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Inconstant Brain

February 7, 2007

What stops us from being perfect? It may be our brains.


Built-in imperfection. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Teach a robot to sink a freethrow, and it will sink a hundred in a row. Teach people, and even after years of practice, they’ll still miss a few. Why? Neuroscientist Krishna Shenoy of Stanford University had macaque monkeys repeat a simple motion. He found that every time, their brains had to design the motion from scratch, and they never got it exactly the same. He notes that’s very different from robots and computers.

KRISHNA SHENOY (Stanford University):
Computers are explicitly designed to not make errors. But the price tag for that is that computers are very inflexible. They can only contend with a very small range of things compared to what even an ant can do.

He says the ability to adjust to many different situations somehow makes perfection in a single skill impossible.
I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.