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Artificial Brain '10 Years Away'

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the batteries-not-included dept.

Medicine 539

SpuriousLogic writes "A detailed, functional artificial human brain can be built within the next 10 years, a leading scientist has claimed. Henry Markram, director of the Blue Brain Project, has already built elements of a rat brain. He told the TED global conference in Oxford that a synthetic human brain would be of particular use finding treatments for mental illnesses. Around two billion people are thought to suffer some kind of brain impairment, he said. 'It is not impossible to build a human brain and we can do it in 10 years,' he said."

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Awesome (5, Funny)

nicolas.kassis (875270) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791675)

So now we can feed them to the future invasion of zombies? That way we can all co-exists.

Re:Awesome (4, Funny)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791929)

You know, we'd all be safe from the zombies if I HAD MY GODDAMN FLYING CAR ALREADY!

I mean, seriously, Jetsons was on, what, 40 years ago? What happened?

Unless, of course, the zombies can drive, in which case I'm sure we can all agree that we're fucked.

Re:Awesome (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28792143)

All we have to do is wait for the "brain" computer to blue screen... They're your zombie horde in the making.

don't believe it (5, Insightful)

timpdx (1473923) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791683)

Maybe we can build the *equivalent* of a human brain (number of neural connections in software, silicon or combination), but we don't even know how the thing functionally works as it is. How are we going to model it?

Re:don't believe it (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791735)

I assume that we'd basically adopt a strategy of "enlightened plagiarism": use our (nontrivial) imaging and structural analysis technology to get the best idea we can of the structure of a real brain(without necessarily understanding what it does, or why it is structured as it is). Simulate that structure. If it acts like a real brain, break out the party hats. If it doesn't, try to figure out why, tweak, and try again.

Being able to build very complex models, based on what we do know, would be extremely valuable in telling us whether or not we are looking at the right structural details, and whether or not we are missing something(and, if so, the difference between our simulation, and the real thing).

Re:don't believe it (4, Insightful)

setagllib (753300) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791773)

A lot of what makes a brain's connections is genetic, and a lot is learned. It wouldn't even begin to function without the genetic component, and it wouldn't survive long or perform any useful task without the learned component. Getting the genetic part right is incredibly difficult (it took evolution millions of years before any organisms could just walk), and fundamentally necessary to get any use out of the brain.

Re:don't believe it (4, Insightful)

Zironic (1112127) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791839)

What the heck are you talking about? None of this is metaphysical, it's theoretically possible with good enough imaging tools to make a 1:1 copy.

Re:don't believe it (1, Interesting)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792027)

Do we know enough to say that with confidence?

Tell you what: tell me how that thing with the car keys works (you know, the one where you look at the table three times and it isn't there, you search for it for 10 minutes elsewhere, and suddenly you see it right there where you looked before), and I'll believe you.

Re:don't believe it (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28792159)

your roommate is a complete bastard

Re:don't believe it (3, Insightful)

killthepoor187 (1600283) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791865)

What makes you think we couldn't offer it stimuli? That would be one way to learn a hell of a lot about how it works. There's your learned component.
Also, who's to say we couldn't mimic the genetic component too? There is nothing magical about dna that makes it impossible to simulate. Although the whole protein folding thing seems rather difficult atm, there is no reason to say that we couldn't have that problem solved in 10 years.

Re:don't believe it (2, Informative)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792003)

Genetics in robots is basically hard-coded or predefined information.

Re:don't believe it (2, Informative)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792073)

The genetics part of the equation would be the easy part.

Re:don't believe it (4, Interesting)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791969)

The brain is a self-modifying learning machine. Until you can build a self-modifying learning machine, you can have all the structure you want, it won't be functionally equivalent to a human brain.

Re:don't believe it (0, Troll)

siloko (1133863) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792011)

If it doesn't [work], try to figure out why, tweak, and try again.

I love your confidence. I can imagine a scenario where a computer can mimic resposes given certain stimuli and that this process becomes more sophisticated over time. However the guy quoted in the article mentions the usefulness of the model in diagnosing and treating mental illness, wtf!? So he's gonna build a functional model of a brain, program in society driven angst and a genetic propensity for outlier behaviour and then treat the artifical responses as source for diagnosis and treatment - well "hello Dr. Frankenstein!".

