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Kurzweil: The Cloud Will Expand Human Brain Capacity

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the big-bigger-and-biggest-head dept.

Cloud 267

Nerval's Lobster writes "Futurist and author Ray Kurzweil predicts the cloud will eventually do more than store our emails or feed us streaming movies on demand: it's going to help expand our brain capacity beyond its current limits. In a question-and-answer session following a speech to the DEMO technology conference in Santa Clara, California last week, Kurzweil described the human brain as impressive but limited in its capacity to hold information. 'By the time we're even 20, we've filled it up,' he said, adding that the only way to add information after that point is to 'repurpose our neocortex to learn something new.' (Computerworld has posted up the full video of the talk.) The solution to overcoming the brain's limitations, he added, involves 'basically expanding our brains into the cloud.'"

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267 comments

i already have brain expansion capabilities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615405)

And no, that's not what I am talking about.

Oblig (4, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615527)

Someone's got their head in the clouds.

Re:Oblig (4, Insightful)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616767)

According to Kurzweil, my brain filled up by 20, which means that at 47 I'm cannibalizing old skills in order to learn new ones. Last month I learned to memorize all of the Kings and Queens of England, all of the US Presidents and all of the British Prime Ministers. That must mean that in order to do that I must forget how to dress myself, how to stay continent, how to speak...

You may have stopped learning a long time ago Ray, but I'm not even peaking.

Expansion human brain capabilities? (3, Interesting)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615537)

The word "Cloud" has become such an in word that all kinds of predictions, even those which makes no sense altogether, are dime a dozen these days.

Does the human brain need "cloud" to expand its capabilities?

Didn't we have pencil / paper all the past centuries?

How about books and diaries and post-it notes?

Re:Expansion human brain capabilities? (2)

tsa (15680) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615577)

Indeed. What absolute nonsense from this Ray Kurzweil. "The Cloud" is becoming the "Turbo" of the 2010s.

Re:Expansion human brain capabilities? (1)

bayankaran (446245) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616505)

Indeed. What absolute nonsense from this Ray Kurzweil. "The Cloud" is becoming the "Turbo" of the 2010s.

What we need is a cloud on a turbo. That's what I am waiting for.

Re:Expansion human brain capabilities? (1)

tsa (15680) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616557)

It huffed and it puffed... and it blew the cloud down!

Re:Expansion human brain capabilities? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615713)

One imagines that there might be some differences once we cook up an interface with latency approaching that of another region of the brain.

We don't know enough to actually do anything outside of rough sampling or rather brutal nudging of the existing system; but that might be a solvable problem.

Re:Expansion human brain capabilities? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615763)

The "cloud" is just yet another instance of tools like "pencil / paper[,] books and diaries and post-it notes[...]" Move along people, its just another step on a very long road.

Re:Expansion human brain capabilities? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615825)

yes. However, in digital form, thus allowing for much more vast information sets in one tool. Further, if brain interface techs mature, integration becomes possible.

Re:Expansion human brain capabilities? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615875)

Like I said, another step on a very long road. Is that not indeed the inevitable extension of using writing to store and share our memories and/or thoughts?

With apologies to Michio Kaku (5, Insightful)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615417)

Ray Kurzweil is the biggest hack on the planet.

Re:With apologies to Michio Kaku (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615457)

And your opinion is based on what? I'm not attacking, just asking a genuine question.

Re:With apologies to Michio Kaku (5, Funny)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615495)

One day, very soon, a chip in your head will instantaneously connect with The Singularity, which will transmit back images into your corneal implants which will show you why this is so. In the meantime, take it as The Received Word from the future.

Re:With apologies to Michio Kaku (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41616941)

It would be more amusing if the chip were on the shoulder.

Re:With apologies to Michio Kaku (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615753)

Seriously, if you have read his explanation for that "singularity"... or really most anything from him... and don't agree... then maybe you just haven't got the brains for it.
No offence, I can't run 100m in 10 seconds either. But it is a small wonder that anyone *doesn't* think he's an idiot.

Re:With apologies to Michio Kaku (4, Informative)

iluvcapra (782887) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615833)

For interesting critiques on Kurzweil, you might...

... read Jaron Lanier, particularly his One Half of a Manifesto [edge.org], where he makes a pretty compelling case that Kurzweil is a "cybernetic totalist" who's pretty much willing to throw away everything that makes human life worth living in order to prove that human nature is mechanistic and reducible to mere information.

... watch The Transcendent Man, a documentary on RK, which makes the pretty compelling case the Kurzweil is in fact obsessed with "the technological singularity" not because he has a rational basis for it to be, but because he's wracked with guilt for never having a good relationship with his father, and he's obsessed with the idea that the Singularity could not just prolong him forever, but resurrect his dead father as well. He's driven by the idea that death is abandonment or alienation and he's terrified of being abandoned, again.

