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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: @Danger Lampost
    There is already the famous Turing test but I didn't get around to actually reading it yet.
    I think my test would be about detecting subjective form of thinking
    For that we need:
    Unpredictability: the result must be truly distinct in both form and function.(which means you can't simply use random generators)
    Ability to contemplate and find meaning in something totally obscure to fabricate something reasonably new .
    Ability to weave connection between an arbitrary list of elements.
    Finally Ability to give a descriptive answer of 5 sentences to the question "What are life on an alien planet like?" regardless if its been there or not.
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      Mar 27 2013: Those are some great tests.

      I wonder how the IBM Watson software that beat all human opponents in a real game of Jeopardy would do with your test, if appropriately reprogrammed? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFR3lOm_xhE
      • Mar 27 2013: as an experiment Id love to see a super-computer having chemical imbalance:
        As in having either organic or chemical cells to preserve state in and having the content bias of said cells globally influenced by changing the chemical balance to arrive at altered data from what was originally intended:
        The corrupted data is then assembled by a reconstruction process to yield an approximate outcome.

        The Approximation is basically doing a math process that yield a number and that number is processed to an address that points at a place in memory.

        The Computer's memory is a list of objects with each object offering description of Visuals, Smell, Sound and Function that defined how the object can be used.
        Few examples:
        Apple: Red apple shape, apple smell, sounds and it can be eaten, shot with an arrow, thrown, smashed etc
        Mouth : mouth shape, foul breath smell, chewing sounds and it can eat stuff, lick stuff , smile,l kiss etc.
        Pencil: pencil shape , lead smell, scribble sound and it can draw lines on surfaces, poke holes in stuff, break etc.
        and so on.

        Now lets say the chemical change is conditioned by something like a combo of Thermo + Photo-sensing or response to photo-recognition ratio of symmetry etc to mimic a crude form of emotional response.

        By now the computer learned 3 elements: Pre-currupt Object, Reconstructed Outcome Object and the Chemical sense Ratio and it can do math operations using all 3 to produce even more derived data and reprocess it.

        Since all Data have function after its psuedo-emotional process made it arrive at the 3 objects listed above : (apple,mouth pencil) it can now further currupt and reconstruct the data to make new previously unconcieved objects
        For example: lets assume that in this process the selected Apple accidentally recieved the 'can eat stuff' function.
        The computer ask himself what else in memory has the 'can eat stuff' function and arrives at mouth so it attaches mouth to apple to combine them ... ran out of writing space :)
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        Mar 29 2013: Thanks DL! Funny watching the guy on the right in the video jump each time he attempted to hit the button first before Watson and the other guy. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFR3lOm_xhE)

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