Currently viewing the category: "Neurophilosophy"

Humanity may undergo an evolutionary phase transition within this century at the very moment our computational creations develop a level of intelligence that surpasses that of the typical human being. This predicted development is referred to as The Singularity. This transitional event might be considered a true evolutionary development for our species because our primary evolutionary advantage over the rest of the natural kingdom–high-level tool-making–is driving our engineering of ever-more powerful robots and computing machines.

However, we do often forge ahead in our technological developments with pure brute force in an attempt to make as much progress as possible in as short a time as possible. Notably, the classic Moore’s Law, an idea suggested by the co-founder of Intel, has accurately predicted the advancement of computing power over many decades. This exponential “law” is still expected to continue, and is a key predictive element for the coming Singularity Event.

However, bottlenecks for technical advancements in silicon-chip development that conforms with Moore’s Law have been foreseen in the past–and have been overcome. Making transistors ever smaller has been the primary brute-force method of increasing computational power, but there must be an ultimate limit: the scale of a single atom.

So, if silicon chips with transistors still larger than a single atom do not provide enough computing power to bring about The Singularity, what fork in the road of this bottleneck might we diverge onto? The human brain clearly does not have a circuitry that mimics the traditional structure of the computer chip. Even massively parallel computing systems do not come close to replicating the network structure of our brain. And it is the morphological structure of our networked neurons that ultimately gives rise to the emergent computational power of the mind… it’s just that we don’t yet understand this complex network structure.

A brief commentary on this potential bottleneck in reaching The Singularity with a call to consider alternate approaches was presented recently in a New York Times guest column. How will we finally reach The Singularity? A new technological approach may be necessary; a new philosophical approach may be necessary; a new, more complete understanding of the structure of our own brains will certainly be necessary.

“Computers vs. Brains” :: Guest Column from The Wild Side, The New York Times:: March 31, 2009 :: [ READ ]

 

The popular Dr. Michio Kaku presents a documentary exploration of the current advancements of neurotechnology featuring recent research on successes in direct neural implants into the brains of mice.

He also take a moment to ask how far will we go with neurotechnological implants before we become… more (or less?) human. With interviews with Ray KurzweilProf. Rodney BrooksDr. John GranackiProf. Marvin MinskyProf. Susan Greenfield, this is a great 7 minute watch of several important views in neurophilosophy and the coming impact of neurotechnological developments… and the resulting neurorevolution.

Dr. Kaku blatantly reminds us that we must begin address the issues of neurotechnology today, because it will lead to a Brave New World that we cannot yet even imagine.

 

Last month, Neuron News published a journal entry (read) discussing the probabilistic near-future event of humans developing a technological super-human entity. This so-called Post-human era, if it comes to pass, will have fundamental ramifications to the continued existence of our species.

Because this issue is absolutely central to the ethical considerations of neurotechnology research, Neuron News will be continuously publishing a feature topic on The Singularity. We are also making an open call for contributions from our readers to help develop this important topical review, so please post your ideas, comments, and concerns by clicking on the What do you think? link below, and contact us if you have news, link references, or personal essays on the topic that you would like included in our DPRI Review of The Singularity.

DPR Review: The Singularity [ READ ]

 

It’s already 2029 and the unthinkable has happened. Human beings are drastically altered into a new existence; a new species because of profound technological advances of computing power, which now equals that of the human brain. Welcome to The Singularity.

It’s not clear if this prediction is a good thing or a bad thing. What do you think? First broadcast nearly two years ago, the BBC produced a hyper-dramatic review of the run-up to this potential event. As technological developments continue to inch forward into brain-computer interfacing as well as advanced understandings of brain function, it is important to consider the possible ramifications of these developments. This is where the ethics of neurotechnology comes into play. However, we must be entirely reasonable about these considerations, and unfortunately this BBC broadcast is a bit–OK, it’s nearly obnoxiously–fear-mongering about where we might be headed.

(My wife–who is a huge Harry Potter fan–also questions their contract rights with using the theme music!)

In particular, let’s assume for the moment that computing “power” (however this might be defined) does match that of the “power” of the human brain. The projection of the Singularity Event is that this will somehow directly lead to a fundamental change in the human being… a Human v2.0, if you will. Hopefully, our global society will complete a thorough beta test before releasing the final upgrade to the general public!

But, there really is an enormous leap in this assumption of change. If we see computing power resemble computational abilities of humans, then why would this necessarily change us? It certainly could change us fundamentally, but the only way for this to occur is to also have the technology to integrate the human brain with a computer.

Precisely fabricated computer chips and mushes of neuron networks are different. And, they are different at basic, fundamental levels. We can pretend to make software look like neuron networks, but the software is only processed by computer chips. There really is no comparison to how each computational entity functions. So, fully interconnecting the two so that one might fundamentally change the other is a non-trivial task–to say the least–and may even be fundamentally impossible.

Although the following episode feeds a bit too much on the fear of what could happen to humanity with the ultimate success of neurotechnology, it still should be considered and reviewed for a better understanding of how to approach the developments.

Human v2.0 :: BBC Horizons Science & Nature :: October 24, 2006 :: [ VIEW ]

 

The following posting is inspiring a brand new Topic Category for Neuron News that will cover Neurophilosophy. This area of discovery might be hard pressed to call itself “scientific,” and therefore at first glance might seem to be not so useful to technological developments involving integration with the brain.

However, a full interconnection between the computer chip and the brain will require a full understanding of brain function… and we certainly are very far from this goal. We are still somehow distinguishing the “mind” and our “consciousness” as a separate entity from the guts of our brain. You know, it just seems like there is something more; something greater in our heads than just a bundle of electrically active cells. But, when you look inside, there really just is a bundle of electrically active cells connected together in a very complicated way.

Our sense of the “mind” must come from this complex interconnection. So, just as looking deeply from the bottom up in order to discover how the complex bundle outputs the “mind” seems to be entirely reasonably, at this point in our severe lack of understanding, there is no reason why not to also look deeply from the top down in order to discover the wildly vast conscious behaviors of the “mind” and how that might relate to the electrical bundles.

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist who is now affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine, had a stroke on the morning of December 10, 1996. She underwent surgery to remove a major blood clot, and is fortunate to have recovered from the trauma and is alive and well today.

The extraordinary aspect of her story, however, is that Dr. Bolte Taylor had a thorough understanding of the brain at the time of her stroke. While her brain vessels were exploding in her head, she experienced a entirely alien and altering state of consciousness… but, she could relate this experience to a real understanding of brain function. Although zoning in and out of “la-la land’, she could later recollect the specifics of what she was literally experiencing during her brain malfunction. This is absolutely invaluable insight into gaining a better understanding of how our brain function.

Dr. Bolte Taylor also realizes the importance of her ability to contribute valuable information, and is currently communicating to the world her personal experience. Although a little dramatic, her presentation to TED.com is certainly very worth the 18 minutes viewing time, and it might even be a little inspiring. If anything, there is real information here… at least in the form of a potential leap in a future deeper understanding of brain function — from the top down. (And neurotechnological developments needs all of the further understandings of brain function that they can get!)

Jill Bolte Taylor’s Powerful Stroke of Insight talk on TED.com [ LINK ]