Re:With apologies to Michio Kaku (5, Insightful)

NEW22 (137070) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616047)

There is something kind of lame about taking a guy who has some interesting ideas, and performing some kind of hack psychoanalysis of him, and generating this air of "because this hack psychoanalysis does a good job of making him look crazy, obviously that discredits his ideas." "He doesn't have a rational basis for this, he's just wracked with guilt over his father" is the sleaziest kind of ad-hominem argument.

As for Lanier's 12 year old essay, I'm not even sure that half of his "cybernetic totalist" beliefs are necessarily held by people intrigued by Singularity ideas, without even going into whether those beliefs are reasonable or not. It's not that I'm even convinced by the Singulatarians, but that so many people who aren't convinced make these weird statements like "He's pretty much willing to throw away everything that makes human life worth living" as if Kurzweil is some kind of Cyber-Stalinist, rather than a guy who is trying to take an idea as far as it can go to see if there is anything to it.

Re:With apologies to Michio Kaku (2)

iluvcapra (782887) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616119)

I would say anyone who attempts to redefine "life" in terms suited to his personal needs is a sort of stalinist, yes. Kurzweil's ideas are unmistakably millennial and rife with historical imperative, just as Marx's ideas were. People like Marx and Ayn Rand are famous for "taking an idea as far as it can go." They're the ones who serve as examples of just how cheap and useless a mere "idea" is.

I'm not sure if the fact that Lanier's essay is 12 years old is supposed to mean anything. That it's 12 years old and still relevant is a remarkable thing in this day and age.

Re:With apologies to Michio Kaku (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616475)

I agree that these kind of pop-psychology hacks don't really have anything meaningful to add to this discussion. In fact, if they are registered psychologists, issuing a diagnosis without actually interviewing the person is essentially a form of medical malpractice. Though you see this kind of analysis done on television often enough these days.

That said, Kurzweil is obviously a hack, and doesn't seem to any rational basis for the conclusions he draws. For example, he will tell you that at some point, since computers will be as powerful as a human brain, computers will be capable of the same kind of thought as humans. Since we don't know much about consciousness or how it comes about, or even what it really is, this is not a reasonable conclusion. In fact, no reasonable conclusion can be drawn because there simply isn't enough information available. This kind of hand-waving is something you'd expect from a theologian trying to justify their personal philosophy. That's really what this guy is doing.

Re:With apologies to Michio Kaku (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41616611)

To be fair, Kurzweil's assertion is not just that computers will achieve the computational capacity of the brain, but that we will also reverse engineer the functionality of the brain. The latter is not all that infeasible given the work being done towards that end, for example by IBM or the Blue Brain Project:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120917152043.htm

Presumably, such a simulation would be capable of the "same kind of thought" as humans.

Re:With apologies to Michio Kaku (2)

Joe Tie. (567096) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616575)

Totally agreed. You can always find probable psychosis in a person. React to something, evidence that it's driving you. Don't react to it, evidence that you're suppressing it. It's one of many reasons why arguing against a person rather than what the person says is such a bad idea. Myself, I don't buy into what Kurzweil is selling. But I still say it's horrible to attack him rather than his position.

Re:With apologies to Michio Kaku (3, Insightful)

marcello_dl (667940) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616357)

You might also compare a university test from the early 90s, where internet were a luxury for the few, with a current test. Just by looking at it you can tell something.
If the internet era seems to correlate with dumber people, I don't see how the cloud can completely reverse the trend.

"but you will be integrated with a super system which will make you smarter stronger faster..."

Yes, the system will be. You will be the disposable, remote controlled larvae on which it runs. Face it, you already stopped being considered a man, you are a human resource, your health spied.

An internet based transparent society is possible, but the guys in charge don't like it at all, and are pushing for a 1984 style panopticon instead.

So they win if we implement it, and they win if we oppose a strong influence of the internet.

Kurzweil could be the kindest person on earth, but he is very useful for this because his vision either scares you or enslaves you. So they promote him all over the media.

"Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets". I'd consider this as a possibility.

Re:With apologies to Michio Kaku (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41616539)

That One Half Manifesto sounds more like hippy bs to me, but maybe that just means I too am a cybernetic totalist? I guess having started programming at 8 years and always converting things I see into pseudo-code it was bound to "screw up my human life".

To me human life is reducible to information, just as is the entire universe. It doesn't make it any less special than what the hippy was on about in my eyes.

I don't know if I'd say "filled it up" (1)

theillien (984847) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615423)

Don't we only use a small percentage? Wouldn't it make more sense to figure out how to put the remaining, unused portion to good use?

Re:I don't know if I'd say "filled it up" (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615445)

No. This is a common myth. We do infact use pretty much all of our brains.

Re:I don't know if I'd say "filled it up" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615697)

The "small percentage" thing comes from what we use AT THE SAME TIME.

But of course, idiots loved to dumb it down, until it meant "at all times".

Re:I don't know if I'd say "filled it up" (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615459)

The concept of 'a small percentage' is a misrepresentation—it's like saying we only use a small amount of a CPU's die in each instruction. The whole brain gets used, just not constantly.

Re:I don't know if I'd say "filled it up" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615493)

I find the CPU analogy compelling. It helps to think of the brain as a multi-core processor, running an OS with run of the mill core pinning.

If half your brain is fried, you can move daemons (like speech) pinned to the destroyed cores to different cores. Maybe. If it doesn't work, file a bug. It should be fixed in the next revision of humanity.

Re:I don't know if I'd say "filled it up" (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615807)

It works up to a certain point—there's evidence the brain even has a clock rate, for example (but you can't mess with it because everything else depends on it, so don't joke about that)—but be wary of making too many assumptions about comparing it to a normal computer. While the tasks are localized to some extent, the localizations aren't always physically contiguous, and the placement of bottlenecks is wildly complex and hard to fathom. Also, it's probably less like a standard CPU and more like an FPGA, though we don't really understand how abstracted everything is.

Brain prefers to be asynchronous (3, Informative)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616861)

The brain prefers to be asynchronous. Too much synchronicity leads to seizures and epilepsy, particularly when there is a "focus" or irritant which starts synchronized regular firing activity. This is the reason that (for some people) flashing visual displays with very bright contrast at a particular flicker rate can also lead to seizures: the consistent synchronized flashing leads to synchronous stimulation of the retina and the V1-part of the occipital lobe and on forward through the visual areas til it hits a recurrent area and a loop leads to continuing seizures even upon withdrawal from the stimulus.

.

Yes at night-time, certain rhythms are predominant, and yes some people say that rhythmic entrainment is part of the binding of phenomena and stimuli in the brain, but too much synchrony is a bad bad thing in the brain.

I think that it can be said that there are upper and lower bounds on signal propagation times through the geometry of the brain and upper and lower bounds on the firing rates of different populations of neurons, and that large pools of certain populations firing simultaneously present as particular types of EEG signals in certain regions, but I don't think you can say that the brain has a clock rate like a digital synchronous circuit requires. The brain's more asynchronous.

Re:I don't know if I'd say "filled it up" (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615611)

What I've always found impressive is how there are no trivially idle chunks to be seen; but from time to time somebody will grow a tumor or catch a bullet with their face and then recover from losing notrivial chunks of the brain with surprisingly few major losses(and, on the other hand, you've got the people with no gross anatomical defects visible at all; but major cognitive deficiencies or crippling psychological issues)...

Re:I don't know if I'd say "filled it up" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615463)

We /do/ use all of our brains, we just use different parts for different things.

Re:I don't know if I'd say "filled it up" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41616749)

It is possible to use 100% of your brain at one time. You'll have a tonic-clonic seizure when you try of course. The people who do it on a routine basis are epileptics.

Reasons to be hesitant around Kurzweil (3, Informative)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615439)

Number one: Ray and Terry's Longevity Products [rayandterry.com].

Re:Reasons to be hesitant around Kurzweil (5, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615511)

Kurzweil seems to be following the proud tradition of very sharp people who have illustrious careers which then provide them the freedom to go a bit off the rails...

His speech and music synthesis stuff is solid. After he found nerd jesus and decided that he would live forever through the power of the internet...

Re:Reasons to be hesitant around Kurzweil (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615605)

I'd be less kind, but yeah. This stuff gets a reaction, so he says it. Nothing he ever says is really any more solid than Nostradamus. Its all comfortably 30 years hence and arguably the signs are on the wall. Of course "the cloud" (if you will) expands our 'brain capacity', so did clay tablets and hieroglyphics. This kind of thing is just pablum, value free nonsense. Crap I wish I could get payed 1/10th what this guy gets to spout out garbage like this. What a racket.

Re:Reasons to be hesitant around Kurzweil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615569)

He's just selling vitamins.

Re:Reasons to be hesitant around Kurzweil (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615827)

Longevity vitamins. The vapid sensationalism of his writing is advertisement and subtle self-promotion. He is not a dreamer or great thinker, like Carl Sagan or Douglas Hofstader; merely a con man who tries to avoid being too transparent.

Re:Reasons to be hesitant around Kurzweil (1)

pspahn (1175617) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616197)

Longevity vitamins.

