reply to post by Maddogkull
They say in 10 years they will be able to make an artificial brain.
They won't actually have the full brain in 10 years. What they'll have emulated is the entire human neo-cortex. They won't have the visual,
auditory, motor, etc cortex... nor will they have the hippocampus or hypothalimus, etc. So far as I understand, they're only emulating the portions
of the brain which are uniquely human.
Now, this doesn't mean that they won't emulate the entire brain eventually... but that's the 10 year goal. They might still end up producing
consciousness, of a sort, because it's the Neocortex which is responsible for your sensory perception, social reasoning, forward planning, spatial
reasoning, language, awareness, etc.
So, for language, it might be fully capable of constructing sentences for communication - but it wouldn't have the ability to memorize words
(hippocampus) or associate those symbols/frequencies with concepts. The problem is, the brain functions as a whole - and the conscious perception of
the function of our brain we tend to take for being "whole" or "intrinsic" - because it feels that way. Actually, a perception like sight that
feels very whole and functional is the result of a hierarchical processing flow from the back of the brain through the V1 to the V4 regions along
what's called the dorsal and ventral stream. Both the dorsal and ventral streams are highly interconnected, allowing processes in one stream to
modify the processes in the other. The dorsal stream typically deals with object definition, spatial reconstruction, motion, etc - while the ventral
stream deals with recognition, association, and representation.
So while the emulated brain they boot up may be functionally conscious, I'm not sure it will be recognizably conscious while missing or crippling
many of it's critical components.
How are they going to make the brain, is it made from silicon?
The same way you make a "Sega Genesis" or "Nintendo 64" out of your PC. Emulation. The brain exists within a program which sets the mathematical
rules for it's operation. When executed, that operation mimics the function of each individual neuron and it's synapses just as a real brain
Is it a brain that’s identical to the human brain they are creating?
Part of the brain, yes. There's other teams working on various other regions. For example,
Los Alamos National Labratory is working on emulating the human visual
On Saturday, Los Alamos researchers used PetaVision to model more than a billion visual neurons surpassing the scale of 1 quadrillion computations a
second (a petaflop/s). On Monday scientists used PetaVision to reach a new computing performance record of 1.144 petaflop/s. The achievement throws
open the door to eventually achieving human-like cognitive performance in electronic computers.
Eventually, yes, full and complete human brain emulation will be possible. Perhaps by the middle of this century if things go well. I think this
brings up a poignant ethical consideration here... that once a human brain can be fully emulated in a computer, should human ethical concerns be
extended to that simulated brain? I'd say, resoundingly, YES. For all intents and purposes, that brain WILL be human.
However, it may not APPEAR human. We are more than just the synapse and neurons of our brains... we are the unique and individual configuration of
neurons that make us who we are. The configuration process we call life experience. We can only memorize and recall information because our brains
have the plasticity to change and rewire itself to record new information. Much of this occurred when your brain was still forming, still growing. You
don't even remember it, much like you don't really remember having to try to learn to speak.
Building a fully adult human brain from scratch would not produce the necessary configuration needed for social interaction, language, emotional
management, etc. We don't know how to program this stuff in. Yet we know that, by studying feral children, that abandonment and extreme isolation
from human contact during the formative years will produce adults which behave in ways which are more feral - completely inhuman by our standards. And
this processes is irreversible to a large extent. Feral Children typically cannot learn to speak a language well, have concept of social boundaries
and rules of interaction, and they're typically stuck with the mental capacity of a five to ten year old.
If we want to go that route of full human brain emulation, I think the easiest method of doing so would be to start with the genetic code. After all,
our brains are really very simple. The genes which code for brain development are only a fraction of the 1.5% of our genome that actually codes for
proteins.. and it self-arranges. So we can start off with a handful of Neurons fully emulated down to the molecular level in a fully comprehensive 3D
environment to interact with, while using minimal computing power. As the brain "grows", we can interact with it and raise it like we would any
other child. By the time it has grown to full adulthood, we will have all the necessary computing power to fully sustain it - as well as having an
optimal "human" configuration of the synapses. By being able to monitor and track the history of each individual neuron, we can learn a great deal
about how the brain functions and interacts.
Part of the Blue Brain project which hasn't been getting as much attention is the molecular emulation (which models the brain right down to each and
every molecule) being preformed to help figure out gene expression translates into brain functionality. A key step we need to figure out if we're
going to follow through with the above scenario.