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Technical Perspective: The Interplay of Neuroscience and Cryptography

There is an untapped resource, of vast but unknown size, lying hidden under the surface. As scientists explore and attempt to map it, they are only just beginning to understand its extent and how it can best be applied to important human needs. This description might describe natural gas or geothermal energy reserves. But it also applies to the human brain, particularly in the realms of memory and computer security.

The best estimates of the memory capacity of the human brain (by Paul Reber, a co-author of the following paper) place it at around 2.5 petabytes. That is 2.5 x 1015 bytes, equivalent to the combined capacity of thousands of ordinary hard drives. Yet it is difficult for most people to conveniently remember and reliably recall passwords that contain more than 20 bits of randomness, that is, passwords with guessing difficulty greater than a 20-bit random string.


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