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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 29 2013: Here's an interesting article plucked from today's headlines:

    Biological computer created with human DNA


    Never say never...
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      Mar 30 2013: There is a distinct possibility there.
      Human brain does not work like the computers. It learns patters, problem-answer co-relations, draws analogies and uses guesswork, which some describe as gesticulation. If you see the power requirements of super computers or computers that are claimed anywhere near human brains you will be shocked. Yet human brains achieve this feat within 10 watts of power. This is simply because it does not compute the whole algorithm every time.
      I think if computers or rather bio-computers can ever reach the efficiency of human brains, it will also show mood, emotions, feelings, notions, superstitions and belief systems just like human brains.
      There is no free lunch.
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      Mar 30 2013: With respect to your referred article, I remember something interesting.
      About 98% of human non-coding DNA or junk DNA as lay press call it. Even if we discount say another 8% of it as of some unknown requirement, there is high probability that a high percentage of DNA is non-coding. How about using it to store information? Of course we have to use a quaternary code instead of binary but that gives even more space! I don't know through whatever technology, imagine you can carry in your blood sample world's greatest libraries and can access it easily whenever you want. I leave it on your imagination what your offspring's DNA will contain. It's not exactly computing but interesting, isn't?

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