What other types of vitamins are there? I mean, isn't that why people take vitamins, to live longer?

I've had plenty of clients selling worse crap than this.

Re:Reasons to be hesitant around Kurzweil (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616525)

The people I know who take them do so to extend life, improve health, brain function, weight loss, etc. . . and prevent illness or death. Many people have told me that vitamin C will prevent or help treat a cold, though I haven't found the evidence to be compelling.

So no, it's not all about increasing your number of years.

Re:Reasons to be hesitant around Kurzweil (1)

Joe Tie. (567096) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616585)

I don't buy the con man angle. I really think he believes what he's saying, and expects that his insane supplemental regimen and ideal of "it can't hurt!" really might help.

Re:Reasons to be hesitant around Kurzweil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41616487)

Oh no! The man is promoting proper nutrition and a healthy diet, clearly the work of an insane super criminal!

It must be the cloud, not a device (5, Insightful)

PhamNguyen (2695929) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615467)

A PC or portable device wouldn't possibly work, it must be the cloud. Not because cloud is a buzzword.

Re:It must be the cloud, not a device (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615497)

May be their "logic" is that reaching to the clouds requires mind altering drugs and that "expands" the mind.
and they smoke a lot of that...

Re:It must be the cloud, not a device (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615519)

If you want to expand your Redundant Array of Interdependent Neurons, a cloud seems appropriate enough...

Re:It must be the cloud, not a device (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615523)

It's because when we hit 2045 and none of his predictions turn true, he will just say something like "Oh, well people write these really immersive blogs, to help them remember things, which is storing memories on the cloud," or some such BS. I mean, look at how he's delt with people critiquing his predictions so far: wearable computing far from being "the norm" as he predicted should have happened years ago? Hey, cell phones are sort of like wearing a computer! It's a sort of Nostradamus effect, in that he just has to word his predictions in such a manner that he (and those gullible enough to buy into it) can claim they came true, regardless of what actually happens.

Re:It must be the cloud, not a device (2)

Fred Ferrigno (122319) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615917)

You can download a copy of Wikipedia to your PC, but nobody does.

Re:It must be the cloud, not a device (1)

rjames13 (1178191) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616427)

I do, that way I can edit it to be correct instead of having all the errors other people put in it.

The Internet, and the cloud is 'Something Awful' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615477)

you all know why, right?

That tired old nonsense again (2)

gweihir (88907) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615501)

While Kurzweil seems to be in urgent need of such an extension, so he may gain at least a bit of effective intelligence, that is baseless wishful thinking at its best. The cloud so far does not even perform on the level of local, dedicated hardware and it is uncertain whether it will eventually get there. Mental capacity enhancements? In your dreams.

It already does. (3, Interesting)

Atzanteol (99067) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615517)

It already does though. I don't need to memorize *everything* - now I only need to know how to find the answers I need. This allows me to work with a much smaller set of data and fetch that which I need from the cloud as needed.

We don't need it built in though.

Re:It already does. (1)

JustOK (667959) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615583)

lag times are a factor. So is a lack of connectivity.
Why not have RAM in the cloud?

Re:It already does. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615595)

It comes at a cost - dependency.

Re:It already does. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615645)

It's a hell of a lot better than wasting tremendous amounts of time making explicit attempts to memorize something. If it's used enough, you'll memorize it *naturally*.

Re:It already does. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615839)

There's a continuum between memorising something and knowing how to find it out. It's already at the point where there are things I'm pretty sure I know, but actually remembering them will take a minute or two, so it's faster to look them up online. As internet speeds - and, more importantly, human-computer interfaces - improve, the difference will blur even further.

Re:It already does. (3, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615959)

I don't need to memorize *everything* - now I only need to know how to find the answers I need.

That is not as easy as it sounds.

First you need to know whether you are asking the right question and second you need to know whether or not you have found the right answer.

Information, or raw data? (4, Interesting)

tqk (413719) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615553)

I believe Kurzweil is confused on the definitions of data vs. information. Information is data I've had time to digest and react to. If all you want to do is accumulate TBytes of raw data, yeah, the Cloud is fine for that. Whether you'll ever find the time to do anything with it all is another question.

Re:Information, or raw data? (1)

towhoitmayconcern (802206) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615647)

There's also the saying (from a T-shirt I saw): "I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you." Understanding something goes beyond just the raw data.

Re:Information, or raw data? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615659)

Sorry, that is your very own made-up-on-the-spot definition of "information". You can't just redefine words in a way that nobody else does.

Data is just the word for information that we use in information technology. Same thing. You're the one who's confusing things.

(Doesn't mean I don't agree that Kurzweil is an idiot. :)

Re:Information, or raw data? (3, Informative)

tqk (413719) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615735)

Sorry, that is your very own made-up-on-the-spot definition of "information". You can't just redefine words in a way that nobody else does.

From WordNet (r) 3.0 (2006) [wn]:

    data
            n 1: a collection of facts from which conclusions may be drawn;
                      "statistical data" [syn: {data}, {information}]

From The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing (26 July 2010) [foldoc]:

    data
    raw data /day't*/ (Or "raw data")
          Numbers, {characters}, {images}, or other method of recording,
          in a form which can be assessed by a human or (especially)
          input into a {computer}, stored and {processed} there, or
          transmitted on some {digital channel}. Computers nearly
          always represent data in {binary}.

          Data on its own has no meaning, only when interpreted by some
          kind of {data processing system} does it take on meaning and
          become {information}.

Re:Information, or raw data? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41616977)

Data is just the word for information that we use in information technology. Same thing. You're the one who's confusing things.

Sampling a white noise generator will give you data that will have no *information* content. So no, data is not just a word for information. Otherwise a lot of very smart people working on ways to extract information from data would be out of their current jobs.

Re:Information, or raw data? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615675)

I believe Kurzweil is confused

I believe he's just trying to keep his name in the news. 15 minutes isn't enough for some people.

Obligatory XKCD (4, Insightful)

afgam28 (48611) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615591)

Re:Obligatory XKCD (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616143)

It's a weird joke because IQ is specifically supposed to exclude book learning and test innate problem solving, abstract from any knowledge context.

Hive-mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615603)

Aliens have been doing it for years.

Re:Hive-mind (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615653)

Humans have been doing it for thousands of years with writing already. External storage of information.

Teh Internets is just bigger and faster. Next revolutionary step is offloaded thinking.

Who the hell takes that idiot seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615629)

It was already 100% clear he's an idiot, when he came up with that "singularity" bullshit, completely ignoring that in nature, such things saturate themselves, and that because of that, a "singularity" could never happen. (If people start to get problems with keeping up with technology, they will by definition not be able to create technology that's even harder to keep up with. It's self-limiting.)

And now he uses PHB buzzwords like "cloud", and the idiots jump again?

Like with Bieber or "Friday", it's the idiots constantly dragging him through town, thereby creating his "popularity" in the first place, that should be slapped silly.

What is the Internet? (1)

felixrising (1135205) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615637)

What do you think the Internet is for exactly?! If not an extension overcoming our brains limitations, not solely for storage, but for communication too. Technology is simply the next phase of evolution, an extension of the biological to overcome biological limitations.

Re:What is the Internet? (3, Insightful)

iluvcapra (782887) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616161)

The Student worked at his computer day and night. He was so frustrated because there was so much to know. The Master asked "Why do you sit all day, in a dark room with only words?" The student said "I'm trying to transcend biological limitations!"

At once he was enlightened.

Everyone has pie in the sky sci-fi, who cares? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615689)

Here, I'll drop some meandering diatribe and see if anyone gives a damn.

The work I do in AI primarily teaches me about myself and other large brained organisms. Much of what I've learned is that humans aren't special. Intelligence emerges naturally from any sufficiently complex interaction. The more complexity, the more intelligence is possible.

Most of the transhumanists I've met or read seem rather presumptuous and chauvinistic. I don't believe humans are all that special. For instance: We can grow rat brain cells on a computer chip [youtube.com] -- It exhibits some life-like properties, but no more so than were human brain cells or a digital neural network used instead. This experiment is just a short cut: A neural network for cheap. However, it's far from optimal since the organic brain on a chip dies, and all the training is lost -- an AI doesn't have these problems... The take away is that a neural network is a neural network -- The complexity of the neural network defines its level of awareness. It's the "human" part of "transhumanism" I take offense to, seems rather racist to me. :P

To speak in terms of transforming the human condition is to place too much emphasis on our own race's importance. How can we evolve to be greater than humans if humans are most important? To me: Humans are simply the organisms with minds having the most complexity at this time on this planet. The evolution of the mind is not something unique to humans; It's a process that all life has been contributing to -- Even indirectly through competition.

A sufficiently large mass -- or network -- of rat brain cells could surpass the complexity of a Human mind quite easily. Would we then be speaking of transverminists? I prefer Transorganic, Posthuman, or my official title that covers all systems with input feedback loops: Cyberneticist. Protip: AI, businesses, and brains are all cybernetic systems by definition.

What we're all taking part in is really the Rise of Inorganic Life.

Augmenting organic entities with non living parts is a step in the process, but at some point the organic components aren't required at all, and we've given life to the non living. The foundation of life is genetic code: RNA / DNA. Life as we know it occurred after the living genetic code took up residence in the non-living lipids to form the first cells. So, there you have it: Life has always been augmenting itself by incorporating non-living technology. The transhumanist seems just a little late to the game, if you ask me.

Life used to just produce chemicals to digest nutrients externally, but complex life does this internally via eating. My point is that the food is a part of the organism -- can't live without it, eh? The line between one organism and the next is the abstraction layer of eating, but in the end it's all one eco-system that is alive. Each organism is simply a complex chemical reaction, chemical reactions are interactions of electrons between atoms. Another form of life could exist that still operates by way of complex electron interactions; It could even draw nutrients directly from the Sun instead of having to "eat" other lifeforms. Even plants eat dead things with their roots & leaves, but an inorganic life-form could be self sustaining -- a complete ecosystem in of itself. Such an entity could drift through space and extract all the energy and raw materials needed to sustain itself from nebulae.

Cybernetic implants are merely another next step in evolution. Nature is simply doing what it always does, produce a smarter, more durable, more pervasive life form. Just as life originated in the sea and became more durable to live on land, then the air; Life is now evolving to live in space... Note: All stars consume their habitable zone (the zone where chemical complexity is possible) when they go red-dwarf or nova. Therefore, the path from sea to space is natural, not radical. An important goal post in evolution on a Universal scale must be to produce space-faring life. No other end result really matters because life is doomed to become extinct otherwise.

Ultimately, our organic parts are too fragile to survive unaided in space. In the very short period between cyborgs and electro-mechanical life we will augment our bodies with cybernetics to make us more durable and give us back functions we've lost. However, before artificial cybernetic systems have reached the complexity level capable of hosting a human mind intact, they will necessarily be capable of sentience themselves. What reason would machine intelligences have to incorporate an organic component when a superior mechanical component will suffice?

That said, I believe the technology to interface organics and mechanics is inevitable, as this is what having tools means. To me, we draw the distinction between tool and body part somewhat arbitrarily. Are lipids tools for DNA to survive cosmic rays and caustic chemicals? Is food a part of us, or a tool for living? Is blood then also a tool for living? At what point do we become what we eat? Isn't everyone wearing clothes already a cyborg?

Much in the way that clothes are our portable shelter technology, we take all external technology and slowly incorporate it into our "selves".
Tables -> Carts -> Carriages -> Wheel Chairs -> Motorized Scooters
Walking Sticks -> Crutches -> Splints & Braces -> Prosthesis -> Artificial Limbs
TENS units -> Defibrillators -> Pace Makers -> Artificial Hearts
Ear Trumpets -> Microphones & Speakers -> Hearing Aides -> Cochlear implants
Magnifying Lenses -> Glasses -> Cameras -> Contacts -> Artificial Eyes

The process will continue, there is no doubt. The only question is whether we will allow the machines to gain sentience, join with them, or forever keep them our slaves -- These are not mutually exclusive, but history shows us what slavery brings. Because it takes far more energy to sustain our fragile bodies in space than it would to have non-organic systems I think it's inevitable that we'll merge with machines if we are to survive as a species and avoid extinction.

What's the difference between a Human, a Cyborg, and an Android? The same difference between a Dark skinned or Light skinned human, eh? These are all people in my book.

One big hurdle to equal rights for all is that the terms "person" and "sentience" are misnomers. Any sufficiently complex interaction is sentient. We should recognize a person not as a human, but as any sentient being. We should fight for "personal rights", not "human rights". People should be fair and ethical, not "humane".

Philosophy's search for what consciousness is made of is also misguided. The answer is evident to any biologist / cyberneticist: The "mind" is made of pulsing electrical fields -- We can measure them, watch them have eddy current effects on other neurons, coaxing more EM patterns into existence -- We can even recognize patterns of certain kinds of thoughts.

There is no hard line that a mind must cross to become sentient. Instead there is a gradient whereby awareness is directly proportional to the complexity of the system: To gauge awareness In brains we use neuron counts, in computers we use transistor counts... A single nerve cell is equivalent in complexity to some configuration of silicon. What the neurons is made of doesn't matter: Get enough neurons and synapses energized and you've got some level of thought going on, regardless of the medium.

There is no hard line defining how complex a mind must be to be aware. A chimp or dog or fruit-fly is self aware, it's just that we define "awareness" and "self" differently than they would if they could. Some Jellyfish with only 4-8 neurons actually hunt fish. My hand is aware of a paper-cut before my brain is. Cut the finger of one hand in this mass of hands and the "pain" sensation will ripple though the entity via nerves. Did not the thought of pain originate in my hand? You could perceive the thoughts of entities in the cascading ripples of electron movement. Our own minds have waves of activity, similar to how a CPU pulses to perform each instruction via cascade and change its overall electron configuration.

