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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 8 2013: you wrote: "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?"

    yes, there are limits to what we can describe with language....for example, how does one describe the color red to a person blind from birth? or a taste? or your emotions?

    Would you elaborate as to what you mean by human-like digital mind? Also, I'm not aware of anyone in the neurosciences who would suggest we are remotely close to understanding how the mind/brain works in sufficient detail to provide a blueprint which could be mimicked in the form of a machine. And then there's consciousness - what's that all about?
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      Mar 10 2013: You would describe red as EMR with a wavelength of around 700nm and the AI would learn the associations with heat and blood and love just as we do.
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        Mar 11 2013: Sorry, but that doesn't wash.. The question was about creating a mind, creating consciousness, which to me is radically different than just cobbling together sophisticated AI software with ever more detailed and convoluted programs running on faster machines.
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          Mar 12 2013: I consider myself a machine, and every other chemical based mechanism. There is no consciousness, just very complicated mechanisms.

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