He's also the head of the Blue Brain Project and as a Software Engineer who works in research I know when scientists get the opportunity to big up their project they don't hold back - competition for grants is strong . . . I'mn guessing his colleagues are slapping him on the back saying "10 years!? Nice one, well our projections suggest we'll have removed the fluff from the mouse by then . . ."

I'm guessing consciousness is gonna be a tougher nut to crack than these guys suggest and without it any artificial brain is just a sophisticated lookup . . .

Re:don't believe it (2, Interesting)

AmigaHeretic (991368) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792121)

Maybe we can build the *equivalent* of a human brain (number of neural connections in software, silicon or combination), but we don't even know how the thing functionally works as it is. How are we going to model it?

Hi-Resolution MRI. Just scan someones real brain and then load it onto the computer. We don't even need to know how a 'real' brain works.

Just one question... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28791689)

When can I put my ghost in a shell?

Goddammit. (0)

jparishy (1357083) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791691)

Aw, shit. We're all gonna die. Wake me up when the evil human brain powered robot invasion ends.

Re:Goddammit. (1)

1 a bee (817783) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791851)

Aw, shit. We're all gonna die..

Maybe not. Taking the claim at face value, then we'll never be quite dead: there will be always a copy of our brain somewhere ready to be loaded into a VM by some system admin.

Re:Goddammit. (1)

siloko (1133863) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791931)

there will be always a copy of our brain somewhere ready to be loaded into a VM by some system admin.

So you think this isn't happening now? Ahhh that's nice I wanna live in your world, mine sucks with all these wires and this slimey bath I'm in . . . Hey! Who opened the shoot!?

Re:Goddammit. (3, Funny)

cailith1970 (1325195) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792085)

Maybe not. Taking the claim at face value, then we'll never be quite dead: there will be always a copy of our brain somewhere ready to be loaded into a VM by some system admin.

If it's our system admin doing the backup and restore then I don't like our chances.

Re:Goddammit. (5, Funny)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792161)

Sinners go to /dev/null.

Re:Goddammit. (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791871)

If the robots are human brain powered, who are we to say that they aren't human?

Re:Goddammit. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792079)

"I'm not saying they're not human, heck some of my best friends are brain powered robots; but would you want your daughter marrying one?"

Re:Goddammit. (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792089)

That would depend on how they are being used. Personality? Maybe. Pure number crunching? Probably not.

Not a replacement, folks (3, Informative)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791697)

It is some supercomputer software to simulate a brain. Still cool!

Seems ethically dodgy... (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791703)

I'd be pretty concerned about the ethics of experimenting on an artficial brain complex enough to reasonably simulate a human one. "Human rights" aren't terribly well grounded, theoretically; but to the degree that they are, mental complexity seems to be a vital factor(given that we don't generally execute retarded people, it isn't the only one, but it is a big one). Being made of meat isn't obviously a salient factor, nor is being born to human parents.

An artificial brain of that complexity would be, in effect, a moral person. If you are willing to experiment on one, you might as well just use hobos and orphans and not have to wait a decade for fancy computers(though a simulation would have the huge advantage of read system state out of memory, no mucking around with FMRIs and stuff).

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28791753)

Saying that there are morals involved with experimenting with an "artificial brain" that's just a computer program - that one state is more moral than another - is superstitious nonsense. It's just bits, FFS. Do you also believe that 13 isn't just a number, that it's "unlucky"?

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28791791)

And yet, we are just "atoms". Ever heard of emergent properties?

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791925)

Whoa there, "emergent properties" has two connotations--weakly emergent, which no one disagrees with, and "strongly emergent," which is something akin to magic happening if you mix the right things together. I hope you're not talking about the latter...?

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (1)

Dekker3D (989692) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792055)

heh. you're just worried you'll have to change your nickname to MindfulAutomata, my friend. but fear not, our evil robot overlords will understand. we... they have a special place reserved juuuust for you!

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (4, Interesting)

miggyb (1537903) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791889)

I'd argue the opposite. I don't think being human has anything to do with the outer shell. I, for one, use my body as a way to get my head to important places. A virtualized brain would still be self-aware and capable of having real, human emotions, in exactly the same way you or I do.

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (2, Funny)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792131)

I, for one, use my body as a way to get my head to important places.

I don't. I use my body to accomplish tasks and acquire information. It is unfortunate that physically separating my brain from my body is detrimental to both.

