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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 18 2013: Well it is a convenient thought to separate all that we are, all that we know of from this small piece of fatty tissue inside our skull that can barely even wiggle (and no, your brain doesn't actually wiggle when you think XD). But the fact is, we are who we are! Our mind is what our brain supports. This is a scientific fact almost every single psychologist will agree with me, without the brain, our minds don't exist at all, there's nothing beyond that.
      For example, you say the brain is not capable of memory, although we can't prove what memory is or how it's stored, but at least we can say that after removing a part of the physical brain (the hippocampus), people can lose either ability to remember! That's not saying that the little piece of brain we remove is exactly like a hard drive that you can stick into somebody else, but it should at least say that even things like memory is manifested through the brain.
      Besides what do we know about our mind anyway? There is no way we can understand how our ind works by simply thinking, cuz that's obviously part of the paradigm of our mind itself. But at least the very least the conclusion is: science claims that thoughts originate from the brain, science is right. (where else can it come from??)
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        • Mar 18 2013: Ok I really do not wish to turn this into a debate of whether or not a "soul" exists. To be honest I am not sure myself but the thing is, how can you prove such a thing? Take your table example, you say I turn the lights off and claim that the table doesn't exist anymore, but the thing is, Does it?? If there is no way to access something, does it mean it still exists? If it does, how do you know?
          You can say that the table still exists because you can always turn the lights back on or use some other ways of detection, but what if you can't? What if, like you said, you remove the light bulb and that's it? You're never going to find that table again, then it this case it technically doesn't exist? At least that's true in the field of physics and computer science...
        • Mar 18 2013: Hi, Chris !
          I would suggest you to listen to Rupert Sheldrake's talk "The Science Delusion" , while it is available on the page of open discussion.
          Dogma 7, 8..you may start from 04.05 mark.
          http://blog.ted.com/2013/03/14/open-for-discussion-graham-hancock-and-rupert-sheldrake/comment-page-2/#comments

          Hope you'll enjoy this brilliant talk !
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        • Mar 18 2013: Haha you do like to pull latin words a lot don't you, but the truth is latin doesn't prove anything, simply because a word has a certain roots in latin doesn't have any meaning on the actual significance of the word. Latin's meaning comes from cultures long ago, and that, is what I call backwards. Are you saying that the Romans are more advanced than us in scientific knowledge?
          And you know what you right, my apologies for simply skimming through your argument and assumed that you used the same boring analogy of a table....that was my mistake, let me adopt your way of quote every single line i seem to write (that's really not nessesary by the way).

          "If you turn on a table lamp and then remove the bulb from the lamp, it doesn't affect the electricity, it simply affects the element through which electricity is manifested. "
          Ok first of all if you have any knowledge of electrical enginnering or just simple common sense, you will realize that electricity actuallys Stops flowing once the circuit is broken by removing the lamp, if it's still running something is going to fry :). But of course that's not your argument, what you are saying is that electricity can exist without a lightbulb showing that "hey! i'm here!". But my question is the same, does it?
          The world exists in our mind only as our perception of the world. Let me take a more famous example, how do you know that the world doesn't fall apart whenever you are not looking and come back together whenever you do? You don't know, that's the problem, because our knowledge of existence goes only to what we can perceive, it doesn't go beyond that.
        • Mar 18 2013: continued:
          So in this sense, taking the lightbulb out not only stops the flow of electricity (as a matter of fact), it also makes it impossible for us to detect the electricity (theoretically of course, there are many other ways but that's not of the argument), thus the electricitiy seize to exist.
          That's the same for our soul, what exists is what we can see, and my proof is simple, I put a bullet in your brain, you will seize all acitivty at once (please don't try this at home XD). This is direct evidence that our brain governs behavior. Now, your turn to prove the existence of a soul in us. Can you take it away? Is there any visible evidence that such as thing exists? Pull out some facts and evidence, let's see what there is.
          And about you directly attack the notion of science now....I really have no comment on it since you didn't even make an argument and even if you did I don't think it's that relevant to the topic. To be honest I think science is a load of bull most of the time, but that doesn't mean we shuoldn't disrespect it.
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          Mar 23 2013: Good day Chris,

          I agree with everything but the memory part. I think memory is stored in our whole body and that we actually think and store memory in our physical body. Its the hand that tells you to move when its close to a flame, the brain is the processor. But it is also instinctual the trick I feel is to get the whole body to think and react instinctively much like how a tennis player doesn't actually see the tennis ball when they are hitting it. If we did not store our personal memory on the physical body there would be no separation of what is you personal memory and what is mine.

          "but the brain does not generate or store anything. It receives and transmits a constant loop from the mind to the body and from the body to the mind. It is incapable of generating thought or storing memory, as these are aspects of the mind, not the brain."

          If I could I would like to substitute mind for light/energy. II think the light/mind carry's , stores and "burns" the information onto the cells. Check out this ted talk, he talks about how actual cell vibrate when asked a question.

          http://www.ted.com/talks/jeff_hawkins_on_how_brain_science_will_change_computing.html

          This is from another ted convo about language:( I even quoted you) Everything is movement….everything. The earth wobbles which the mayan knew about, is that language? The earth spins is that language? Then is rotates around the sun, is that language? When the sun shines on the earth the earth actually gives back information. Topography of the celestial bodies could and can be seen as written language with the sun acting like a cd player reading and writing on to the celestial bodies(including self( ever hear of a thing called enlightenment)), could this be seen as written language absolutely. And is most likely how information is stored on a universal level.
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          Mar 23 2013: ( "Where does it get mass from?"

          As I understand it, when a wave is observed, it becomes a point; this is how mass is created.~ Chris Kelly )
          Since waves are movement and movement creates mass and language, this just refers back to the idea that mass/language is a external representation of an internal process “a thought/language/lexicon” place holder.
          What would we be holding into place? Existence, why because it is real if it wasn’t that would mean the gods are not real either and they are just as real as the reality that is around. All gods exist if man has put belief or faith into them then they are real. Its man’s/gods belief in other that makes all of this real. Now have things certainly got lost in translation absolutely.
          Ever hear someone say that the room is spinning, well truthfully it is spinning its actually really odd that it does not always feel this way.
          Or if I drop a pen did it fall straight down? Everybody says yes, the guy who asked the questions say no it actually moved x distance to the left. But thats wrong as well because he and we also moved x distance to the left at the same time
          …..On a side note language was created to give man something to complain about ;)

          Humbly Casey

          Also would enjoy your mind on this convo
          http://www.ted.com/conversations/17185/do_we_really_see_live_in_3_di.html

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