The next few blogs are excerpts from a paper that I presented at the JavaOne conference back in 2011 titled, “Re-thinking How We Think About Parallel Programming.”
The brains of all animals are generally comprised of multiple cooperating neurological subsystems. The lowest lifeforms don’t have much – starfish don’t even have what we normally think of as a brain – it’s more like an advanced nervous system but decentralized. Here’s a short table comparing the approximate number of neurons in the brains of different animals:
|Animal||Number of Neurons|
Fish and frogs and higher life forms have systems that automatically control breathing and other systems for vision and others that control evading predators (with varying degrees of success). All of these systems operate in parallel, semi-autonomously, without any controls or awareness. Everything they do is essentially done unconsciously, without conscious thought. They are purely responsive systems triggered by external stimuli. And without higher order thinking or planning, they can respond very quickly.
Consciousness is primarily the domain of humanity. Only human beings (and a few other species, such as dolphins and elephants) have enough raw brainpower to have conscious thought or to be self-aware. Very few animals have enough computing power between their ears to be able to formulate thoughts and develop plans.