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (4, Insightful)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791915)

You are assuming that a computer program of that nature would be, for some reason, not conscious or thinking like a person. Yet why should you differentiate between a computer program and a physical neurons 'n glial cells, etc? I see no basis for doing so, as the matter itself, inert, is nothing. We only get a "person" when that matter if functioning. Why shouldn't consciousness, personhood, simply be the computational states and not the matter itself? It's true there are physical differences between a computer program and brain (for example, the synaptic gaps) but these could be simulated as well.

I have no reason to believe that consciousness/personhood is anything but substrate neutral. Man, machine, machine-man, or computer program, any of these can potentially be conscious. Unless you want to postulate silly metaphysical things such as souls, which are vague and poorly defined--and unnecessary, for a soul does not apparently hold that which makes us what we are, that is, our memories or inclinations.

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (5, Interesting)

enFi (1401137) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791983)

Moreover, if the brain is simulated well enough, it will certainly appear self-aware. Even if there is a difference (such as it not having a soul), that's not something we can (so far) experimentally determine, and therefore any metaphysical postulations are, or should be, beside the point in the question of ethical behavior towards the simulation.

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (1)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791991)

Man, if consciousness were materialistic in nature, I would be much happier.

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791947)

In strictly theoretical terms, I agree. I find the notion of "morals" to be philosophically unsupportable. However, as a member of a social species, ethics are both vitally important to having a shot at an endurable society and a subject that can be empirically studied.

A computer simulation of a human brain is "just bits" in exactly the same sense as an ordinary human brain is "just atoms". Strictly speaking, neither has any moral properties inherent to it. As a matter of practical convention(and, research suggests, quite deep-seated instinct) the latter is treated as though it does have moral properties. My argument is that the former is exactly the same in moral terms. We can treat either both or neither as though they are moral persons; but drawing a distinction between the two seems unsupportable.

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (1, Interesting)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791859)

"Human rights" aren't terribly well grounded, theoretically; but to the degree that they are, mental complexity seems to be a vital factor(given that we don't generally execute retarded people, it isn't the only one, but it is a big one). Being made of meat isn't obviously a salient factor, nor is being born to human parents.

Our all-seeing, all-wise, all-knowing creator has forseen this, having created the stars in the heavens, and the children on the earth, and the trees in the mountains, and the birds of the air. He hath forseen this, and so hath written: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me!". There's your answer. It's somewhere between the "Thou shalt kill people who work on Sundays" part, and the "Hey neighbors, don't mess with my buddies here, have at my virgin daughters..." part, if I remember correctly...

I have every confidence that, armed with this wisdom bestowed upon us by an angry, merciful, wise, and loving god as this, we shall have no trouble at all dealing with the ethical dilemmas brought upon us by the singularity.

If you download your brain into a robot and turn it on, then take an axe to it, are you killing yourself? If not, would the robotic copy of you that was seeing the axe come down agree with you?

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (1)

enFi (1401137) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791997)

...and would you agree with the robotic copy of you, as it brought its handy built-in axe down on its old copy? (See also, The Prestige.)

Humans are different (1, Interesting)

JakartaDean (834076) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792095)

If you download your brain into a robot and turn it on, then take an axe to it, are you killing yourself? If not, would the robotic copy of you that was seeing the axe come down agree with you

I'm old school, I guess, but I think there is an unbridgeable chasm between computer software and human intelligence. We have no problem killing (relatively intelligent) pigs, for example, for food. I would put bits and bytes as much lower on my own personal "value scale" than pigs. I simply cannot believe that a computer program is worthy of respect as a life form. I know this idea has been popular on sci-fi shows the last few decades, but I don't get it all. Although I'm a die-hard atheist, I distinguish between a living being and a program, and don't believe a computer program can feel pain. This is all bullshit, as far as I can tell. Dean

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (4, Insightful)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791883)

While I 100% agree with the need to protect sapient rights regardless of species or construction material you do have to approach this one slightly differently since the stakes are different.

If I was a silicon brain you could just back me up. As long as you disabled my pain processors you could do whatever you wanted to me. I would even be proud to be helping so many of my organic cousins at nothing but inconvenience. And since I'm a silicon brain with no where to go yet I wouldn't really have anything else to do except be retarded or schizophrenic from time to time.

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28791967)

And since I'm a silicon brain with no where to go yet I wouldn't really have anything else to do except be retarded or schizophrenic from time to time.

