More Perfect Than We Think
William Bialek, PhD, John Archibald Wheeler/Battelle Professor in Physics, Princeton University
From its ability to appreciate beauty, to the reassembly of distant childhood memories, to our almost unthinking ability to respond to the unexpected, is our brain really "doing a good job" at solving the problems we confront as we move through the world? Has evolution granted us a rich inheritance of tools, or saddled us with artifacts of a distant past, limiting our ability to solve new problems? Many other animals, from insects to our fellow primates, do many equally remarkable things, but several examples will be presented allowing us to see how the human brain solves problems in an essentially perfect way — no machine operating under the same physical constraints could do better. Examining what is common among the problems that the brain is good at solving begins to suggest a more general principle that may be at work.