Paul Allen and Mark Greaves say the “singularity” is over a century away: This prior need to understand the basic science of cognition is where the “singularity is near” arguments fail to persuade us. …. A fine-grained understanding of the neural structure of the brain … has not shown itself to be the kind of area in which we can make exponentially accelerating progress. … By the end of the century, we believe, we will still be wondering if the singularity is near.
As I understand it, there is strong reason to believe short term and long term memory formation are fundamentally different processes. This is also suggested by the existence of anteretrograde amnesia.
I'm a biologist, not a computer scientist, but this also seems similar to computers like the original Mac, which only had ROM and RAM, no hard drive. Clearly, some sort of memory is required for processing to occur, but this memory need not be permanent storage. Again, this is also suggested by people with anteretrograde amnesia, who are clearly capable of thinking, but are unable to form long term memories.
Now, perhaps long term memory is just as robust to irrelevant influences as processing and short term memory, but I think the effects of ethanol and concussion suggest otherwise.
On the other hand, that messes with my suggestion that EMs would not be considered people, as amnesiacs are clearly still people. With sufficient processing and storage capacity, they could even have a form of long term memory, by taking snapshots of their own processes -though they might not be able to integrate that into their own memory...
zmil, the process of writing and reading memory is a key part of the signaling processing system, and so must also have been designed to be robust to irrelevant influences.
This comment thread might be dead, but I've been meaning to ask this question for a while, just waiting for a relevant post on OB to come up.
I (vaguely) understand your argument that the signal processing aspect of brain function should be relatively abstractable from the fine biochemical/physiological details, especially given the robustness of brain function to seemingly massive chemical and physical insults.
What I do not understand is how you propose to model memory formation. As I understand it, long term memory formation is dependent on changes in neural connections, which I assume must depend largely on chemical signaling. We've been trying to model cell-cell interactions for a while now, and mostly failed miserably. Between feedback loops, great dependence on starting conditions, and just the sheer number of different molecules and structures that are involved, I don't have too much hope that this modeling will improve.
Now, I can imagine a scenario where formation and strengthening/weakening of neural connections is a fairly straightforward probabilistic function of the strength of the electrical signals going in various directions, but I don't know of any evidence that this is the case.
My suspicion is that, even if the signal processing and short term memory functions of brain are relatively straightforward and mainly dependent on the electrical inputs and outputs to each neuron, formation of long term memories is more of a biochemical problem, and thus not nearly as amenable to modeling with our current methods.
One possibility that this brought to mind is of a situation where we can model brains for a few seconds, but they have nothing but short term memory, or at best the modeling of long term memory is faulty and breaks down over time. This might still be useful- you could run the short term model, then put that output into another run, and so on. But it would be hard to think of EMs as persons in this situation, rather than tools.
We may emulate brains for fun or as a hobby - in much the same way that hobbyists emulate birds today. However, economic value does indeed seem pretty far-fetched.
The same as what most intellectual power goes to now, coming up with rationalizations as to why a desired action is justified and coming up with flattering things to say about high status individuals that are not immediately recognized as transparent lies.
So basically your hypothesis is that the best use we will come up with for enormously powerful future computers is to brute-force simulate human brains down to the atomic level, connect those brain simulations to very advanced robots and have those robots flip burgers.
For any given amount of computing power, it seems like having specialized algorithms that are designed to be fast on the underlying hardware will destroy a setup that involves having the computer blindly simulate a big/complicated physical process and then have that physical process do the computing.
Computers with much less power than human brains can already outperform us on a very large range of tasks. My PS3 can "paint" 30 incredibly detailed pictures/second. I can't even twitch my finger 30 times/second let alone do anything useful. My trading system can react in microseconds to market data. If I try really really hard it still takes me like 200 milliseconds to react to anything.
I just can't fathom what cognitive tasks will supposedly be so difficult to program that we will want to resort to whole-brain emulation to produce them in computers. I feel pretty confident that there will be no such tasks and that whole brain emulation will never be economically valuable. Frankly, the whole idea of software that has goals, ambitions and desires like people do seems horrible. Instead of having tools that just do what they do, you'll have employees that you have to motivate. No thanks!
Try using one one for real work, or alternatively open one up and look under the hood.
To be more concrete, a brute-force brain sim would have to accurately account for phenomena such as chemical bonding, diffusion of small particle clouds in confined spaces, electrical effects involving small numbers of electrons, and so on. Unfortunately the macroscopic approximations used in conventional engineering aren't valid for such small structures, so you have to fall back on simulating individual particles to get accurate results. But the critical 'particles' for most of these interactions are individual electrons and the atoms they're bonding with, which means we're back to implausibly high computational demands. It's worth noting that general form of the protein folding problem is only a tiny subset of what you're trying to simulate here.
Besides, you're reversing the burden of proof. If you're going to stake out the position that brute-force simulation of whole brains is going to be feasible within a few decades you need to show some actual estimates of simulation difficulty to back this up. Just pointing to Moore's law isn't sufficient this case, because the task is at least 9 (and possibly 15 or more) orders of magnitude harder than what's currently feasible.