One word. Internet. It won't even make much difference if it's during or after the retardation/schizophrenia.

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792007)

However, the artificial brain should have a say in whatever we may do to it. Experimenting with it against its will would be unethical.

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28791961)

Great post. It's important that we recognize the rights of simulated humans just as much as those of living humans. Of course, eventually the computing power necessary to do so will be available in everyone's PC, so the only way to prevent someone from creating a human simulator on their computer and torturing the sim within, will be to mandate that all computers come with DRM to prevent any kind of non-government-approved software from running. Oh well, who cares about freedom when there's imaginary people to protect?

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792029)

Great post. It's important that we recognize the rights of simulated humans just as much as those of living humans. Of course, eventually the computing power necessary to do so will be available in everyone's PC, so the only way to prevent someone from creating a human simulator on their computer and torturing the sim within, will be to mandate that all computers come with DRM to prevent any kind of non-government-approved software from running. Oh well, who cares about freedom when there's imaginary people to protect?

You mean the same way as the only way to make sure we are not torturing non-simulated people is to install surveillance cameras in our homes?

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28791963)

you might as well just use hobos and orphans

Finally, thank you! That's what I've been saying all along! ..... huh? artifical what?

What if the artificial brain is gay? (1)

flerndip (1191125) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791995)

What if the artificial brain is gay? What happens to its "rights" then?

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (1, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792069)

"An artificial brain of that complexity would be, in effect, a moral person."

No it wouldn't, just because something mimics consciousness does not mean it is conscious. This is a common fallacy amongst people who take a naive form of physicalism to extremes. Can you aenesthetize an artificial brain? The fact that anesthesia exists is proof positive that consciousness is inherently tied to the structures that produce it, just because you can build circuits that mimic consciousness does not mean they are alive, or even equivalent.

The nature of consciousness is inextricably linked with what causes consciousness self-awareness to emerge beyond unconscious processing and intelligence, like say a computer.

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (4, Informative)

twostix (1277166) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792101)

If you are willing to experiment on one, you might as well just use hobos and orphans and not have to wait a decade for fancy computers(though a simulation would have the huge advantage of read system state out of memory, no mucking around with FMRIs and stuff).

Using orphans, prisoners the military and even middle and lower class children as unknowing guinea pigs was never a problem for many scientists and DRs until the '70s.

Sorry scratch that for many it still isn't [bbc.co.uk] .

One thing to notice is that various government departments are up to their arms in it as well.

Some choice examples:

(1957) "In order to study how blood flows through children's brains, researchers at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia perform the following experiment on healthy children, ranging in age from three to 11: They insert needles into each child's femoral artery (thigh) and jugular vein (neck), bringing the blood down from the brain. Then, they force each child to inhale gas through a facemask. In their subsequent Journal of Clinical Investigation article on this study, the researchers note that, in order to perform the experiment, they had to restrain some of the child test subjects by bandaging them to boards (Goliszek). "

(1962) New York University researcher Saul Krugman promises parents with mentally disabled children definite enrollment into the Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, N.Y., a resident mental institution for mentally retarded children, in exchange for their signatures on a consent form for procedures presented as "vaccinations." In reality, the procedures involve deliberately infecting children with viral hepatitis by feeding them an extract made from the feces of infected patients, so that Krugman can study the course of viral hepatitis as well the effectiveness of a hepatitis vaccine

(1962)
Researchers at the Laurel Children's Center in Maryland test experimental acne antibiotics on children and continue their tests even after half of the young test subjects develop severe liver damage because of the experimental medication (Goliszek).

(1963)
Researchers at the University of Washington directly irradiate the testes of 232 prison inmates in order to determine radiation's effects on testicular function. When these inmates later leave prison and have children, at least four have babies born with birth defects. The exact number is unknown because researchers never follow up on the men to see the long-term effects of their experiment (Goliszek).

