Difference between revisions of "Whole brain emulation"

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'''Whole Brain Emulation''' or '''WBE''' is a proposed technique which involves transferring the information contained within a brain onto a computing substrate. The brain can then be simulated, creating a machine intelligence. The concept is often discussed in context of scanning the brain of a person, known as '''Mind uploading'''. WBE is sometimes seen as an easy way to intelligent computers, as the only innovations necessary are greatly increased processor speed and scanning resolution. Advocates of Whole Brain Emulation claim technological improvement rates such as [[Moore's law]] will make WBE inevitable.
  
'''Whole Brain Emulation''' (WBE) is a proposed approach to Artificial Intelligence and Mind-Uploading that involves transferring the information contained within a brain onto a computing substrate. The simulated brain would operate in a way that was indistinguishable from the biological original. Such technology would also be useful for assessing the effectiveness of drugs and may give insight into the nature of consciousness.
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The exact level of detail required for an accurate simulation of a brain's mind is presently uncertain, and will determine the difficulty of creating WBE. The feasibility of such a project has been examined in detail by The Future of Humanity Institute which concluded that a human brain emulation would be possible before the mid-century providing investment and computing power continued to grow. The Singularity Institute believes that an uploaded mind could also pose an [[existential risk]].
  
The  required technology to achieve this feat would have to draw from several fields of science including supercomputing, biology, neurology, and neuroinformatics. The complexity of the challenge is controversial within the scientific community with many leading scientist remaining skeptical and mainstream funding having proved so far to be elusive.
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A digitally emulated brain will have several huge advantages over a biological one. It will be able to directly modify the algorithms comprising it, add additional modules to itself, directly modify its goals, preferences, biases, and in general change anything it doesn't like about itself. A emulated brain will also be able to copy itself, communicate and cooperate with others perfectly, and have an indefinite life span. Whole brain emulation will also create a number of ethical challenges relating to the nature of personhood, rights, and social inequality. Robin Hanson proposes that an uploaded mind might copy itself to work until the cost of running a copy was that of its labour, making unemployed vast amounts of people.  
 
 
Many leading scientists and technology experts such as Marvin Minsky, Ray Kurzweil and Henry Markram believe that it will be possible. The feasibility of such a project has been examined in detail by The Future of Humanity Institute which concluded that a human brain emulation would be possible before the mid-century providing investment and computing power continued to grow.
 
 
 
There are several engineering factors that need to be achieved in order for WBE to be feasible. These include the development of computers with sufficient processing power, the availability of  brain-scanning equipment that can analyze the brain at a high enough resolution\speed to capture the brain’s salient information and a programmed environment that can process the interaction between brain and simulated environment.
 
 
 
Estimates have been suggested that calculate the processing power of the human brain, these have been based on the observed physical characteristics (100 Billion neurons, each connected to as many as 1000 other neurons) that may be firing up to 100 times a second. These figures suggest 10^15 calculations per second (though this estimate is by no means uncontested), which as of 2012 is roughly equivalent to the power of the world’s most advanced supercomputer. However, even if the processing power of the human brain proves to be a thousand times more powerful this would soon be achievable anyway due to the rapid exponential growth of Moore’s Law. These figures also make the assumption that the mind is a construct of nothing more than the physical brain and that quantum events within the brain are not fundamental to cognitive processes (which has been disputed by Roger Penrose).
 
 
 
The issue of data storage will also have to be addressed, as the brain is estimated to occupy 20,000TB. However, due to the law of accelerating returns this issue is projected to be resolved in the coming decades.
 
 
 
The technology for scanning the brain will also need to be improved in order to accurately create a duplicate. With current scanning technology there has to be trade-off between the level of detail captured and the size of the brain being scanned. Electron-microscopy can capture the synaptic connection between neurons, but is not viable for anything larger than a fruit fly brain. However, scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory are currently building a map of a mouse brain scanning at a “mesoscopic” resolution of 20 microns which is enough to capture neuronic structure beyond the capabilities of fMRI technology. The ultimate aim of this project is to a have a working simulation of a mouse brain.
 
 
 
Even more ambitious is Henry Markram’s Blue Brain project which rather than consisting of a simulated network of neurons, also emulates the biological function of neurons too. The project is currently under consideration for a 1 Billion Euro grant, which if awarded, will result in the project being renamed the Human Brain Project with the objective of creating a working simulation within a decade.
 
  
 
==See Also==
 
==See Also==
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* [http://bluebrain.epfl.ch/ Blue Brain Project Website]
 
* [http://bluebrain.epfl.ch/ Blue Brain Project Website]
 
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rPH1Abuu9M Blue Brain Project] Henry Markram Presentation on YouTube
 
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rPH1Abuu9M Blue Brain Project] Henry Markram Presentation on YouTube
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*[http://www.patternsinthevoid.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/2009-A-world-survey-of-artificial-brain-projects-Part1_Large-scale-brain-simulations.pdf A world survey of artificial brain projects, Part I: Large-scale brain simulations] by Hugo de Garis, Chen Shuo, Ben Goertzel and, Lian Ruiting, 2010
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*[ http://www.transhumanist.com/volume1/moravec.htm When will computer hardware match the human brain?] by Hans Moravec, 1997
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*[ http://hanson.gmu.edu/uploads.html If Uploads Come First: The crack of a future dawn] by Robin Hanson

Revision as of 06:30, 12 July 2012

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Whole Brain Emulation or WBE is a proposed technique which involves transferring the information contained within a brain onto a computing substrate. The brain can then be simulated, creating a machine intelligence. The concept is often discussed in context of scanning the brain of a person, known as Mind uploading. WBE is sometimes seen as an easy way to intelligent computers, as the only innovations necessary are greatly increased processor speed and scanning resolution. Advocates of Whole Brain Emulation claim technological improvement rates such as Moore's law will make WBE inevitable.

The exact level of detail required for an accurate simulation of a brain's mind is presently uncertain, and will determine the difficulty of creating WBE. The feasibility of such a project has been examined in detail by The Future of Humanity Institute which concluded that a human brain emulation would be possible before the mid-century providing investment and computing power continued to grow. The Singularity Institute believes that an uploaded mind could also pose an existential risk.

A digitally emulated brain will have several huge advantages over a biological one. It will be able to directly modify the algorithms comprising it, add additional modules to itself, directly modify its goals, preferences, biases, and in general change anything it doesn't like about itself. A emulated brain will also be able to copy itself, communicate and cooperate with others perfectly, and have an indefinite life span. Whole brain emulation will also create a number of ethical challenges relating to the nature of personhood, rights, and social inequality. Robin Hanson proposes that an uploaded mind might copy itself to work until the cost of running a copy was that of its labour, making unemployed vast amounts of people.

See Also

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