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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 11 2013: Nothing can fully reach human intellect through emotion, feeling, and actions, and nothing can reach such high potential as the human mind. This is why humans still manage to beat robots at chess or solve problems that the computer couldn't solve. I think artificial intelligence, in my opinion isn't fully likely to happen.
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      Mar 11 2013: It has been many years since a human has beaten a computer at chess.
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      Mar 11 2013: That isnt true. Computers beat humans at chess ages ago, and there s no problem the computer cant solve. The only things is that the variables the computer needs to solve the problem as made by humans and thats where the error comes from.
      Also, you don't need emotion to create the brain. You see, in order for artificial intelligence to work the only criteria is that the computer has to become self aware, that is, it has to realize its own existence.
    • Mar 11 2013: To say a human brain cannot be simulated you have to define a factor in the human brain that can not be duplicated. Scientists believe that the human brain consists of a limited set of cells and that those cells use chemical reactions to interact. Every thought process and behavior can be studied and theoretically simulated via computer modeling. The religious and other various forms of science-deniers believe that there is such thing as a human soul that either can not be studied or has resisted observation by any scientific techniques (the way super-beings like deities have resisted such techniques). So the question is do you believe in a magical soul that can not be studied or do you believe that human behavior can be linked to biological processes? If you believe in a soul you fall into the hard problem of consciousness area where you are certain that you have a soul because you are special, but how do you know if other people have a soul? How can you be certain that other people have consciousness? So perhaps you should work on finding a way to prove that computers don't have souls that won't also work on people.

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