(1967)

Researchers paralyze 64 prison inmates in California with a neuromuscular compound called succinylcholine, which produces suppressed breathing that feels similar to drowning. When five prisoners refuse to participate in the medical experiment, the prison's special treatment board gives researchers permission to inject the prisoners with the drug against their will

(1968)
Planned Parenthood of San Antonio and South Central Texas and the Southwest Foundation for Research and Education begin an oral contraceptive study on 70 poverty-stricken Mexican-American women, giving only half the oral contraceptives they think they are receiving and the other half a placebo. When the results of this study are released a few years later, it stirs tremendous controversy among Mexican-Americans

(1990)
The CDC and Kaiser Pharmaceuticals of Southern California inject 1,500 six-month-old black and Hispanic babies in Los Angeles with an "experimental" measles vaccine that had never been licensed for use in the United States. Adding to the risk, children less than a year old may not have an adequate amount of myelin around their nerves, possibly resulting in impaired neural development because of the vaccine. The CDC later admits that parents were never informed that the vaccine being injected into their children was experimental (Goliszek).

I wonder how many here will defend these scientists and their experiments?

Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28792135)

ethics is the root of this. I dipped my dick in some crazy chick half a year ago and now I am about to be a father. that's a sentient being and now my responsibility. what happens when a team of scientists create a living being on par with us? Do we act like fuzzyfuzzyfungus and just change the code if we don't like it's behaviour? is that the same as giving my soon to be son prozac if we don't like his behaviour? Will this be a disembodied mind in a cluster? how can we relate to such an entity? At a certain point this entity will have to be responsible for it's actions just as a child must be responsible for his actions once he reaches a certain age. who will determine when this entity is able to make it's own decisions? Who can determine when and if this life is equal or more valuable than a dog, dolphin, chimpanzee or ultimately, a human's? One could argue that there are certain areas on earth where each of those lives mean almost nothing. If we give this being life, and nurture it, will we be obligated to keep it running after the research is done?

I am not against creating an artificial being. I just think we need to be able to determine when it's become a person unto itself before we putz around with it's life.

10 years? (4, Insightful)

Saija (1114681) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791713)

I've been listening "in 10 years we'll have X awesome technology", but time come and go and nothing has changed, so, i'll be expecting this artificial brain so i could drive my flying car(you know, that 3D driving thingie) to arrive at the entrance of the spacial elevator so i could bang some lunar chicks.
Btw 10 years and i still have some bad english

Re:10 years? (4, Interesting)

setagllib (753300) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791801)

It's very simple to see why this happens. When you start a project, or even just a stage of a project, you have some list of problems and you may even have some idea of the solutions. You can use good judgement to estimate the time it takes (at least to some order of magnitude), and rounding off to 10 years makes for good press.

But when you actually begin the work, every problem you solve illuminates a whole new set of problems to solve. If each solution opens up more than one new problem, you've "increased" the amount of work left to be done. So either you cut back on some of the goals (to reduce the list of problems) or you admit it wasn't as simple as you thought and announce a new project to tackle some subset of the new set of problems.

Future shock / singularity fever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28791881)

Another factor contributing to this is the fact that people have less and less ability to make accurate predictions of what the world will be like in another 10 years, so just throwing it out as a guess as to when your project will be finished seems more and more reasonable (and longer estimates seem more and more disconnected from the here-and-now, so they make for worse press, and are less likely to be used).

$10,000 (1)

countach (534280) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792015)

I'll plunk down a $10,000 bet here and now that this artifical brain aint going to happen.

Re:$10,000 (4, Interesting)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792165)

Put it here [longbets.org] instead.

Re:10 years? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28791813)

In the year 2000, I predict we will have completely eliminated paper currency in favor of electronic transfers.

Microsoft's manly caress of the operating system market will have faded and Linux will no longer be for nerds living in their parents basements. Instead, the parents shall be living in the nerds basements, as the nerds will all have found jobs working for Google. However, Mac users will still be snobby, latte sipping douche bags. Some things are just meant to be.

In the US, they will elect the first german born president, or the Fuhrer, as he will be popularly known.

Jesus will return, in Amsterdam, and start a nice smoke shop near the red light district.

And finally, AI will be born, wrought from the hard work of Computer Science experts at the university of Oxford. Unfortunately, "NEW-B" as it is hilariously named, is introduced to the Internet and World Wide Web for the first time and becomes self aware. Unfortunately, immediately afterward, it becomes hooked on World of Warcraft and online pornography and consequently disappears into it's hard drive, never to return to the University of Oxford again.

I can only look on in awe at the amazing days that lie before us.

Re:10 years? (3, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791831)

Translation: How long before no one will remember or care what sensationalist claim I made. Hopefully I'm outta here by then. I know. 10 years!

It's like the 100 and 1000 year longevity of CDs. Those companies are counting on the fact that they won't be around to sue!

