Big science news, The Human Brain Project is launched today and fully functioning via the leadership of Henry Markram, known also as the leading scientist of the computer simulated brain project (The Blue Brain Project), both stationed at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. The Kurzweil news reported what are the first milestone for The Human Brain Project set for 2016 “The platforms will be set up as part of a global, coherent project. For example, the scientists will depend on the brain simulation not only to better understand the mechanisms of neurological disease and identify new therapeutic targets, but also to update functional principles or even accelerate the development of neuro-inspired technologies.”
Throughout the last month I have had an opportunity to discuss with so many young and older students about the Blue Brain Project focusing on the question would it ever be possible to create a computer simulated mind that acts consciously, a mind that is not only in a computer programmed box—with the objective application, a mere means to the end (determinism), but a machine that would encounter a true reality through the subjective experience. A machine that is able to hear, to smell, to see, to love, to be happy, to be melancholic, to make a mistake, to be exalted, a computer with all of emotion spectrum and mood swings.
We have also questioned the idea that with all of the technological development would the human mind become a doorway to a new “connectome,” the Hive Mind, where technology might change the means of communication and impose standards of a new literacy—knowledge “download” or a very fast paste accelerating learning process that could be barely absorbed by the natural brain?
The means of modern technology brings people closer, gives them an opportunity to share their views, experiences, knowledge but what would we become if we would be able to live in the world of total transparency, the world with no secrets or even no privacy? What would become the subjectivity of one’s emotion, perception, or even conceptual thinking? Are we glimpsing into the future where the personal subjectivity will eventually become the odd “mammoth” of the past?
Many of the neuroscientific research of today propose to be inventing a new treatment for neurological diseases. This is a noble cause, but with the knowledge of how to entrain the brain functions in order to correct whatever is labeled as the disease, comes also the possibility to standardize levels of the brain functioning (the way of how one’s brain should work based on the theoretical perspectives), and offer a platform that would consider any behavioral oddities or even thought processes as a possible problem. The Brave New World? The brain that projects oneself in a living form is the only thing that opens for us the world we know and is becoming more and more a battlefield of the new technological and scientific mandate.
Whoever knows me understands that I have always struggled with all of my heart against any attempt to make of a human being an automaton by means of control. The totalitarian regimes—the left and right– the socialist realism, the cultural revolution in China, or fascism in Europe and currently in the world the control trends of the corporate capitalism share the same tendencies of control over people’s freedoms, civil rights, and freedom of expression. In these controlling systems the intellectuals, artists, creative thinkers, brave political activists have not been a norm or a standard of the society, but rather the individuals who pushed the bubbles of control, and often become the suppressed individuals by the system. The glamorous million + Euro, The Human Brain Project technology, is breathe taking, but I wonder what would be the ethical oversight of this project which the goal is to compile all information about the functioning of the human brain, and would be eventually used to inseminate and make “alive” the computer simulated human brain, The Blue Brain Project? Brain entrainment (nuro-corrective systems of the brain functions) could be a great advantage to know, learn and store in machines, but if this system would be put into the full force of social engineering could be devastating and the most dangerous tool we have ever invented.
Throughout the last twenty years, Dr. Michael Persinger’s studies in neuroscience show that people who are known as mystics, prophets (people who believe to come into a contact with the direct higher power interpreted as God), poets (“Muze” inspiration), artists, or charismatic religious leaders might function as anomalous according to the standardized neurological norm. Persinger argues that a short term seizure might be the anomalous dysfunction of their brains and he conducted many experiments to support his claim by inducing the mind altering experiences with use of the transcranial magnetic stimulation system (TMS). The standardization of the brain functioning and identification of the brain anomalies should have a clear ethical guidelines.
ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
2 WITCH. Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble. (William Shakespeare, “Macbeth,” http://www.potw.org/archive/potw283.html)
Now, sift through this famous human poetic maze and see if it ever could be electronically created? After Shakespeare, do we dare to step into the computer simulated brain caldron?
The Human Brain Project Has Officially Begun
Related Resources mentioned in the text:
Imagine the World: No More Secrets (No More Privacy, No More Subjectivity?)
Brain to Brain Tranfer via the Internet