Biology Question #2055

Donald, a 19 year old male from St. Johns, Newfoundland asks on April 19, 2004,

Comparing the storage capacity of the human brain to computers, if data and memories in a human brain could be transferred to a hard drive, how big would the hard drive have to be?

viewed 17256 times

The answer

Barry Shell answered on April 19, 2004

This is too speculative to give a scientific answer, however based on some pretty dreamy considerations, Hans Moravec, a famous "trans humananist" has suggested that human memory requires 100 million megabytes of storage. This was worked out by estimating the number of total synapses in the human brain. First of all nobody knows for sure what this number is. Second it ignores the many other mysterious processes that go on in the brain that do not involve nerves (e.g. glial cells) as well as more complex interactions between neurons and brain chemicals that are currently not known. The fact is nobody knows the answer to your question. Not at all. However, if you are writing science fiction and you want a number, say 100 million megabytes. (Personally I think this is way too low.) For a good paper on this (but remember it's very speculative and not based on very much science) check out Hans Moravec's 1997 paper "When will computer hardware match the human brain?"

Add to or comment on this answer using the form below.

Note: All submissions are moderated prior to posting.

If you found this answer useful, please consider making a small donation to