Our Brains: Obsolete?

Dane S. Hamilton

Earlier this year, the staple trivia game show Jeopardy had an unusual guest. IBM’s supercomputer named “Watson” competed in a three night tournament against two of the most successful contestants ever. Watson (a self-contained computer with no internet connection) listened to the questions, calculated an answer, buzzed in using the same buzzer, and audibly answered the prompt in question form just like its human opponents. Watson was and is a milestone in digital technology. At the end of the tournament Watson had won a two-game total of $77,147 over the combined total of the other two contestants at $45,600. (That’s a margin of $31,547!) For some, the aftermath of Watson has brought into question the future of human brainpower.

The current level of computer processing and memory storage is quite phenomenal. To some, the rate at which it is growing is even more overwhelming. Rebecca Boyle wrote an article on February 11 of this year entitled, “All the Digital Data in the World Is Equivalent to One Human Brain.” Published by POPSCI.com, the article summarizes our advances in digital technology and then compares them to the human body. I hope to relay to you bits and pieces of the article and then draw some conclusions. 

If you took all of the digital data in the world (CDs, USBs, DVDs, HDs, etc.) and put all of it on CDs, the stack of disks would reach from the Earth to the Moon plus some! As of 2007 the total amount of digital storage on our planet was 295 exabytes. That is approximately 295,000,000 terabytes or approximately 295,000,000,000 gigabytes. Just to put that into perspective, the amount of data stored in a gigabyte would take a dump truck full of paper to write out. Additionally, all of the world’s “General Purpose” computers are capable of together handling 6.4 trillion, million (6.4 Quintillion) instructions in one second. To say the least, IT’S A LOT!!! At what point do even we jokingly question when computers will rule the world? Will Watson be my boss one day?

However magnificent digital technology becomes, the magnificence of God’s greatest creation becomes even clearer! The article proceeds to note that all the digital data in the world is less than the amount of information that is stored in a single adult human’s DNA! Your body contains more information in its cells than is stored on every computer, CD, USB drive, DVD, and BluRay disc that exists in the entire world! If that wasn’t enough, the 6.4 quintillion instructions per second that the world’s general-purpose computers can execute is around the maximum number of nerve impulses in your body in one second. Your body stores more information than is stored digitally in the whole world, and your nerves process about as much as all of the computers in the world! 

As creatures created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), we must never forget the power of our Creator. The amazement and wonder that surrounds technology such as IBM’s Watson is even more a testament to our Father’s power. A large team of experts spent many years designing and perfecting Watson. This feat of man should not be underestimated. As this and other forms of technology become available to us, we should utilize their benefits to spread God’s Word. It is not likely that your Bible was printed on papyrus reeds or stone tablets. We are open to using the technology of modernized printing. Digital technology like Watson, Facebook, email, powerpoint, video conferencing, and video broadcasting offer huge opportunities for Christ’s church to grow in a very similar way to modernized printing. The potential for the church to spread God’s Word with greater speed, accuracy, and over a larger area is only the beginning of the benefits. I encourage you to remain open to the benefits of digital technology. 

However, technology is a double-edged sword. Greater speed and connection to the world makes it necessary for us to constantly be on guard. Digital communication has limitations, and chances of miscommunication are higher. Our actions have more severe and nearly immediate consequences. Let us all take care to strive to serve our Lord daily, online and offline. Our brains will never be obsolete, but computers can do things a single person cannot. Let’s take advantage of both to serve our Savior to the best of our ability. Remember our Lord’s words in Mark 16:15: And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” -RR 4 Box 136A, Grafton, WV 26354. dhamil10@gmail.com

(Editor’s note: Brother Dane is from the Barrackville church of Christ. He is a Junior at West Virginia University, majoring in Electrical Engineering. He attends the University church of Christ during the school year.)

Return to West Virginia Christian