This article discusses the future of humanity and contemporary scientific projects which are focused on the human brain simulation project and future plans that would involve human brain(s) emulation into the machines. This fascinating projects are glimpsing into the future and they offer lots of questions to the audience and no final answers as usually goes with the wondrous philosophical minds.
The scientists are determined to simulate the whole human brain and engineer the neural connections of the brain into the supercomputer. The best known scientific project that involves the inverse engineering of the brain is known under the title name the Blue Brain Project. Along with the reverse engineering process of the human brain into the brain computer simulation is associated The Human Brain Project, which objectives are to feed into the supercomputer all scientific research and knowledge from the accelerating studies in the field of Neuroscience, so that the supercomputer scaling exponential computing power could process information fast and perhaps, through various applications (software systems) apply it to the brain mapping and modeling processes. Henry Markram is the lead scientist on both projects, and Yes, the estimated time to create a full functioning brain in a box is in the next few decades (2040), but this project seems to run fast with new updates, which means that the road-map for simulation is already present and to some degree already in use. The simulation of the brain doesn’t sound so scary, but if one goes beyond the surface information, it is a remarkable, but also stunning and chilling project at the same time. Is it possible to download the human biological, chemical, molecular, organizational framework and all neural wiring into a computer? Is it possible for this new entity to become the ship in a bottle, a brain in the machine? How will this system of the human reverse engineering be applied in real time to human beings? Are we glimpsing into the transhumanism times?
See the links bellow, this is the CNN article, The scientists to simulate the human brain (October 12, 2012):
“Last month they announced a significant advancement when they were able to use their simulator to accurately predict the location of synapses in the neocortex, effectively mapping out the complex electrical brain circuitry through which thoughts travel.”
Check some information about the Human Brain Project from their original website:
“The Human Brain Project builds on the work of the Blue Brain Project. Led by Henry Markram of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), and the Blue Brain Project has already taken an essential first steps towards simulation of the complete brain. Over the last six years, the project has developed a prototype facility with the tools, know-how and supercomputing technology necessary to build brain models, potentially of any species at any stage in its development. As a proof of concept, the project has successfully built the first ever, detailed model of the neocortical column, one of the brain’s basic building blocks.”
The Mind Transfer projects is also deeply connected with the Blue Brain Project, under the leadership of Randal A. Koene, who recently published in New Scientist (Issue 2888, November 2, 2012) an intriguing article titled Mind transfer: human brains in different materials, where the author argues for benefits of the human mind transfer into the “substrate-independent minds (SIMs),” such as computers with A.I. Here are some highlights from the published article:
“Could we copy a specific brain or transfer our minds to another device? Research suggests this amazing idea might be feasible.
HUMAN brains and the minds that emerge from them have allowed us to create culture and civilization. But ensuring the survival of those marvels (not to mention of our species) in the face of technological and environmental onslaughts will depend on how well those minds adapt. We have always augmented ourselves in the face of challenges, creating artifacts from clothing to cellphones to cochlear implants. As ever, human survival will depend on us being ever more adaptable.”
In the continuation of this present article, one can see that the finalized project is in a development stage, but still the advances in relationship to this project are often realized and immediately applied in medical practices or other advanced research institutions like DARPA:
“Hypothesis testing is being carried out by various researchers. For example, David Dalrymple is now on leave from Harvard University to work on emulating the brain of Caenorhabditis elegans, a nematode worm which has only 302 neurons. He wants to determine the function, behaviour, and biophysics of each neuron, and aims to build a complete simulation of the creature’s nervous system. This should provide valuable information about what to include in the worm emulation, and at what level of detail.
As for the hardware, the human brain uses a highly parallel network of billions of mostly inactive, low-power processors, or neurons. A good emulation will use a similar substrate, such as brain-like hardware. One example of such “neuromorphic” hardware is the neuron-like chip developed as part of the multimillion-dollar SyNAPSE project by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.”
