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Knowing that our brain uses just about a few watts of power and is as powerful as a supercomputer using megaWatts of power in 2016 and that we seem close to the physical limit of what silicon can do in terms of energy efficiency (we would need to increase efficiency more than a million times to reach organic levels of energy efficiency), I was wondering if silicon has a chance to ever be more efficient than some sort of organic computer.

Let s say we reach the physical limits in CPU lithography. Would the perf/watt of silicon still be worse than that of our neurons?

If we managed to synthetically produce some neurons and control them like we control current transistors, we could just produce massive amounts and create some sort of giant organic megabrain. Wouldn't that kind of organic computer be more powerful than any silicon based computer?

The same question applies to data. Does DNA have a much higher density and energy efficiency than silicon?

I m not an expert in those fields so I might be completely wrong!

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    $\begingroup$ «Does DNA have a much higher density and energy efficiency than silicon?» that has nothing to do with the metabolism of a nerve cell’s signaling. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Nov 4 '16 at 7:28
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    $\begingroup$ Nobody is going to invest in organic computers because quantum ones will be magnitudes faster. And I think it will be pretty hard to grow and program these organic computers to be useful. $\endgroup$ – STARGATEBG Nov 4 '16 at 8:28
  • $\begingroup$ Organic computing may have a higher theoretical energy efficiency than electrical computers. If you are trying for the lowest battery usage, they may be the way to go. If you have an unlimited energy budget and want raw power, organic has the disadvantage of the approx. 300 meter per second signal propagation speed of the used by the nervous system. Electrical computers move signals close to the speed of light. This means a computer using electrical signals can be much much bigger in size and not have signal delay between parts. Excessive power, size, and non-organic computing for the win! $\endgroup$ – Mark Ripley Nov 4 '16 at 11:02
  • $\begingroup$ Of course, the best of both worlds would be a cyborg hybrid solution. Use electrical/optical (non-organic) signaling between many organic subparts, allowing very large but still fast organic computers. $\endgroup$ – Mark Ripley Nov 4 '16 at 11:05
  • $\begingroup$ How powerful brains are depend on what you measure. However neither brains or current silicon computers are anywhere near the landau limit, the theoretical maximum computing efficiency. $\endgroup$ – Donald Hobson Nov 4 '16 at 13:49
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Quite simply, no.

DNA does store information and it does pack a huge amount into a small space. It doesn't process that information though (it doesn't really do calculations, it's just storage) and it's also error prone (which is why we get mutations).

Organic computing offers no real advantages over electronic in the long term and once we crack quantum computing it won't be anywhere close.

Organic brains are very good at handling "messy" inputs such as the crazy confusing world we live in and doing something vaguely correct with it. You can (mostly) cross the road without being run over, you can (mostly) add up a column of numbers, you can (mostly) throw something and have it (mostly) land where you aim.

But all of that comes at cost of precision and speed. The maths your computer does just to receive this post on a web site, parse it, turn it into pixels, and display it on your screen would take you days, weeks, months of calculations. And it does all of that without a single mistake.

At the moment a computer chip is at most a cm square, and a millimeter deep. This is because otherwise we struggle to keep it cool, and to get the signals in and out of it. Our brains perform so well because we have so much of it, if you took a slice of brain the size of a modern CPU then it would do very little.

Electric computers get faster all the time, and we're learning how to teach them to handle "fuzzy" problems, and how to network them together, and all sorts of other tricks that mean that they are getting more and more powerful at an accelerating rate.

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  • $\begingroup$ but wouldn't building an organic cpu/brain be very helpful for creating an AI. electronic cpus seems to need a lot of them and huge network and electricity just to get something as simple as understanding human speech. $\endgroup$ – Dreaded semicolon Dec 6 '18 at 8:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Dreadedsemicolon Understanding human speech is not simple. It seems simple to you because thousands of years of evolution have primed you with the ability to do it and you still spent a year as a baby learning how. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 6 '18 at 9:40
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    $\begingroup$ It is possible that for some solutions organic computing will be better. In those cases organic components may be used. What is more likely though is that we will learn from organic and then translate that to inorganic (for example neural networks). $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 6 '18 at 9:42

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