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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 hope we are on the brink.

    Conceptually, it is possible. But it is quite difficult to do.
    I think you need a set of good self-learning algorithms and some real good sensors.
    as Watson is already doing some cool feats, it seems plausible to assume we are getting towards a decent AI that can resemble human intelligence.

    I hope that it will become a lot smarter and wiser though.
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      Mar 29 2013: Meaning...smarter and wiser than us?

      "Biological computer created with human DNA (http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/03/29/digital-evolution-dna-may-bring-computers-to-life/) The transistor revolutionized electronics and computing. Now, researchers have made a biological transistor from DNA that could be used to create living computers. ... The scientists created biological versions of these logic gates, by carefully calibrating the flow of enzymes along the DNA (just like electrons inside a wire). They chose enzymes that would be able to function in bacteria, fungi, plants and animals, so that biological computers might be made with a wide variety of organisms, Bonnet said. ... The researchers have made their biological logic gates available to the public to encourage people to use and improve them."

      Technology moves at an ever dizzying faster pace...
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        Mar 31 2013: what an interesting possibility
        so using the existing informational processes or DNA, we can enhance computing?
        it makes sense that since evolution has had millions of years to create complexity, why start from scratch. Could this suggest a future brain-computer symbiosis?

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