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Human mind Vs Robotic program

According to talk by Sabastian Seung "I am my connectome", once we achieve complete connectome map, we may be able to understand how brain works.

I would like to think further. Based on this technology, we will be able to stimulate one's brain with the right signals in order to get the expected outcome; for example, if I'd only know which neurones, synapses and neural activities are triggered when one's playing piano, I'd just be treated with "artificial" stimulus and as a result I should be able to learn how to play the piano (not even have to sit in the lesson myself. How amazing is that!?)

Now, here's the philosophy question. I wonder if we could do that, what would be different between us and robot? Since this neural cascaded partway is the basic how our mind work, now if we could alter it, do we have total control on our mind? Dose free-will still exist in that case? or it dose but in limited scale?

Also with this technology, what else you think we can benefit from and what kind of applications from it that should be extensively reviewed before they will allowed to be used?

Hope this will be a nice informative debate. :D

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  • May 31 2011: Interesting, but we need a robot that can generate peace, and more jobs.
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    Jun 8 2011: I'm afraid i'm with david,one can't look at the brain and come at it with an engineers perspective,i keep wondering if and when we are able to add an interface that the system might regress as reliance on an external source will indicate to the system to cut back,you can see this with bodybuilders on steroids,the system is always in tweak mode constantly,up one and it decreases another to balance itself out or it wears it out til injury occurs.it would take nanotech and genetic recoding to speed up the brain to aquire fast skillset patterns,hell i'm only guessing but even i know that the brain just can't be jacked in with a USB. I do know that memory is encoded with smell and a set of emotions to go with each snapshot.I don't think our current binary system for programs will do the trick i think we have to start looking at mimicing DNA as a system for programming before we start tampering with our brains.
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    May 31 2011: Although there may be missing pieces to our understanding of the way the mind works, I believe humans will eventually be able to create forms of intelligence which match their own intellectual capability. How long this will take is open to debate, but with exponential increases in knowledge it may be sooner than we would guess.

    What is your opinion Kelwalin?
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      Jun 1 2011: Tim, I'm not sure what you mean when you refer to "exponential increases in knowledge." What is your measure of that? How is knowledge the same or different from data, information and wisdom?

      The term "exponential increase" is tossed around a lot these days. I think it's used too loosely, so I'm skeptical.
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        Jun 1 2011: Perhaps "exponential" is not technically correct in terms of inherent limitations on growth. However, knowledge increases more than linearly. With world-wide dispersal of information knowledge builds on itself at increasing rates, often exponentially until road-blocks are hit (see Ultimate Limits of Moore's law - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore's_law#Ultimate_limits_of_the_law).

        In any case, it is impossible to predict when certain accomplishments will be attained. But when goals aren't achieved as predicted it is no reason to consider them unattainable.

        If you are saying that you are skeptical that artificial intelligence superior to humans will ever be achieved, can you explain why you believe that?
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          Jun 2 2011: Well "ever" has the suggestion of infinity and I'd be foolish to say anything can never be done. But my observation is that quite frequently big ambitions greatly underestimate the complexity of what's involved so they fall short of their prognostications. Curing cancer, nuclear fusion as an abundant power source, and, above all, artificial intelligence seem to be things that have turned out to be far more complex than anybody thought. Some prognosticators are still making extravagant claims (eg, Kurzeweil, et al and the singularity). I'm no longer impressed with electronic engineers who think they can reverse-engineer the brain. I've personally known Silicon Valley engineers who thought they could manage cancer research better than medical and biological scientists. It took them a few years to learn that all biology is more complex than any electronics they had worked on. Perhaps the biggest finding of the last decade of genome decoding is that the processes of gene expression into a phenotype is much more complex than anybody thought when the first genome was sequenced a decade ago. Beyond these mountains are more mountains.
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      Jun 3 2011: Agree with you, Tim, and I wish we're right. Our knowledges are growing very fast now and I hope we'll live to see these advance technologies come in use.

      David, thanks again for interesting articles. So far, it seems to me that there're more and more evidences suggested that we are not totally in control of our mind and therefore free-will is just an illusion.

      For me, I have no difficulty to accept this fact. Fact is a fact. However, I prefer to "hypnotise" myself to believe that I can control myself; I can do what I believe. It just something that motivate me to keep improving.

