Human nature is limited, so is our thinking. We are limited by our bodies, and power of thoughts is limited by the number of cortical and other neurons, number and speed of their connections, which are, in turn, limited by the cranial volume and other physical constrains.

Is it correct that if our thinking is limited, then it could be understood, and its mechanism explained on logical terms and, therefore, reduced to processes of purely algorithmic nature? Does that mean that we could make "a human computer" sometime?

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    We're limited, but we're not that limited! I don't think the universe or people are ultimately algorithmic. Rather, I think that because algorithms are one of the central metaphors of our age, people project that to "everything is an algorithm." Just like back in the day everyone thought the universe was a big Newtonian machine. It's not that either.
    – user4894
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 1:48
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    @user4894 would you bother providing your argument in an answer? especially on why we are not that limited
    – sanmai
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 1:49
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    This is just my personal opinion. I don't think we're algorithmic. But these days a lot of smart people think we are. I haven't got much to add at the moment.
    – user4894
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 1:57
  • @sanmai: I'd go along with user4894. The central metaphor in Newtons time was the 'clockwork' universe; and look what happened to that. Today its the 'algorithm'. We're finite beings, but this needs a little subtlety. For example, in six digits I can write - 1000000 or 200^200 or 999^999. The last number is stupendously large - much greater than all the particles of the universe. However its still a lot smaller than the infinite, even the first one; Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 2:59
  • What is the relevance of "understood" in this question? I can see removing it from the 2nd to last sentence without changing the impact. Is understanding necessarily required into order to make a human computer? I don't see that it is necessarily the case, esp. for one that learns from its environment.
    – Dave
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 3:13

3 Answers 3


Let's start with a fairly obvious fact: human computers are produced every day by the process of birth. I'm stating this just to emphasize that this question is really a question of "are human made artifacts different, in some fundamental way, from humans themselves, which are themselves produced by a process".

For a materialist, the answer is an obvious no; and thus there are no obstacles in principle to making strong AI.

For a dualist, the situation is open: if there is a mechanism by which we can induce a soul to inhabit a human constructed entity, then we could have strong AI. Only if we have souls, and there is something that prevents us from setting up the conditions whereby a soul would end up inhabiting a human made entity, would there be a fundamental limit.

Usually, we think of strong AI as embodied in a computer. What if we were able to construct artificial life-forms biologically? We can currently construct whole viruses, move nuclei from cell to cell, make hybrids etc. To me, it's harder to argue that this type of artificial biological system would have a fundamental difference from a human, given that much of the process of its development would exactly mimic that of natural human (or other animal) development; thus these types of human made biological systems would exhibit almost all (all?) of the physical correlates of the soul, but would have be made by artifice.

To deny the possibility of strong AI requires some sort of transcendent soul that is not strongly coupled to material, with all of the baggage that that entails (e.g. how/why do souls interact with matter at all)?


I'm using soul to indicate whatever the non-material spiritual essence(s) arise in a dualistic theory. I'm not trying to indicate that it is necessarily a personal essence.


Any finite physical system (such as a human brain) can be simulated by a universal computer operating by finite means:


So a person could be simulated on a computer if we understood the appropriate algorithm. In principle, it could be the case that the human brain could be simulated on a computer but is is impossible for anybody to understand the relevant algorithm and so impossible to set up the simulation. This seems implausible. It has to be the case that whatever algorithm our brain is running was created by rounds of variation and selection such that each stage it produced something useful. So there must be some sequence of problems we could solve that would lead to useful products at each stage and would produce AI at the end. Why would we be unable to do this? It can't just be a matter of memory or speed or reliability of computations since computers can do that for us. So I don't see what can stop us from creating AI.


'Do limits of human nature suggest that it could be principally understood?'

I think so, if you're talking about a "general understanding". Like Laozi answer when asked how did he knew it was so? "Intuitively." Of course studying the best findings in ethology, linguistics and the like we have today the chance of a better understanding, if our corrupt society hasn't yet blinded our views of human nature.

'we could make "a human computer" sometime?'

I think so, but I would make a list of reasons not to do that.

  1. It could be impossible. The number of neurons needed to understand themselves might be bigger than the actual number. Worse is that not all neurons are there to "understand". We could create machines with more neurons than us, but then THEY would understand, not us - turning us into probable slaves of our own machines (aren't we already? ;)

  2. Even if it's possible, is it desirable? What the worst consequences could be? It's impossible to predict, but is it possible to avoid? A "technologic singularity" is on the horizon, but I go with the taoist maxima of the "uncarved wood". There is no greater elegance than simplicity. The masses are far best served by a clean river than by any digital gadget. We need more Nature and less propaganda, not the opposite. So trying to build biggger and bigger and wiser and wiser machines is not at all a nice plan. We will end down the road being destroyed by them (aren't we already?).

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