The Brain Is a Supercomputer

The possibility of creating a flying saucer intrigued me. If you consider just its principle of movement as a hypothesis, then it is new. ­A flying saucer, though, is a complex mechanism and for us Earthlings not an item of first necessity.

Therefore I felt like hearing something that would be immediately understood. A "something" that would not require any investigations by scientific minds but could be applied in practice in our life immediately and bring benefit to all people. I began asking Anastasia to give me a solution to some acute problem our society faces today. She agreed, but asked,­ "You'll first have to formulate it, this problem. How can I solve it without knowing what you want?"

I began to think of what was most relevant today, and the following parameters of the problem came to my mind.­

"You know, Anastasia, in our big cities we face a very acute pollution problem today. The air there is so bad, it's hard to breathe."­

"You're the ones polluting it."

"Certainly, we are. Listen some more, only don't philosophize about how we need to be cleaner, have more trees, and so on. Take everything just the way it is today, and come up with something.  Well, for instance, something to make the air in the big cities fifty percent cleaner but so that it requires no money from the treasury, no state money, I mean. And so that what you come up with is the most rational of all possible options and could be implemented instantly and be understandable to me and everyone else."

"I'll try immediately," Anastasia replied. "Have you listed all the parameters?"

Just in case, I tried to make the problem even more complicated. What if her intellect and capabilities really did prove to be much higher than our reason's conceptions allowed for? Therefore I added, "Whatever you come up with should also yield a profit."

"For whom?"

"Me, and the country, too. You live in Russia, that means all of Russia."

"By this you mean money?"

"Yes.

"And a lot?"

"Anastasia, there can never be too much profit, that is to say, money.  But I need enough to pay for this expedition and cover another, while Russia …"

I thought a little.  What if Anastasia did have an interest in our civilization's material goods?

I asked, "You don't want anything for yourself?"

"I have everything," she replied.

All of a sudden I had an idea, and I realized how I could interest her.

"You know, Anastasia, let what you come up with yield enough money so that all your beloved summer people, the gardeners, all over Russia, can obtain seeds for free or on advantageous terms."

"That's wonderful!" Anastasia exclaimed. "You've thought of something fine. I'll work on this right away, if that's all you have. I like this so much! Seeds. . . . Or do you have something else?"

"No, Anastasia, that's enough for now."

I could tell the task itself had inspired her, especially the free seeds for her summer people. But at the time I was still certain that even given her abilities the problem of clean air simply did not have a solution, otherwise our many scientific institutes would have found it already.

Anastasia lay down on the grass vigorously, not calmly as usual, and flung her arms out to either side. Her curved fingers faced fingertips up and would move and then be still, and the lashes of her closed eyes would flutter from time to time.

She lay there like that for about twenty minutes and then opened her eyes, sat up, and said, "I've determined it. But what a nightmare."

"What did you determine?  What's the nightmare?"

"The greatest harm is inflicted on you by your cars.  You have so many of them in the big cities, and each one emits a nasty smell and substances that harm the organism. What is most terrible is that those substances mingle with and permeate particles of dirt and dust. Traffic raises this permeated dust, and people breathe in this horrible mixture. It flies in all directions and comes to rest on the grass and trees and covers everything everywhere. This is very bad. Very harmful for the health of people and plants."

"Of course it's bad. But everyone knows that. Only no one can do anything. There are cleaning machines, but they aren't up to the task. Anastasia, you've discovered absolutely nothing new. You haven't come up with an original solution to cleaning the pollution."

"I've only just determined the main source of the harm. Now I'll analyze and think. I need to concentrate for a long time, maybe even an hour, because I've never studied these kinds of problems before. I don't want you to be bored, so go take a walk through the forest."

"You go ahead and think and I'll find something to keep me busy."

Anastasia turned completely inward. After an hour's walk through the forest, I found her dissatisfied, it seemed to me, and I said, "You see, Anastasia, here even your brain is powerless. Only don't get upset. We have many scientific institutions working on this problem, but, like you, they've only established the fact of pollution. So far they haven't been able to do anything either."­

She replied in a somewhat apologetic tone.

"I've sorted through all the possible options, I think, but to do this quickly and by fifty percent—I couldn't do that."

I went on the alert: she had found some solution after all.

"What percentage did you come up with?" I asked.

She sighed.

"I fell short by a lot. I came up with . . . thirty-five to forty percent."

"What?" I couldn't keep from exclaiming.

"Not so great, right?" Anastasia asked.

My throat went dry.  I felt that she couldn't lie and exaggerate or minimize what she said. Trying to restrain my excitement, I said, "Let's change the conditions of the problem. Let it be for thirty-eight percent. Tell me quickly what you came up with."

"All those cars have to collect all that nasty dust, not just throw it up."

"How can that be done? Tell me quickly!"

"Up in front, oh, what do you call the part that sticks out there?"

"The bumper," I helped her.

"Right, the bumper. Inside or under it you need to make a box with holes in its top part, and there should also be little holes behind, for the air to get out. When these cars move the streams of harmful dusty air will fall into the front holes, be cleaned, and the air going out the back holes will be twenty percent cleaner."

"But where is your forty percent?"

