How many calculations per second can the human brain do?

In this post we are going to answer the question ‘’How many calculations per second can the human brain do?’’ We will explain to you how the human brain has been compared to large computers and how they have tried to exceed the number of calculations per second that our brain machine can perform.

How many calculations per second can the human brain do?

The human brain can do a billion billion calculations per second,and here the comparisons with current supercomputers usually occur.

Life is rhythm, it is speed. In fact, the first symptom that something is wrong is when we perceive that the rhythm is paused: when the heart beats faster or slower than normal, when our members do not respond as quickly as we want to our commands, when thoughts flow with slower.

Much of the internal clock of the rhythm of our life resides in one of the fastest tools that nature has built: the human brain.

If we could film a second of our lives in slow motion, we would see that the brain takes that time to become abuzz. In a second each neuron connects with another about 200 times, that means that it registers about 20,000,000,000,000,000 bits of information per second (20 trillion impulses full of information). As powerful as it is, no machine can imitate that speed.

In fact, scientists from the Okinawa Institute of Technology tried to reproduce the activity of a second of brain life on a computer. It took 83 thousand processors with the highest possible computing power and 40 minutes of work to get close to the efficiency of a single second of our neurons.

Despite the elusive speed at which information flows through our neural network, an experience can take up to six hours to consolidate as a long-term memory. Memory is much slower than thinking.

A fundamental component of our conscious experience, the nervous system, is even faster. Nerves are made up of bundles of nerve fibers, which transmit action potentials to the nervous system, or from the nervous system to muscles.

However, not all nerve fibers are the same. Some are larger in diameter, and these generally transmit the potential more quickly, the action potential in the thicker fibers is transmitted at the speed of 120 meters per second, the speed of a Formula 1 car.

In the finest fibers, on the other hand, the transmission speed is half a meter per second, that of a man walking, in terms of sensitive experience, according to a study carried out by neurologist Mary Potter, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), we can process an image in just 13 milliseconds.

Sight is the fastest of our senses, while taste is the slowest: it takes 500 milliseconds to identify a flavor, since information related to smell and touch must be linked and linked to the data offered by thermoreceptors (as in the case of spicy food).

What are petaflops?

A flops is a measure of computational performance and “peta” means 1015. So a petaflops means that a computer can perform 1,000,000,000,000,000 basic arithmetic operations per second.

The human visual cortex operates at a speed of one petaflops.

A petaflops is a unit used to measure the computational performance of floating-point operations, which are those operations that require arithmetic operations with extremely large and small real numbers.

The acronym to express floating point operations per second is FLOPS (Floating poitn operations per seconds).

Operations in which units greater than one FLOPS are used are expressed in the International System of Units by prefixes such as mega, giga, tera. Specifically, a petaflops is 1015, although there are larger units all of them with names of sweets (zettaflops 1021 or yottaflops 1024).

Supercomputers such as China’s Tianhe 1A (2.5 peta) or Blue Waters, developed by the University of Illiniois, can have a maximum performance of 10 petaflops and a sustained performance of one petaflops, so in principle, the potential of computation needed to simulate brain processes.

A supercomputer takes 40 minutes to simulate one second of brain activity

Simulating the human brain is so complicated that even one of the most powerful supercomputers on the planet could barely do it after having processed data for a space of forty minutes, with a result equivalent to a single second of brain activity.

The supercomputer in question is the Fujitsu K, a “former first” on the TOP500 list, and the task required nearly 83,000 processors.

Silicon has made spectacular advances in recent years, but from various points of view, the best computer is still between our ears, hence the enormous interest associated with studying its operation.

Although experts already know how to face a brain simulation project, the truth is that the processing power to do it is not available, a striking fact if we consider that there are supercomputers that already have the goal of overcoming the barrier of one hundred petaflops . Take for example the supercomputer K, created by Fujitsu.

At the time, K took first place on the TOP500 list, and thanks to his ten petaflops, he still remains in fourth place.

However, when faced with this simulation project, the supercomputer K barely managed to reproduce the equivalent of one second of brain activity … after chewing numbers for forty minutes.

According to the researchers who participated in the simulation, a total of 82,944 processors with K at their disposal were used to create a network of 1,730 million nerve cells, connected to 10.73 billion (our billions) of synapses.

The simulation, based on the open source software NEST, had at its disposal about a petabyte of RAM. We’re talking chilling hardware resources compared to personal systems, but despite these numbers, the simulation only came to represent 1 percent of the neural network in the human brain.

The researchers made it clear that the main goal was not to discover new information about brain activity, but instead turned to this model to test both the capabilities of the simulation environment and the supercomputer K.

If we obey the numbers in a linear fashion, it would take a hundred K systems to match the neural network of the human brain, and yet there would be many inaccuracies to correct. After all, the synapse connections were random.

So, how many calculations per second can the human brain do?

Human beings often fantasize about enhancing our mental faculties, which is not wrong. However, we rarely pay attention to how fabulous the human physiognomy and how it works, and therefore we miss an opportunity to give thanks for what we have.

Our brain has billions of neurons that send messages across synapses once or twice a second, which is in addition to all other brain activity; every second of our lives the brain’s synapses are activated more than 18 trillion times, and that when they work in the lowest spectrum of their capacity.

The numbers are so impressive that it can be difficult to imagine, but what is even more shocking is to think that our brain has 85 billion neurons, which send electrical signals known as synapses at such a speed that every second in between. 18 and 640 billion signals passing through our brain.

Let’s put these data in perspective, making a comparison with a Japanese supercomputer that until 2011 was the fastest in the world and that currently occupies step number 7.

This machine carried out a simulation in 2013 to mimic the activity of the human brain, in which its 83 thousand processors simulated 1.73 billion virtual neurons, connected by 10.4 billion synapses, which, although it seems like a lot, is only 1% of a human brain.

Surprisingly, the machine managed to simulate the equivalent of 1 second of human brain activity; the only detail is that it took him not 1 second but 40 minutes to get it.

Despite this, the experts involved believe that this is a positive sign in the future it will be possible to make simulations of the total capacity of the human brain.

So the next time you find yourself thinking that your brain should be faster, take a moment to reflect on the wonder it already is and be thankful for it.

FAQS: How many calculations per second can the human brain do?

How many operations can the human brain do?

It is estimated that our brains are capable of performing about 10,000 trillion calculations per second, and here comparisons with current supercomputers usually occur.

How much computing power does the human brain have?

The brain consumes about 20 W of power, whereas supercomputers can use as much as 1 MW or on the order of 100,000 more (note: the Landauer limit is 3.5×1020 op / sec / watt at room temperature).

In terms of memory, for example, various studies have for years set the brain’s memory between ten and one hundred terabytes.

How much information can the brain take in a day?

The human brain has a trillion neurons, and each one forms a thousand connections with others, so that they can work on several memories at the same time. If we measured the capacity of our brain, we could say that it is close to 2.5 petabytes (one million gigabytes).

How many calculations per second can a normal computer do?

Depending on the quality of the computer, the more modern it is, the faster it is, that is, a desktop computer is capable of 100 million operations ppr second, some reach between 150 to 200 million operations per second.

Is your brain more powerful than a computer?

A typical computer runs on about 100 watts of power. A human brain, on the other hand, requires roughly 10 watts. That’s right, your brain is ten times more energy-efficient than a computer.

In this post we answered the question ‘’How many calculations per second can the human brain do?’’ We have explained to you how the human brain has been compared to large computers and how they have tried to exceed the number of calculations per second that our brain-machine can perform.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!


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