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"Digital computers are examples of large and versatile electronic devices which can be used for generating complex timed patterns of movements. The basic component of a modern electronic machine like a computer is the semiconductor, or which a familiar form is the transistor.

Survival machines seem to have bypassed the cam and the punched card altogether. The apparatus they use for timing their movements has more in common with an electronic computer, although it is strictly different in fundamental operation. The basic unit of biological computers, the nerve cell or neurone, is really nothing like a transistor in its internal workings. Certainly the code in which neurones communicate with each other seems to be a little bit like the pulse codes of digital computers, but the individual neurone is a much more sophisticated data-processing unit than the transistor. Instead of just three connections with other components, a single neurone may have tens of thousands. The neurone is slower than the transistor, but it has gone much further in the direction of miniaturization, a trend which has dominated the electronics industry over the past two decades. This is brought home by the fact that there are some ten thousand million neurones in the human brain: you could pack only a few hundred transistors into a skull." --Richard Dawkins

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June 2010

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