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Scientists figured out why we can't get smarter

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Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor on

Here's an interesting fact: Smart people have faster impulses in the brain than less intelligent people. That's all according to one Cambridge professor by the name of Ed Bullmore. But as far as getting any smarter, tough luck. British scientists made a convincing case for why our brains have reached full capacity: Human brains would consume too much energy.

Simon Laughlin, professor of neurobiology, at Cambridge University told The Sunday Times: ‘We have demonstrated that brains must consume energy to function and that these requirements are sufficiently demanding to limit our performance and determine design."

There's a chance the human brain could start to conserve energy and bring us back towards the size of the noggins of our Neanderthal ancestors. The researchers took into account the structure of the brain and figured out how much energy brain cells consume.

Mathematically speaking, the brain is an energy hog. It's physically smaller than the rest of the human body, yet it consumes 20 percent of our energy. Energy is needed to fire electrical impulses so neurons can communicate with each other and also maintain the health of the cells to keep the tissues in the brain alive.

To get any smarter, the brain would need extra energy and oxygen, something all the coffee and Red Bull in the world probably can't provide. Also, in the The Sunday Times story, the researchers say there's a link between how connected different brain areas are and IQ. However, there isn't enough energy to keep up with any increase in brain power.

Say it ain't so that brain connections can't get much better than this. Perhaps, this is as good as it gets.

With the way things are going with the Internet, maybe we can off-load some of the work onto computers and save some energy. If you recall, a recent study showed that the Internet affects your memory. On the upside, we've been able to overcome energy hurdles when building computers, so maybe there's a chance we can do the same for human brains. If not, then scientists can always try to use machines to augment human intelligence or the other way around.

According to a recent Time magazine feature:

46 years later, Kurzweil believes that we're approaching a moment when computers will become intelligent, and not just intelligent but more intelligent than humans. When that happens, humanity — our bodies, our minds, our civilization — will be completely and irreversibly transformed. He believes that this moment is not only inevitable but imminent. According to his calculations, the end of human civilization as we know it is about 35 years away.

via The DailyMail but the story originally appeared in The Sunday Times

Photo: NSF

Updated

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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