"Right now this dust is hardly picked up off the street. But with this method there would be much less of it, so it could be cleaned up every day and everywhere. I calculated that in a month, with these little boxes, assuming they were installed on all cars, the quantity of dirty dust would decrease by forty percent. After that the percentage of pollution wouldn't decrease because other factors come into play.­"

"What is the size of the box, what should be in it, and how many holes should it have and at what spacing?"

"Vladimir, would you like me to attach it to each car, too?"­

For the first time I saw she had a sense of humor, and I laughed out loud, picturing Anastasia bolting her boxes to cars. She started laughing, too, delighted at my merriment, and she spun around the glade.

The idea really was simple; the rest was just a technical matter. Already, without Anastasia, I could picture how all this might work: decrees from administration heads, auto inspectorate monitoring, changing filters at gas stations, turning in old ones, vouchers, and so on. A straightforward solution, like seatbelts.

One stroke of the pen and there were seatbelts in every car. And here, one stroke of the pen and the air would be cleaner. And entrepreneurs would fight for orders for the boxes, and there would be work for factories, and most of all, the air would be cleaner as a result. ­

"Wait a minute." I turned again to Anastasia, who was spinning in her merry dance.

"What should be in these boxes?"­

"In these boxes … in these boxes … Why don't you think about it a little? It's very simple," she answered without stopping.

"But where will the money come from for me and for the summer people, enough for their seeds?" I asked my question again.­

She stopped.

"What do you mean where? You asked that the idea be the most rational. Here I thought one up, the most rational one. It's going to be used in big cities all over Russia and they'll pay Russia enough for this idea to pay for free seeds and for you. Only you can obtain one for yourself only under certain conditions."

At the time I paid no attention to what she was saying about certain conditions and began trying to clarify something else.

"So you mean it has to be patented? Who would pay voluntarily?

"Why wouldn't they? They will, and I'll set a percentage right now. From the boxes produced, Russia would get two percent and you one hundredth of a percent."

"What's the use of your percentage?  In some things you're strong, but in business you're a total neophyte. No one is going to pay voluntarily. They don't always pay even when there are signed contracts. If only you knew how many accounts receivable we had. The arbitration courts are overloaded. Do you know what an arbitration court is?"

"I can guess. But in this case they'll pay punctiliously. Anyone who refuses will go bust. Only the honest ones will flourish."

"Why should they go bust?  Are you going to turn into an enforcer or something?"

"What won't you think of. My goodness. They themselves, or rather, circumstances will take shape around the cheats in such a way that they go bust."

Right then I had a thought. If you considered that Anastasia couldn't lie and, as she herself said, natural mechanisms wouldn't allow her to be wrong, that meant before making these statements she must have worked out in her mind an unprecedented quantity of information and made tremendous arithmetic calculations, while bearing in mind the huge number of  psychological factors of the people who would be involved in her project. In our language, she not only solved the very difficult problem of cleaning the air but also composed and analyzed a business plan—and all this in about an hour and a half. I decided to clarify a few details.

"Tell me, Anastasia, did you do the calculations in your mind, using the percentage of clean air, the amount of money that would come from the production of your boxes installed on cars, from filter replacements, and so on?"

"Calculations were done, and very detailed ones, only not using my brain."

"Stop! Quiet. Let me finish my thought. Tell me, could you compete with the most advanced computer, say, a Japanese or American one?"

"But I'm not interested in that," she replied. "That seems so primitive and demeaning. Competing with a computer is like . . . oh, how can I explain it to you using a clear example?  It's like vying with a prosthetic arm or leg, and not even a full prosthesis but part of one. A computer lacks the main thing. And the main thing is feelings."­

I began trying to prove the opposite, telling her how among us people who are considered highly intelligent and respected in society play chess with a computer. But when neither this nor other arguments convinced her, I asked her to do this for me and for other people as proof of the possibilities of the human brain. She agreed, and then I clarified.­

"You mean I can officially announce your readiness to compete with a Japanese supercomputer in solving problems?"

"Why Japanese?" Anastasia asked.

"Because they're considered the best in the world."

"Is that so? Why don't I do it with all of them at once, so you don't ask me to do this boring thing again later."

"Marvelous!" I rejoiced. "Do it with all of them, only formulate a problem."

"Fine," Anastasia agreed reluctantly. "But for starters, so I don't waste time on formulating one, let them solve the same problem you set for me and confirm or refute my solution. If they refute it, then they have to suggest their own. Life and people will judge us."

"Marvelous, Anastasia! Great idea! This is constructive. And how much time do you think it will take for them to provide a solution to this problem? I don't think the hour and a half you took would be enough. Let's give them three months."­

"All right, three."

"I suggest letting anyone who wants to be a judge. If there are a lot of them, then no one will try to influence their opinion out of greed."

"So be it, but I'd like to talk some more with you about raising children."

Anastasia considered childrearing the main thing and always spoke about this with pleasure. My fancy of competing with computers aroused no particular interest in her. However, I was still happy to have obtained her consent. Now I wanted to call on firms that put out modern computers to join the competition to solve the problem set out above.

I decided to clarify something with Anastasia.

"What prize should be named for the winner?"­

"I don't need anything!" she replied.

"Why are you talking about yourself? Are you so sure of your victory?"

"Naturally, I'm a human being."

"Well, fine. What might you offer anyway to a firm that took first place after you?"

"Well, I could suggest how to improve their primitive computer."

"It's a deal!"

 

 


Книга:  Volume I: Anastasia: «I Exist For Those I Exist For»