Funding is set aside in an interest-bearing account as part of making cryo arrangements.
I read. I slap my head. I chuckle. If evolution is true the mind is cobbled together from systems originating from worm like creatures reacting to chemical and electromagnetic forces. The worms found ways to eat ,reproduce and compete well enough to survive. Logic was discovered because it made more sense to swim toward food rather than away from it Unless you are theistic, you will make no progress in understanding this, much less in improving upon it. Enter,the Singularity:
"Mark, yes we did try emulation first, but with very poor emulation tools."
The take-home of our attempts to duplicate bird flight shouldn't be that we had "very poor emulation tools"...it should be that birds are lousy fliers. We now have jet engines that eat birds, not to mention flying way faster than they can.
The attempt to achieve artificial intelligence should not be based on trying to emulate human brains. It should be based on simply continuing current trends in increasing capabilities of hardware and software.
I haven't seen the latest iPhone, but it sounds very impressive. And Asimo is impressive. And Watson is impressive. Just cram them all together, and it will be one danged impressive robot. Voice recognition. Good mobility. And outstanding knowledge of puns and trivia.
If I was smart enough to make perfect sense, the Singularity wouldn't be in the future, it would be happening right now. If the accuracy of ideas about 'future' breakthroughs was perfect, it would no longer be referring to the 'future', since it could be implemented right now and thus would have moved into the present.
Could it be possible to figure a way to biologically boost intelligence? maybe by genetic modification, maybe by some chemical process applied to fetuses, etc. ? Having every new human born have the mental capacity of an Einstein or a Feynman would likely be a paradigm shift in the same order of magnitude [of brain emulations].
Today the "99% movement" complains that the 1% gets too much of the pie. The fact is, I think the 1% produces most of the pie... In this respect at least, Ayn Rand was right. Charles Murray also writes that there is a huge underclass (the majority of the population) that does not have the mental capacity to do high level jobs of the future. It's not a lack of education, its mental power that's lacking. So future tech must figure a way to make everyone operate equal or better than the current 1%!
Who is going to pay to defrost Robin's brain? I really don't get the economics of the various immortality schemes.
Can someone help me here? I haven't been too diligent a reader of OB, and I have occasionally run into this posters comments. They always seem tantalizingly close to making perfect sense, yet I always come away with a, not to certain feeling, that there is are blindingly obvious flaws and I'm trying to think stuff into it which just isn't there.
Are the inferential chains too long? If so is there an introduction to some of the more specific terminology mjgedds uses?
Is my IQ too low for it to be worth trying to understand? Just say it I'm not sensitive.
Is mjgeddes just slightly silly person who makes some good points but overestimates their importance? Is mjgeddes a crank?
I hate to draw attention to anyone like this, but in the absence of LWish karma, its hard to me to know what I can get out of reading through his contributions.
@mjgeddes: Please don't take offence! I'm just trying to get a quick and dirty reading on what's the appropriate level of investment without reading all your stuff ever.
Not enough academics take this topic seriously for there to be a sensible average or consensus. There are a handful of experts with varying types of expertise, who all have different opinions and biases.
I think Kurzweil's vision of the singularity is likely to happen way sooner than anything like an em or pure machine consciousness.
Kurzweil talks more of integrating mechanical and biological. Kurzweil's AI is not a machine that humans interact with. Kurzweil's AI is an enhanced human, a human who accesses google through interfaces built in to his brain, so that it "feels" like accessing memory, but has more vivid audio visuals, and can be more easily shared with other similarly enhanced humans. Kurzweil's AI is a human with enhanced sensors, a human that can hear radio channels, can see radio, infrared, ultaviolet radiation, can sense what is going on in great detail in his body, control a lot of it consciously when he wants to, and do a much better job of repairing it or enhancing performances.
By enhancing a human, Kurzweil's AI elegantly avoids the hardest problems in AI. Whatever those hardest problems are. Because by integrating with the human, you enhance what you know how to enhance and use the existing human brain to do the parts you don't yet know how to enhance.
So can we have a singularity without every creating consciousness in a machine? I think we can. When human capability is in some sense more than doubled by machine enhancements, than it is the new integrated humans who dominate future developments and take them in directions that unenhanced humans would not fully comprehend. Things get different fast. Perhaps part of that is that consciousness does show up in machines, perhaps that comes soon, perhaps that takes 1000 years.
Further, whether conscious or not, when the bulk of thought-like stuff is done by machines, things are different. We already know from brain studies that the brain does so much more unconsciously than it does consciously. That consciuosness is a little thing on top of a fantastic structure, like Captain Kirk in the Enterprise.
Of course, looked at this way, we passed a different kind of singularity when machines got stronger than muscles. The average human on earth (or is it in the U.S.? My bad for not remembering) uses every day the average energy output of 25 humans. We have passed a mechanical singularity years ago. If you think the mechanical singularity was not that big a deal, perhaps the cognitive singularity will be similarly both incredible and mundane.