It seems I need to get around to part 2 of Neural Nets. I wrote that post in response to the DpSU IBM Attempts to Build Computer ‘Brain’ back at the end of August, and said that I would make a part two. This isn’t it, but the most recent edition of the ICR’s That’s a Fact video channel – Imitating Humans – is on the same subject:
It’s a while before we get anywhere, so bear with me:
We use computers so much that it’s easy to forget that they’ve only been around for about seventy years. Konrad Zuse invented the worlds first working computer, the Z3, in 1941. The German aircraft research institute used it to test wing aerodynamics. But it was destroyed when allies bombed Berlin in 1943.
The Z3, which I had never heard of before this video, is apparently the first “functional program-controlled Turing-complete computer” – and the ‘Turing complete’ part is only because somebody else, 50 years later, worked out a way that it could be programmed to be so. I don’t exactly know why it is included in this video.
Since then, computers have changed our lives completely. For instance, a basic cellphone today has more processing power and costs much less than the Apollo guidance computer, which was used in the Apollo 11 Moon mission in 1969.
Both of these sentences are correct – as is everything, so far – but they do not logically follow. If the ICR wishes to show that “computers have changed our lives completely” they should realise that the Apollo computers anecdote is irrelevant. This kind of poor logic is very common in all of the ICR’s publications.
Today, computers are used just about everywhere: at home; at work; at school; and even when we travel.
We’re getting closer to the “changed our lives” point, but neither that nor this actually has any relevance to the point that they are really driving at, which is still yet to come. I do marvel at how, with less-than-two-minute video casts, the team making them still manage to waffle for almost all of it. We are now 45 seconds in, if you’re keeping score – the video is only 1:35 long.
And with all that computing, companies are always looking for better technology. Recently, IBM funded a project to develop the worlds fastest computer. Called the Sequoia, this high-speed computer was modeled after the human brain, the ultimate in computing power.
Here’s the problem – the video conflates the IBM Sequoia with the SyNAPSE project discussed in Neural Nets. The Sequoia is not modeled after the human brain, SyNAPSE is not intended to be the worlds fastest computer, and the brain is not the ultimate in computing power.
At IBM, the engineers made two computer chips that contained about 65,000 electronic synapses, which are like the connections between nerve cells in our brain.
The SyNAPSE project made these – two chips does not make the 98,304 compute nodes and 1.6 million processor cores of Sequoia. Both projects are interesting in their own way, but Sequoia is still a much more traditional supercomputer than anything that could be made from those chips.
That’s impressive, but just one brain has billions of nerve cells connected through trillions of synapses. Yes, the most brilliantly engineered machines cannot even come close to the complexity and construction of the human brain, which only a divine engineer could have made.
And that’s the end. Again, the whole thing is flawed by their erroneous conflation. Now for the comments.
You may be aware that the video channel allowed facebook-based comments. I was alerted by Dr Christian Shorey that these have just now been turned off. As I loaded the page before they did that, I have been able to take sceenshots of (much of) the conversation on this last video. There are 26 screenshots in total, beginning with tav1.png and continuing on to tav26.png – I was unable to take a full-page shot using the methods I tried, at least partially due to the length of the page. I also have the page as an .htm file that I can send to anyone who is interested, but you still can’t see all the comments even in that.
There were hundreds of comments on this video alone. The ICR did not seem to be able to do any comment moderation, and so there are a number of argument threads only tangentially related to the video itself which I could only skim. One recent, unreplied to and relevent comment I quite liked was from Phillip Dacus, who is apparently in some way affiliated with the Boise Bible College. He wrote – as can be found in the 26th image – the following:
Is that it? It tells me a lot about the start of computers, But does very little to help anyone understand the complexities of the human brain and how its impossible for anything other than an intelligent creator to have designed it.
The video did not get its point across very well at all, along with being factually incorrect.
Various people we have seen previously on the Science Education Essentials blog have commented on there aswell, including Shorey who managed to start one of the longer arguments with his comment that:
That was quite good and factual all the way through, until the line “which only a divine engineer could have made.” That is arguing from personal incredulity and thus a logical fallacy. ICR is very good in preaching the gospel, but any claims to scientific rigor are unfounded. The idea promulgated by ICR that evolutionists claim the complexity and diversity of life came about by chance, sheer randomness, is a straw man. If ICR is going to argue against evolutionary theory, I personally think they should learn what it is, and what it is not, first. That would be a more honest approach to the topic.
I’m sure you can guess where that led…
Here’s a much better brain-related video, at least in my opinion: