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Jeffrey Fadness

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Are we on the brink of creating a human-like digital mind?

The human brain contains some 100 billion neurons, grouped in specialized function zones, connected by a hundred thousand billion synapses - the neurons representing individual data processing and storage units; and synapses the data transfer cabling, connecting all the processing units.

Correlating its processing ability to a supercomputer, it's been estimated it can perform more than 38 thousand trillion operations per second, and hold about 3.6 million gigabytes of memory. Equally impressive, it's estimated that the human brain executes this monumental computational task on a mere equivalent of 20 watts of power; about the same energy to power a single, dim light bulb. In today's technology, a supercomputer designed to deliver comparable capabilities would require roughly 100 megawatts (100 million watts) of power; an energy equivalent that could fully satisfy the power consumption needs of roughly a thousand households.

An ambitious $1.3 billion project was very recently announced in Europe to simulate a human mind in the form of a complete human brain in a supercomputer. It's named the Human Brain Project. A similar project in the U.S. planned by National Institutes of Health (NIH) is called the Brain Activity Map project.

Assuming we learn enough from these efforts to design a new architecture in computer processing which can approximate the ability of the human brain - what's to stop us from creating the cognitive faculties that enable consciousness, thinking, reasoning, perception, and judgement? After all, we as human beings develop these abilities from data we acquire over time through sensory inputs connecting us to our experiences, and from information communicated to us by others.

Think about it. Is there anything related to our experience - be it physical, historical or conceptual - that cannot be described in language, and therefore be input as executable data and programming to create a human-like digital mind?


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    Mar 6 2013: What is the opportunity cost and what is the opportunity benefit?
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      Mar 6 2013: We can never know precisely from the beginning, but in the rear view, here posted once again is Obama's justification based on results gleaned from the Human Genome Project:

      “Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy — every dollar." (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/science/project-seeks-to-build-map-of-human-brain.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)
    • Mar 11 2013: The big benefits of super human intelligence are literally unimaginable, but here are some possibilities:

      A super humanly intelligent computer could read and relate ALL of the research papers about everything. This could lead to advances that human specialists would never consider. There is so much research being done today that scientists cannot (literally) read all of the papers in their own field, much less try to keep up on other fields. By relating and understanding all of the research available from all fields, any number of problems might be solved. Some examples:

      Cures for cancer, autoimmune diseases, schizophrenia, etc.
      Cheap energy, which would solve many other problems, including clean water
      Theory of Everything (combining the Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics)

      On a personal level, imagine being able to ask your computer for advice about personal decisions (e.g. which car or house to buy) and getting the best advice available, based on all of your personal values and all of the data regarding all products available. This would enhance our personal lives immeasurably.

      There is a good reason that so many people are spending so much money on AI. It will be more than worth the price.

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