Blue Brain: the first steps towards uploading
The Blue Brain Project describes itself as:
The Blue Brain Project is the first comprehensive attempt to reverse-engineer the mammalian brain, in order to understand brain function and dysfunction through detailed simulations.
Others have described it as “a step toward the superbrain” or even “the most interesting project in human history.”
I agree that this project is extremely important. In my mind, this line of research is the only reliable way to achieve AI – artificial intelligence. There’s little doubt in my mind that a sufficiently powerful computer could simulate in detail the operation of every neuron in a human brain. Someday we’ll get there. If you buy the argument so far, then the only thing standing between us and strong AI is an extremely detailed scan of a brain — down to the sub-neuron level. In principal this should be possible by freezing a brain, slicing it up into very thin sections, and scanning them. More sophisticated 3-D imaging techniques might even make this possible without having to cut somebody’s head off, but I’m not necessarily counting on that. Besides, for the purpose of creating artificial intelligence, we just need to do this once, and it doesn’t even need to be perfect.
In the past, I’ve explored the question of whether or not such an AI would have free will. This fascinating question about the nature of consciousness is fairly abstract, along with other ones related to the nature of consciousness, and what destructive uploading means to the person whose head gets cut off and sliced up. (Do you just take a nap when they cut your head off, and then wake up inside the computer? What happens when they spin up a second process? Etc. Etc. Etc.) But all of this philosophizing pales when I realize they’re actually doing it!
IBM is supplying one of their Blue Gene/L “supercomputers” with 8,000 processors — definitely cool hardware. I’m not sure what supercomputer really means in the era of massively parallel cloud computing, but maybe this is exactly it. Read more in their FAQ. Or watch this TED talk: