Speculations on Permutations

I’ve read estimates that each neuron in the neocortex connects to many thousands of other neurons and in total there are over 100 billion neurons in the brain. This alone is an interesting and revealing statistic about the capacity of the brain to hold information.

If you assume each connection to another neuron can take on one of only two states: on and off, which is a gross oversimplification as axons have a non-linear ability to signal based on their rate of firing and their internal thresholding function, its interesting to compute the total number of patterns each neuron can provide.

A neuron with one synapse to another neuron and a simple on/off state can hold 1 ‘bit’ of information: on and off. A neuron with 2 synapses can hold 4 (e.g. 2^2) and so on. A neuron with 50 synapses can represent 2^50 unique patterns or 1,125,899,906,842,624. I remember reading that each neuron in the brain has at least 1,000 synapses: 2^1,000 is an enormous number and with the neocortex having at least 10 billions neurons the potential number of combinations is astonishing – I’ve read its a number some estimate to be greater than the total atoms in the universe. Perhaps that’s why we accept intuitively that the human mind is infinite in its true capacity even though our consciousness seems severely limited based on the sheer number of details we can retain over a lifetime of learning. Neurons firing in massively parallel, self organizing frameworks are a truly marvelous type of a computer and God is a marvelous architect.

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