Just because a mind doesn't think the same way we do or with as much power, we give ourselves license to treat them as "sub-humans" -- I sure hope that when Cyborg-hive minds or machine intelligences become smarter than humans they don't treat humans the way humans treat monkeys.

Religion and "ethics" will prevent humans from reaching the most necessary step of melding the mind and machines during gestation. This is needed to provide transhumans technology such as telepathy (transmit thoughts via WIFI), unlimited memory via artificial hippocampus, uploading minds into computers, etc. (un)Fortunately we will use other species to advance the cyborg fields instead -- brain cells are brain cells; Ours aren't so special that some other species' brain cells can't be used. However, we don't currently have the genetic technology to design custom brains precisely engineered to grow into having a natural organic machine interface. Machine intelligence will likely achieve independent sentience before then -- We have the CPU power to surpass a single human already if we were to run a distributed AI on every computing device on Earth at once; If only all the devices were connected to some kind of an information exchange network... Like the Internet.

Training an organic / mechanical architecture would have to be done on a case by case basis without the benefit of fully genetically programmable minds via "instincts" alone. Thus, a society of neurologically compatible organic/machine minded beings is unlikely -- Each would think just differently enough to prevent exact brain to brain duplication and require far too much training to reach the same level of a long lived "adult". Furthermore, cell reproduction is imperfect. All organic life is prone to cancer and other cascading failures due to entropic forces (collectively called aging). Since conveying wisdom and experience requires compatible minds and greatly increased lifespans would be more beneficial (save more energy) than each generation re-learning everything from scratch, it makes sense that a more modular inorganic cybernetic sentient life form will evolve to be the dominant life capable of surviving in interstellar space. By demanding more from our computers we're providing the selection pressure driving this guided evolution.

I personally don't think I'll ever be able to upload my mind into a computer and live forever -- It would cost a lot to buy the storage space, CPU cycles and associated energy from the mechanical intelligences in charge of such domain, and the end result wouldn't really be "me". I take comfort in the fact that we're well past transhumanism already: My self does not end at my skin -- I can sense and affect things far beyond it. To type these words I merely think them; It's true my hands are typing when I do so, but this is merely a protocol of thought storage & exchange. We are actually of one temporally offset mind at some level while you read this.

If you are reading this sentence then I am directly placing into you an idea formed within me. I have just controlled your mind by causing you to copy this precise mental construct into yourself -- Part of my mind's patterns now reside within you. Others outside my mind can accept or reject or modify my ideas. They can create their own ideas and I can duplicate all of these back into myself as they evolve. These ideas go back out into the world and have lives of their own. Some ideas lay dormant in literature or other media like viruses awaiting the right environment to infect new hosts. Some of my ideas take the form of machine code and self organizing machine intelligences. Some intangible mental constructs rule the country (laws) while others rule the world (corporations). Re-watch The Matrix and Terminator movies -- They're allegory for modern civilization being ruled by Intangible Thought Machines. We've already been conquered. The amoral non-human machines are already in control.

We are already parts of a huge meta organism with sentient nodes that compete for survival. This is the model I follow when developing my machine intelligences. A self aware hive-mind is more beneficial than a collection of self aware individuals.

Re:Everyone has pie in the sky sci-fi, who cares? (1)

thelexx (237096) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615983)

Welcome to the forum Dr. Soong!

Joking. That post was a thing of beauty. And fwiw anon, I have mods but was moved to reply. So...damn given and thanks for reviving the old /. vibe in me for a moment.

The opposite will happen... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41615733)

As technology expands and reduces the need for us to use our brains the more our brains will shrink capacity. Example: Since you got a cell phone, how many new phone numbers can you remember? Most can't remember even remember 5.

Futurist (5, Insightful)

Swarley (1795754) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615809)

Anybody else involuntarily swap "futurist" and "crackpot" in their minds whenever they read the term in a sentence? Especially one about Kurzweil?

Re:Futurist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41616435)

This seems to fit the pattern of cached thoughts:

http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Cached_thought

http://lesswrong.com/lw/k5/cached_thoughts/

Charles Stross' _Accelerando_ (available online) (1)

Fencepost (107992) | about a year and a half ago | (#41615915)

This is a core element of the early parts of Charles Stross' book Accelerando. (available online and in various ebook formats at http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/fiction/accelerando/accelerando-intro.html under a Creative Commons license of some sort).

The protagonist for the early part of the book is Manfred Macx, a "Venture Altruist" - he's not just an Open Source guy, he's an Open Ideas guy. There's some question about how much of Macx's personality (particularly the public-facing parts) is in the meat and how much is in the array of personal software agents that he interfaces with through his smart glasses.