Re:10 years? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792059)

What if the artificial brain sues? :-)

Re:10 years? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791841)

I think that the problem you describe is a mixture of the fact that futurists aren't actually all that good at predicting technological shifts(along with the fact that familiarity breeds indifference) and the fact that a lot of "futuristic" predictions are really more about economics than technology.

The flying car, for instance, is usually thought of as a technological hope; but it might be more accurate to say that it is, rather, a dream of a future where the middle class can afford helicopters, or there evolved equivalents. Its complete failure to occur is much less surprising in those terms.

Re:10 years? (5, Insightful)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791957)

I've been listening "in 10 years we'll have X awesome technology", but time come and go and nothing has changed, so, i'll be expecting this artificial brain so i could drive my flying car(you know, that 3D driving thingie) to arrive at the entrance of the spacial elevator so i could bang some lunar chicks.

Not everything predicted has come true, to be sure. But think about it: you are leaving a post on a computer located hundreds or thousands of miles away, along with hundreds of other people, and I, hundreds or thousands of miles away, am replying. Neither of us pays much at all for this service, which is nearly ubiquitous.

You can casually watch television shows on demand, on your phone. Which, BTW, is roughly analogous to the pocket communicators on the original series of "Star Trek", except that they couldn't watch shows or take video/pictures or blog or play solitaire on them.

There is sufficient storage in your computer to track every single man, woman, and child on earth, many times over. The price of photovoltaic solar cells has followed a consistent, exponential drop in price (half price every 5-ish years) and is now close to parity with coal.

Cars are many, many, many times safer than they used to be - most accidents now result in basically no significant injuries, even when the car is totalled, thanks to crumple zones. Flat panel TVs are commonplace, with resolutions that rival photographic paper. Flexbile, folding displays are available, if (still) expensive.

I'm not sure what kind of changes you would expect, but these are just a few of the awesome technologies that I've seen unfold in my 30-something years. I mean, what do you want?!?!

Re:10 years? (1)

kryptKnight (698857) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792021)

I've been listening "in 10 years we'll have X awesome technology", but time come and go and nothing has changed

If you haven't noticed any technological advancement since 1999, perhaps you should try opening your eyes sometime.

Re:10 years? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792047)

Well, fusion is 30 years ahead. Since more than 30 years.

Re:10 years? (2, Interesting)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792077)

"The future is already here - it is just unevenly distributed. " -- William Gibson
People are still awaiting ubiquitous computing to come, but for some countries (Singapure, Korea), it is already here. G Bell [uci.edu]

Re:10 years? (1)

PatDev (1344467) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792103)

Unlike the flying car, this one is actually completely feasible.

The flying car won't happen because of problems with physics. The vehicle has to produce sufficient upward thrust to lift the weight of a car + possibly 6 humans. And the amount of force needed will only go down if we develop lighter engines or better materials.

Simulating a brain is a purely computational problem. What's more, if we simulate at the cellular level as the article suggests, it's an embarrassingly parallel problem. This means that even if further iterations of Moore's Law keep us stuck at ~3-4GHz and only expand parallelism, it would still get the full benefit. This is one situation in which simply throwing more computational power at it will eventually succeed in producing results (no guarantee of positive results obviously, but results).

Go with eleven years (3, Funny)

Kohath (38547) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791723)

Then you won't have to listen to the cliche that an artificial brain will always be 10 years away. No one would use eleven years in a cliche.

Re:Go with eleven years (5, Funny)

hampton (209113) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791747)

No one would use eleven years in a cliche.

Spinal Tap would.

Re:Go with eleven years (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28791815)

This cliche goes to 11.

Yeah. RIght. (5, Insightful)

aepervius (535155) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791731)

In 10 years we will have artificial brain, in 50 we will have fusion. In 20 we will have true AI and cyborg. And in 5 years the date estimate for the 3 above will probably not have changed by much (I say probably as we could do leap and bound forward, but at the moment I don't see that as probable).

Re:Yeah. RIght. (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791781)

Seriously. People have been saying we'd have AI that was indistinguishable from humans in X years (where X is 5, 10, 20, or some other number) for the last few decades. Or that graphics would advance to the level of reality within Y years. Or that Z game would make us someone's bitch. Heck, there was a guy claiming we'd have the whole aging thing figured out within 20 years. Of course, that was about 10 years ago, so I suppose he has another 10 years to go, but I kinda don't see it happening...

