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Reverse Engineering the Brain

Because we are at a stumbling block with creating a thinking machine that works as fast as a computer but as well as a human (or should that be just the opposite?), it has been suggested that the only way to do it is to reverse engineer the brain. In other words: just figure out how the dang thing works and then translate that to the world of machines. Apparently there’s a new group of people going to do just that.

http://blog.wired.com/gadgets/2009/02/cognitive-compu.html

For some reason this does not seem like news to me. I’m not sure what the difference this is from the work that is done with neural networks (networks using organic or synthetic neurons or things based on neurons), but apparently it is. If I was smarter or had spent any time at all in this field I would know the answer to that but I’m not and I haven’t so I’m stymied. I am excited though that there people out there working with U.S. defense money (DARPA) to effect what I hope will one day be a computer program that is capable of actually blocking unwanted email (i.e. SPAM) and only unwanted email. The reason it’s exciting is that they’re going to be spending money that would otherwise go into development of more efficient killing machines on something that might turn out to be a…human. Which is good because we don’t have enough of those.

Actually this story is not really telling a whole lot about anything, but the comments as usual are more interesting than the article. Here’s a couple:

Zaza Ohio said:
“Let’s remember that our brain, and hence our mind, evolved in the context of our body and its physical survival in a physical world. When this new mind wakes up and realizes that it has no body, cannot move or affect the outside world, is helplessly dependent on its keepers for every facet of its existence, it is going to be very, very angry. I don’t think it will want to simulate nuclear explosions, or sequence someone else’s genome, or perfect the ultimate hedge model, or do any of those other tasks that we set for supercomputers, it is going to go stark raving mad, and seek vengeance, however it might, on its creators. Someone tell me I’m wrong.” Personally I think if it gets pissed it’s going to do the very thing that will hurt us most: nothing. It’ll be the ultimate silent treatment. Another $5 million DARPA dollars down the drain.

Jeff the Geek said:

“Ok ppl this is a simulation of a cortex it will not have emotions. That was clearly laid out in the article. It will be able to process data and that’s about it. Basically it will just be a very fast standard computer with the ability to learn, very different from a computer with the ability to have emotions. It will not “become aware” or “get angry”.
There is no moral or religious implications to this project. They are just trying to build a computer that can process information faster by using a system much closer to the human brain then to the traditional computer system.”

I like Jeff the Geek, don’t you?

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