Following the research thread, see this video from 2009. Henry Markram gives an excellent presentation about the new brain simulation and the IBM Blue Brain Project. Markram sees every individual brain to create a version of the whole universe within the symphony of firing neurons imprinted in the synapses that transfer the universe into the perceptual bubble. The human neocortex in the whole evolution represents the Holy Grail of all development of life. To reverse engineer the brain is to find the “rose” of the neocortex, firing of neurons with all scaling of the electric/eclectic circuits of the brain. The final conclusions: we all share the same brain framework (hierarchical working inner system) and fabric (molecular, chemical, and neural connections), “Take the magic carpet for a ride!” says Markram, and at the end, one can expect the double to knock at the door, someone you know very well, your hologram!
After watching this presentation several times during the last year, a few run-onto-logical questions always appear: If the Blue Brain Project supercomputer could engineer and create a simulation of the real time human brain, would this mean that the Blue Brain Project supercomputer could reach the ability to process information in a same way as the human brain? What would this entity be? Would this simulated copy of the brain need the sensory input (the body) in order to fully function–like an attached human being to the system? Could this simulated brain be plugged into any human brain/being–the Matrix effect? Would this eventually be the path to the creation of a hive human consciousness on Earth?
What would the simulation without any sensory input really show/simulate and represent? If the simulation would be used for treatment purposes of mental disorders or anomalies, how would this be done? The computer interface? The brain implant? How would this new system be applied to real brains, to real people?
What if the scientists boost the computer’s memory and speed the simulation brain– imagine the action similar to fast-forwarding a movie via the Blue Ray system? Would this mean that the computer brain, so to speak, could be faster than the real time human brain? What would be the consequences in possible future applications of this project to real brains? Let’s assume that you might be able to program various brain circuits (wiring) and if the computer would be faster than the real time human brain–you might find the way to “download” or entrain the real brain in no time, not even knowing that the programmed circuitry would be present within. Somehow, it seems to me that the time synchronization between the human brain and the computer simulated brain would be a doorway of a computer application to the human brain. All our sensory responses to reality operate in a specific time frame. For example, the auditory reaction time (hearing) is faster than that of the visual cortex (seeing), although they are modulated and those phased neural modulation represent to us sound and sight as synchronized, a single, unified experience. Could the computer simulated neural circuitry through phased modulations embedded in the software eventually inhabit one’s thoughts–or even slightly improve and modify the sense of time in the real brain? These questions seem to be too far out, but considering that modern neuroscience focuses research on time perceptions and even explains schizophrenia or hallucinations causes as a time disorder. Could the simulated brain treat the time disorder and enhance or change the brain circuitry that messes up the time perception system? (http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro98/202s98-paper1/Katatikarn.html; http://www.npr.org/2012/08/24/159998668/david-eagleman-gets-inside-our-heads; http://www.patternsinthevoid.net/blog/2011/10/schizophrenia-is-a-chronological-disorder/)
As far as applications being used for medical benefits, this project seems to be one of the most promising technological advances in treating mental disorders or neurological diseases, though, what if this noble project breaks under the pressure of the imbalance of power? What would happen then? What ifssss….
Additionally, here are some interesting lectures capturing some of the fascinating work of Randal A. Koene’s reverse engineering in computer sciences with the goal to transfer the human framework of the brain into the independent computer system and upload/transfer various “brains” into the simulated system.
If you are interested to learn more about the The Brain Preservation project, which final goal is to transfer one’s memories, knowledge, or upload a brain into the machine, this article gives a nice, thorough perspective of this project objectives and latest achievements: John Smart, Preserving the Self for Later Emulation” http://www.kurzweilai.net/preserving-the-self-for-later-emulation-what-brain-features-do-we-need
Randal A. Koene’s Lecture: the whole brain emulation–does the “uploaded” or “copied” brain have any rights? Is an emulated brain s copy or an original?
Mind Uploading/the Whole Brain Emulation:
Randal A. Koene: Substrate Independent Mind
Lastly, a pervading problem that the simulation brain project faces is the inability of the scientific unified theory of the brain. The problem evokes the traditional philosophical question of what is the connection between the theory–how does the brain work integrally–and facts–in this case, outlining the sensory brain engineering, neural transmissions, electrical circuitry, EM frequencies, energies in play, and biology. So, what is more important, knowing the whole or experimenting with the facts as parts disconnected from the unified theory? Neuroscientists still insist that there is not yet the possibility to really know functioning of the whole brain, but experts in reverse computer engineering always find ways to simplify the process, keeping a good inventory of neuroscientific facts and simulating those parts anyway (see bellow a part of the speech by Markram and his focus on outlining the unified field brain theory).
