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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 28 2013: i believe there should be a cap on the whole process!?.. look what is happening around the world, for the race of new tech. you got hin a hacking in our chinese made computers... you have armenians and other middle eastern people learing to defraud our socials and what not!?.. the race for the best tech is gonna lead to terminator story turning into reality!?.. who says that one day the government will have a real super computer thats just like the one in "eagle eye"... machines will always be machines, but they sure as hell dont go through emotions!?.. as humans, machines are also prone to make a mistakes!.. id rather work to fix a human error vs. dealing with a computer system that has to be diagnosed to find and then fix what could already be a catastrophic error!?
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      Mar 31 2013: About 40,000 years ago the first human being landed in Australia, navigating thousands of miles of uncharted oceans. Man achieved this with absolutely no knowledge of what they would find. This kind of intrinsic curiosity and ability to see beyond fear created one of the greatest civilizations in existence 200 years ago. This is the same fear that the catholic church cultivated so well for so long. To this fear we owe at least a thousand years of progress, the fear which sent Galileo to his death.

      Also, whole peoples cannot be singled out for blame, that is the kind of thinking exploited by the likes of Hitler, Jim Crow and countless leaders in human history. Creating a cycle of misunderstanding and hate. Easy answers and guilty culprits please those who are in emotional pain, but will never stand up to clear rational thinking. Change and progress will always be scary for it will force adaptation upon everyone.

      I fully agree with establishing a framework on how to proceed with this Star Trek reality we will soon live in. For a start, its time to establish when life is conscious, what consciousness is and what is life.

      Will we remain in this comforting darkness,
      in the womb of our own ignorance,
      or will we take a chance and breath the air of the living?

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