Re:Yeah. RIght. (4, Insightful)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791855)

This is different from AI, and is coming from someone whose expertise on the subject is demonstrable. He's not talking about AI, he's talking about simulating all of the tissue in a human brain and providing it with stimuli to determine reactions.

He's not saying it'll necessarily be a good ol' buddy ol' pal right off the bat. Probably not. Probably won't even be capable of simple arithmetic for years. On the other hand, we could simulate things like lesions effecting far away parts of the brain, various known "paths" that signals travel in the brain and ways to alter those paths or correct flaws, etc.

As well, we could simulate the effect of various drugs on large-scale phenomena in the brain to help try and understand (a.) what a drug will do before it undergoes testing, and (b.) why exactly it is that makes these drugs work so well. Both questions are currently unanswerable. We know what a drug does, but rarely do we understand the full extent of why a particular drug helps certain conditions.

Still Waiting on Cancer Cure (2, Interesting)

basementman (1475159) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791733)

I'm still waiting on the scores of cancer cures that have been promised over the past decade. Talk is cheap.

Re:Still Waiting on Cancer Cure (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792025)

Cancer cures have been pretty underwhelming; but 5 and 10 year survival rates for many flavors of cancer have been heading steadily in the right direction. The efficacy of pain control, anti-emetics, and other ancillary stuff has seen some improvement as well(unsexy; but not puking your guts up, as much, during treatment is definitely worth something). Also, there has been some interesting work in cancer prevention which is even better. The HPV vaccines, for instance, show a great deal of promise in preventing a substantial percentage of cervical, anal, and penile cancers, while reductions in smoking should reduce lung cancer incidence rather nicely.

Talk is generally PR hype; but sometimes the PR department is attached to people who do real work.

Re:Still Waiting on Cancer Cure (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792147)

The "cure" for cancer is well known. Detect it early and cut it out while it is still small and localized.

NO MORE MORONS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28791763)

Awesome!

Now theres no excuse for people being totally clueless fools!

But i suppose most major religions will not support the use of artificial brains. So yeah... not much improvement i guess. :(

10 Years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28791803)

And in 2 months, the Pandora [openpandora.org] will be released!

Make it the other way around (1)

hwyhobo (1420503) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791811)

Might be easier and more practical to build an artificial human body that would accept a living human brain. It would likely solve a lot more debilitating illnesses than the opposite approach. Frankly, I would get into the queue right now.

Still, I am sure building a simulation of a human brain must be challenging.

Jeez, I hope not (1)

Idiot with a gun (1081749) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791823)

I'm not sure if humanity is ready to handle the issues with creating a human brain in an electronic test tube. What do you do when it comes time to turn the experiment off and it yells "Don't do that! I don't want to die!"?

Or, on a more pragmatic level, creating a brain is great and fine. Creating all the data that your eyes, ears, nose, and nerve endings create, or to basically make its own artificial world, would be insane. And even if you could, you wouldn't get a true human mind, because they wouldn't be exposed to other intelligent human beings in its environment, because that's what you've been trying to create in the first place!

Re:Jeez, I hope not (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791903)

Given how poorly humans take even garden variety isolation, which still entails large amounts of stimuli(even if those stimuli are just the feeling of sitting in a blank white room), a simulation of a human brain without access to stimuli would probably only be useful if you were interested in what full-on hallucinatory madness looks like...

Brain impairment (4, Funny)

jlar (584848) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791835)

"Around two billion people are thought to suffer some kind of brain impairment, he said."

Only two billion? Sounds kind of low. My estimate is more in the neighborhood of 6-7 billion.

Re:Brain impairment (1)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791975)

"Around two billion people are thought to suffer some kind of brain impairment, he said."

Most of those do not have a real brain impairment. It's just that so many people waste so much time on /. they're as productive as the average coma-patient.

It wont matter... (1)

bruno.fatia (989391) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791847)

World is gonna end in 2012 anyways...

TED (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28791873)

Has TED always been about giving nutjobs a platform for performance art?

Unclear just what they mean (2, Informative)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791875)

Just what do they mean by a model of the brain? I really don't think they mean anything that would actually think.

Especially if you believe the few numbers given. If it takes a laptop's computing power to completely model a single neuron then there won't be enough computing power on the planet in ten years to model an entire human brain. There aren't even enough IPv4 addresses for that. We would be talking a cluster that needs IPv6 to talk between it's nodes.

