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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Revision as of 15:42, 8 August 2012

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Hardware Reductionism
My MRI research shows a clear correlation between the size of the parietal lobe--the part of the brain that handles spatial reasoning--and enjoyment of 3D Doritos®.
Title text: My MRI research shows a clear correlation between the size of the parietal lobe--the part of the brain that handles spatial reasoning--and enjoyment of 3D Doritos®.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Very quick and brief first attempt, may not have the right point, and probably needs links as well as expansion.

There is a fad to describe people as "left-brain" and "right-brain" types, or as variously capable of using their "logical" and "creative" halves of the brain, to one degree or another.

But in reality, the brain is a complex system in which subsystems identified as relating to activities are interrelated; tasks are shared, not farmed out to small, specialized regions, even if medical imaging techniques indicate that a particular area "lights up" during a particular task. For instance, some varieties of brain damage can often be overcome by learning to use undamaged areas of the brain.

The comic makes this point by analogy to some better-understood general-purpose computing hardware: the CPU in a mobile phone.

In a CPU each core is, roughly speaking, capable of acting as a computer unto itself, much as arrangements of neurons in the brain can be variously repurposed. Because cores are not specialized (and because the phone processes pixel data, not the events happening in a photo), using many cores only speeds up any computations; it does not make more kinds of computations possible. (E.g., if there is a face-detection routine, the cores only increase the speed of identifying all regions that match an eigenface, not the total number of regions that can be found.)

However, a dedicated graphical processing unit (GPU) could add more processing power for suitable tasks than a single CPU core, just as certain parts of the brain may be better suited to certain tasks. But the presence of a GPU would still not affect the number of interesting and "likeable" points of interest in any picture taken.


[Cueball hold his smartphone looking at it while talking to Megan who I holding her smartphone in her hand.]
Cueball: Your photos from the triatholon got so many more likes than mine.
Megan: Yeah - My phone is quad-core. Research shows that iPhones like yours have just two cores, so they have a hard time capturing scenes with three different events in them.
[Caption below the frame:]
If we talked about phone hardware the way we talk about brain hardware


  • There is a spelling error in Cueballs coment where he says triatholon instead of triathlon. (Maybe it will be corrected by Randall when he notices?)

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