      But it's almost like a prophecy to me that this idea may fear and/or dispirited many. One may feel like life is meaningless. Or to be more worrying, one may feel irresponsible for what has been done or about to take action, claiming that it's not his/her false cause it's out of power to control his/her own mind. I think we need to be smart in order to spread this fact and make sure that the communities will have a good understand.

      What do you guys think?
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    May 31 2011: Kelwalin, you may be interested in reading an article in Scientific American by biologist Carl Zimmer titled: "Can You Live Forever?" He challenges many of the predictions about acquisition of intelligence and uploading memory and personality by people like Ray Kurzweil as they confidently talk about a coming "singularity". Essentially Zimmer suggests that there is plenty of reason to be skeptical. Biology is much, much more complex that engineers think.
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    May 31 2011: We would be their God - that would be the main difference. And we have lots of evidence about how creations 'serve' their gods..
  • May 30 2011: The ability to change one's mind or to make another choice or to make an illogical choice is something robotics programs will not be able to comprehend or adjust to. The moment you program a robot to make choices and simulate making a decision, then it is not free choice but a predetermined one, which in any case, is still not human.
  • May 30 2011: Let me pose a few questions:
    Has free-will ever existed? Is absolute free-will even possible? How?
    What are the precise boundaries that determine who you are? Your body, your brain, or just part of your brain?


    I see no intrinsic difference between us and robots, only temporary extrinsic differences because of current technological restraints.
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      Jun 2 2011: You seem to be suggesting there is no free will. What do you base that on
      • Jun 2 2011: The conventional concept of free will I think people have in mind is libertarian, incompatibilist free will.

        If your actions are determined by your brain and your brain obeys physical laws, there doesn't seem to be any room for free will. If your brain's activities are causally determined, then there's no free will. Even if your brain's activities contain some kind of genuine randomness, that still doesn't permit them to be free.

        I think this post characterizes my view in a more long winded fashion: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/free-will-why-you-still-dont-have-it/ , especially the quote below:

        "Most people’s view of the mind is implicitly dualist and libertarian and not materialist and compatibilist . . . [I]ntuitive free will is libertarian, not compatibilist. That is, it requires the rejection of determinism and an implicit commitment to some kind of magical mental causation . . . contrary to legal and philosophical orthodoxy, determinism really does threaten free will and responsibility as we intuitively understand them" (Greene J & J. Cohen. 2004).
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          Jun 2 2011: Thanks for the reference to Harris' article, Jonathan. I read it quickly and I've got to say I don't get it. I'll need to do more reading on "compatibilism". At the end he concludes: " Thoughts and intentions simply arise in the mind. What else could they do?" I dunno, Sam, what's your theory? Let's test it. He trashes free-will but leaves us with something as inconclusive as that! I don't buy it. Seems to me the article is a mish-mash of ideas about thought and mind that have been chewed on by philosophers for a couple thousand years mixed in with a smattering of recent neuroscience. And, as with philosophy and psychology through the past few centuries, we still have very partial knowledge of how the brain -- the only organ of consciousness and mind we can be sure of -- works. I will explore more, but I've learned to be more patient and wait until more is known scientifically with these deeply complex questions before standing on some conclusion. In the meantime we can all have a lot of fun with speculation, personal hypotheses, and opinions here on the TED forums. When science finally spells it out we'll have lost an entertaining mystery.
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    May 29 2011: Are all brains same ? Is not there lot variations interms of number of neurones, types, structure and so on.............
    So successful mapping trigerring them in same way will not make them same.
    Are not we now seeing the same sunshine, hearing singing birds , do we all perceive them same or have same impact ?
    Don't want to completely discard ethical part but all the time there was speed gap between scientific development and societal ethical standard that's why, in time of Hyppocrates and before any sort of illness was considered CURSE of GOD. Any attempt of curing those was considered as trespass in the arena of GOD.
  • A. Rez

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    May 28 2011: I think you can already say that our brains are very mechanical. Like you said, the further our scientist get at mapping our brain completely, the easier it will be for us to perceive our brains as being mechanical, but with the information we have already (for example the new Ted video where they were able to activate neurons using lights) you could already say that our brains are comparable to anything mechanical.