Can Computers Visualize? No. Not Yet

Visualization is now the hot thing in computer graphics. It is not just important in designing realistic video games etc, it is a way to encode very complex data making it comprehensible at one glance, or two.  From the many variables in global weather patterns to  the subtleties of consumer behavior, reams of  data can be made visible with shades, tones, colors, and shapes. I suspect it would be real valuable in comparing sets of complex data.

The theory is that there is now so much data in the world that it would be impossible and too slow for a human brain to cope whereas computers can be linked endlessly to increase their data abstracting powers.

If computers can ‘visualize,’ (as only humans can for now), are we threatened? Will we be made redundant? That our brains won’t be needed anymore?

The good news  is, not yet.  For right now what  the techies are trying to do is to download  our brain’s  activities during the data abstracting process and try to use  it as model for an algorithm  for computer visualization. Good luck!

We are still ahead,  our brain, that is, at least for a while. And by the way, now that I know how important visuals are, I will look after my brain a little better – by looking at more art of different kinds.

Actually, on second thought – I think we use more than just our brain to visualize. I believe we also use our largely non-conscious bodily senses, the sense for movement  which  works closely with our brain in imagining a space, for example. (See my post Edward Twitchell Hall – Who?) And this is done without moving a muscle – just through our eyes – via  mirror neurons.

Well,in that case, the computer will never be able to visualize like we do – unless they can put a mirror neuron in a computer. But to do that, just a single mirror neuron would probably take up the capacity of an entire computer!

Don’t worry. It’ll be another millenium or two.


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