March 09, 2009


Dr. Andrés said...

Interestingly, there is a tremendous amount of data that supports the idea that the nerves do not NOR cannot store memories. Biophysicists say it is mathematically impossible for nerves to conduct impulses fast enough to account for the velocity at which the average human being can think.

Through Fourier analyses the conclusions have been that memory "appears" to exist in the space between the nerves. This would be as if the neural net generates a kind of "field" that "traps" thoughts is these "inter-neuronal spaces". Cool, huh?

Dr. Steve said...

Way too cool!!! This would then imply that the 'finiteness' of human ability to remember would be even more restricted by the necessity in the space between the neurons as well.

More space!! Give me more space!! I must have more space in my brain!! ;-)

Dr. Andrés said...

Interestingly, these same scientists say that the human brain is an information retrieval device and not a storage device. Consequently and quite creepy, they suggest that the "field" of stored memory is quite infinite. It is akin to what Jung called the "collective unconscious" or that vast collective "pool" of "collective memory" we all seem to draw from as we dream and have "hunches" or have "a priori" experiences. Some of these scientists, crossing from science to metaphysical meanderings, put this field in some kind of non-Euclidean three-space that is "out there" that we can "access" ... some more than others thus explaining such phenomena as clairvoyance or even prophecy. Hmmmmmm. Cool. ;-)

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