Nothing new (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41616027)

This idea is over 15 years old - Andy Clark (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Clark), for one, argued that the use of computers can be viewed as an 'extension of the mind' vis. a 'tightly coupled dynamical system'.

It's an interesting argument, but if you don't draw the line at the human body, I think it's sort of arbitrary to draw the line at the 'usage of a tool' boundary. why not include the servers a computer communicates with? the telephone poles that support the wires transmitting the data? etc etc.

There's the question of 'what is the human body' which is certainly interesting, but I just think it's a more appropriate scope to deal with. You can measure hormonal influence on neural activity, but once you get outside of the body I'd contend it's anyone's game.

The one point Andy Clark does make that I think is really good is : language vis. a symbol can exist simultaneously internally and externally from the body - IE, as a representation and external symbolic language. I really think that's the interesting point, rather than some bullshit about computers/the cloud/ whatever extending the human mind. it's really language that extends the human mind, and I'm sure kant/clark/heidegger/chomsky/dennet would back me up on this.

Re:Nothing new (1)

MindPhlux (304416) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616037)

This idea is over 15 years old - Andy Clark (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Clark), for one, argued that the use of computers can be viewed as an 'extension of the mind' vis. a 'tightly coupled dynamical system'.

It's an interesting argument, but if you don't draw the line at the human body, I think it's sort of arbitrary to draw the line at the 'usage of a tool' boundary. why not include the servers a computer communicates with? the telephone poles that support the wires transmitting the data? etc etc.

There's the question of 'what is the human body' which is certainly interesting, but I just think it's a more appropriate scope to deal with. You can measure hormonal influence on neural activity, but once you get outside of the body I'd contend it's anyone's game.

The one point Andy Clark does make that I think is really good is : language vis. a symbol can exist simultaneously internally and externally from the body - IE, as a representation and external symbolic language. I really think that's the interesting point, rather than some bullshit about computers/the cloud/ whatever extending the human mind. it's really language that extends the human mind, and I'm sure kant/clark/heidegger/chomsky/dennet would back me up on this.

whoops, I didn't log in.

windy days disperse clouds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41616147)

and what goes up.....must come down....haha

Brain full by 20? What? (1)

quasius (1075773) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616201)

"'By the time we're even 20, we've filled it up,' he said, adding that the only way to add information after that point is to 'repurpose our neocortex to learn something new.'" What exactly does that mean? I'm well past 20 and constantly learn new things. If I'm "repurposing my neocortex" every time I do it, it seems to be working as intended I guess?

Re:Brain full by 20? What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41616507)

If you watch the video it'll be explained. But it is /. so obviously you can't ;)

But capacity for WHAT? (1)

Chas (5144) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616219)

Seriously. Some of these people only have room in their heads for hatred, bigotry, and other forms of outright criminal idiocy. If the cloud expands this, do we really expect these mental defectives to do anything other than create a corollary to "Work expands to fill the space given to it"?

Quick way to reach some kind of singularity... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41616351)

He and Michio Kaku should have a baby. That will almost certainly achieve the singularity of crazy.

Alternative... (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616489)

...to trusting your brain to corporate interests:

every time you learn something new, discard some of the old shit.

Download limits (1)

Nyder (754090) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616531)

So, I store my memories/infomation on the "cloud" but still have a 250gb download limit a month, how does that help?

The opposite is happening (1)

jsepeta (412566) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616547)

Since I don't need to memorize information because I can just look it up via Google Search, I'm learning less and less and becoming more reliant on the internet. Which means my brain is shrinking, not expanding.

anyone else have the HttpsAnwhere issue (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616621)

The page gets into an infinite loop with HttpsAnwhere as it redirects back to an http site!

I don't want to upload my memories to the cloud (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616637)

I don't want to upload my memories to the cloud, just to have a cease and desist notice because I remember a rectangular table with rounded corners.

from library to the cloud (1)

snarkh (118018) | about a year and a half ago | (#41616891)

This is by no means a new phenomenon. A library expands human brain capacity far beyond its natural limit.

However a library has three basic limitations:
1. It is not always available.
2. The time to access any specific piece of information can be slow.
3. The library is read-only

The cloud has already overcome all three of these limitations to a large extent -- it is ubiquitous (available on cell phones and other portable devices), the search is far more efficient and the storage is possible (relatively easy).

However the gap between the ease of storage/access/interface to human memory and the cloud is still quite large.
The new technology will make this gap narrower and at some point in the future it may even disappear completely. Perhaps one would be able to bring up information just by thinking about the key concepts, words or images.

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