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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 27 2013: Is it possible to create a human-like digital mind? That is what you ask.
    My answer is: no, never. That has nothing to do with processing speed and has everything to do with the nature of the data that has to be processed.
    The human mind has to handle four types of "data":
    1. physical data to keep the body working properly.
    2. physical calculations, like can I lift that box, jump that ditch?
    3. emotions, like love, hate, sorrow, self-respect. (Please that note physical pain is not an emotion but a body-signal.)
    4. self-awareness.
    The first two can be handled by the brain, which is a digital computer; it works with pulses and what it lacks in speed is compensated by parallel processing.
    The last two cannot be handled digitally, because the "data" are abstractions, things that cannot be expressed in words, things that you cannot explain to someone else. Everybody has to experience those themselves to understand what they are.
    Because you cannot express them in words or mathematical expressions, you cannot produce coding for it and let it be handled by a digital computer.
    That is why all artificial intelligence projects have failed so far.
    I am convinced, on basis of my experiences, that my emotions and self-awareness are handled by my soul.
    At this point you are on the edge of religion, paranormal experiences, whatever and here rational discussion ends.
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      Mar 29 2013: Interesting point of view, but why can't we explain emotions in words and therefore write programming code?

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