Way back in the graduate school I remember once Dr. Thomas Lawson, a professor in the Cognitive theory of religion, asking a Ph.D. candidate what is more important the theory or facts? The student answered theory, but was presenting facts contrary to the theory he tried to defend. The whole part of his presentation was on shaky ground–either he needed a new theory, or just a raw presentation of facts leaving all theorizing out. So, yes the discovery of raw or new facts are always powerful, and those facts can always defeat any theory.
With the development of quantum physics and the theory of relativity the traditional correspondence theory of knowledge has been deeply challenged, while the coherence theory, which also takes into consideration probability theories, has become more prevalent. In the coherence theory the facts may be looked at as independent, they have power, and could even be collected in the independent systems that could conform or cohere to the theoretical models by application of probability variables. Knowing that computer scientists use numerous types of genetic algorithms in various computing software, some simplifications can be made and software could actually self-develop the complexity of the structure and, perhaps, fill the gaps. If ever out of the unconscious level a new consciousness arises, this new entity will have an ability to understand the boundary as the unity of all functions (I guess we cannot say experiences?), which reflects itself as the awareness and intelligence functioning on its own inner drive, whatever this might be–the quantum computing, the software, or the net of all things that comprises this consciousness.
We all know that trials and errors are always a part of new scientific experimentation, so one day, simply by chance, one of the software or even the supercomputer hardware awakens and “sounds like a duck, walks like a duck, and, indeed, is a double of the duck.” Following the duck, what to do with the quack of the artificial duck? Can this new entity fly to the dusk?
So, here are some jitterbug bouncy dancing questions to fill your ever-expanding free time and gaps between the neural synaptic paths.
Discuss and Expand Your Views on the Simulacra Brain
I found this project amazing and challenging. It might be the very doorway to the new human evolution. Here are some questions that come to my mind while thinking about the future and the simulacra brain machine.
Scientists predict the computer brain simulation will be fully finished by 2040. Do not forget, right now scientists are in the process of neurocortex reverse engineering. Let’s consider that the scientists are correct in their predictions and that one day we will be able to upload into the simulated brain-machine a real, human brain. Would this simulated brain, now, enhanced by one’s experiences in terms of the “uploaded” knowledge, fully “absorbed” in the information machine system with all human real-time experiences, be actually alive? Would this machine become a real being? Give some of your observations and ideas.
David Eagleman, the neuroscientist, in the above discussion on the Blue Brain Project, “Will We Ever Understand the Brain,” accepts a possibility of a simulation brain creation, but he rejects a possibility that this machine, the brain simulacra, would ever be consciousness in a full sense. What are your thoughts on this issue?
Would you ever decide to download your brain into the machine to reside in “eternity” and be accessible for the future onlookers? If life actually can be transformed into a computer simulacra, would you choose to do that? Would you choose to live “eternity” in the body of machine, the electronic box?
While you are searching for impossible answers, do not forget that the future is already written and set in stone in the Star Trek series. How about watching “Ship in a Bottle”? Enjoy this short excerpt.
Professor Moriarty, the Holodeck: To Continue to Exist
Also, if you are still cracking your head with questions, you can ask captain Kirk. He is AI chat bot and he will give you some meaningful answers.
The Blue Brain Project, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 7, Feb 2006.
Markram, H., and Segev, I.
Augmenting Cognition, EPFL Press, Lausanne, Switzerland, 2011.
Evans-Pugh, Christine, “Mapping the mind,” Engineering & Technology (17509637). Mar2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p42-44. 3p. 2 Color Photographs.
Evans-Pugh, Christine, “Building conscious robots,” Engineering & Technology, vol 4 issue 2, 2 February 2009 http://eandt.theiet.org/magazine/2009/02/i-think-therefore.cfm
Henry Markram at TED 2009: Supercomputing the brain’s secrets, http://www.ted.com/talks/henry_markram_supercomputing_the_brain_s_secrets.html, July 2009.