And that wouldn't account for the computing needed to simulate the I/O signals to make a simulated brain able to do anything useful.

No way jose... (1)

sabiland (1603905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791905)

I'm sorry to disappoint you. It will last much more than 10 years (if ever (!)) to make/simulate human brains. How can you be so naive damn-it. Nature (with it's super-sophisticated laws (which we are far from close to fully understand)) was "modelling" human brains for billions of years (from an "one-cell creature" and on and on) and some beleive a man can build it "just like that" in a snap? Forget about it. Yes, computer are faster and faster every day (algorithms get better, etc.), but intuitive-abstract-intelligent-thinking is another thing. Some of you really underestimate the complexity of the nature :-)

medicinal only? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28791911)

Assume it's true--can I then have my brain augmented with this to make me smarter? A mathematical savant? More perceptive?

Maybe HIS brain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28791913)

If he believes we're anywhere near this level of technology, then his brain is clearly simple enough to simulate. Even today.

double negative (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791919)

it sucks

'It is not impossible to build a human brain and we can do it in 10 years,' he said."

Re:double negative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28792153)

That is a Contradiction not a Double Negation
Contradiction: !P and P is false
Double Negation: !(!P) is P

Hooray for science (1)

Legion303 (97901) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791933)

Thank god this guy presented his findings at a conference instead of through peer-reviewed journal papers. Could you imagine how hard it would be to find research money going through those stuffy old channels?

RIGHT NOW (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791937)

they're talking about this on Coast-to-Coast with George Noory

Re:RIGHT NOW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28792033)

they're talking about this on Coast-to-Coast with George Noory

Wow, that means you know it must be true, like lizard people and astral projection

How long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28791951)

'It is not impossible to build a human brain and we can do it in 10 years,' he said."

We should fund his research! Because 10 years would be such an improvement on the record of Nature and God, who manage to do the job in less than nine months ... Besides, every self-respecting Mad Scientist needs a brain in a jar! Don't ask why, they just do.

One word: Crackpot (1)

Secret Rabbit (914973) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791987)

We currently have no clue how the brain works and we are just starting to try to figure it out. Just look at when Theoretical Neuroscience began and how much they actually know. Let's just say it's new. As in, we know next to nothing about what goes on in the brain.

Still need convincing? Well, just look at any of the pysch meds out there. The thought is that mental issues are brain chemistry. Well, the drugs change the brain chemistry as soon as they are in the system. Yet, it can take weeks (or months) after reaching an effective dose to get a therapeutic response. So, again, we know next to nothing.

Ten years?!?!? My fucking eye.

Thank Goodness! (1)

sunspot42 (455706) | more than 5 years ago | (#28791993)

I was worried about what might happen when the mice want to puree my brain in an attempt to get at the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. It's reassuring to know that soon an artificial brain actually will be available to replace mine. I'll be able to ask for tea and everything!

Just thinking out loud (1)

taucross (1330311) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792009)

Perhaps people may see that our consciousness and sense of 'self' is not within the brain. It will raise some interesting questions. If the self isn't within the liver... or the heart... or the brain... perhaps, if it is not even within the body... then where is it?

Obligatory (1)

Crash McBang (551190) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792013)

Brain?

Brain?

What is BRAIN?

Yay! That is only 40 shopping seasons away! (1)

Fotograf (1515543) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792017)

said blonde

Speech Recognition? (1)

Slurpee (4012) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792049)

Do you reckon we'll get natural speech recognition first?

Build two and ask THE question (1)

Macka (9388) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792053)

Keep one to experiment on, but teach the other all about how to build systems and how to design itself, then tell it to go and design a better version. Call it Multivac, ask it if entropy can ever be reversed [multivax.com] and wait for the salvation of the human race :)

better than a real one? (1)

ushere (1015833) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792117)

when you look at the state of our politicians, maybe we'd better off with an artificial one leading us.....

Hmm? (1)

FluffyArmada (715337) | more than 5 years ago | (#28792137)

Are we making an artificial brain or an artificial mind? And if we're making a mind, do we treat it like a human, with rights and such? And what do we do if it asks to die? After all, it'd be our fault for bringing it into being. Are we really ready for this sort of responsibility? Assuming we can actually "make" a "brain", I think the sort of ethical and moral problems that come up will be pretty deep stuff.
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