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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 16 2013: I think people will love it and will push for it as a large amount of people don't want to connect in the usual way, in fact i would say they want to not think or search but would rather have someone else do it for them. A personal slave that can be edited, turned off when it brings up something uncomfortable or stroke your ego to your hearts desire. The imagined perfect companion. Is this about creating a mind for creations sake, to bring forth a new mind or is it about an accessory to fill a hole?

    EDITED=I'm not against it but if we are creating life then we must be clear on a few things. The last 40 to 50 years of sci- fi to games have all the classic elements of A.I, so, we have a few generations that have grown up with the idea that this is the natural course and step we will take but should we? If we create something that mimics "us" down to a "T" Then we would have to create a world for it as well, it would not be morally right to subject an intelligence to a life of observation and that's it, just observation.
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        Mar 21 2013: Eventually he will Chris, maybe it's a neurosis but there has always been a theme in myth and modern writings to bring forth a mind from our own hands and the way to achieve this is to call it a "Milestone", an "Achievement". Some see it as a node in our growth, something shiny, a lust for chocolate.
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      Mar 25 2013: Agreed. One of the primary questions advanced in the movie "Bicentennial Man".

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