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Technology and Artificial Intelligence

Written by Nita Farahany, professor of law and philosophy at Duke University

Nita Farahany quote

Pick up a newspaper any day of the week and you’ll likely see articles breathlessly describing our progress towards unlocking the mysteries of the human brain. If the 1990s were the decade of the human genome, marked by the Human Genome Project (the world’s largest collaborative biological project), this is the era of the human brain.

With projects such as BRAIN and the Human Brain Project now well underway, and billions of dollars of private funding advancing neurological research and discovery, the future of brain science is within sight.

When he launched the BRAIN initiative in the United States, President Barack Obama said: “As humans, we can identify galaxies light years away, we can study particles smaller than an atom, but we still haven’t unlocked the mystery of the three pounds of matter between our ears.” Unlocking those mysteries will be transformative for society. Which is terrific, and terrifying. Consider the possibilities:

Read more on World Economic Forum website, published on Thursday 21 January 2016.
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Heated debate over a high-profile project of the European Commission to simulate the entire brain on a supercomputer – a long needed “paradigm-shift” in neuroscience, or an over-hyped, over-funded boondoggle destined to fail, at the expense of other smaller, cheaper, less sexy researches?

Researchers say European commission-funded initiative to simulate human brain suffers from ‘substantial failures’

From The Guardian 

Many researchers refused to join on the grounds that it was too premature to attempt a simulation of the entire human brain. Photograph: Sebastian Kaulitzki /Alamy

Many researchers refused to join on the grounds that it was too premature to attempt a simulation of the entire human brain. Photograph: Sebastian Kaulitzki /Alamy

The world’s largest project to unravel the mysteries of the human brain has been thrown into crisis with more than 100 leading researchers threatening to boycott the effort amid accusations of mismanagement and fears that it is doomed to failure.

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By Russell Brandom for The Verge

(Images from Facebook's DeepFace scan)

(Images from Facebook’s DeepFace scan)

If you’re worried about Big Brother and computerized facial recognition, this summer has given you plenty of reason to be scared. Law enforcement has been toying with facial recognition for a while, but the FBI is getting set to deploy its own system, called Next Generation Identification (NGI for short), planned to be fully operational this summer. NGI will bring together millions of photos in a central federal database, reaching all 50 states by the end of the year. After years of relative anonymity, it’s easy to think 2014 is the year that law enforcement will finally know you by face.  Read More

By Dr Llewellyn Cox, Principal, LieuLabs

On an otherwise unremarkable Saturday in June 2014, a group of computer scientists, public figures, and celebrities gathered at London’s Royal Society. They were all there for one reason — to engage in a text-based chat game to determine if a computer could pass the “iconic” Turing test.

A few hours later, the results were in. Professor Warwick of Reading University announced that a chatbot had successfully tricked 33% of the judges into thinking it was a real boy, and had therefore become the first computer to have passed the Turing test:

It is fitting that such an important landmark has been reached at the Royal Society in London, the home of British science and the scene of many great advances in human understanding over the centuries. This milestone will go down in history as one of the most exciting. — Prof. Kevin Warwick

 

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Within hours, breathless tweets, likes and pins swept across the internet, announcing this amazing result to the world, or at least across the subculture that apparently really f***ing loves science, but doesn’t seem to have much time or inclination toward actual critical analysis. A day or so later came the rebuttals and debunkings from the more inquisitive corners of the online universe. So what really happened, and what does a machine passing a Turing test mean for society?

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By Dr Llewellyn Cox, Principal, LieuLabs

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Image from: The Maury Show

The young gentleman on the Maury Show is looking uncomfortable. He shuffles uncomfortably in his seat as the genial Maury Povich reads aloud the results of his recent polygraph test to the audience in the studio, who dutifully greet each new result with a hearty chorus of boos.

You told the Lie Detector that you did not sleep with Tiffany’s best friend, Candace.

The Lie Detector determined that was a lie.

More booing. Tiffany, a heavy-set young woman sitting in the next seat along, jumps to her feet and screams a continual stream of expletives at the young man that lasts for at least a minute. The censorious *bleep* edit will be working overtime on this episode. An immense bodyguard effortlessly holds her back as she flails madly around him with her fists, trying to make contact with the young man’s face. Eventually, she gives up and storms off the stage, a mobile camera crew hot in pursuit as she flees backstage to the Green Room.

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By Dr Llewellyn Cox, Principal, LieuLabs

Why Your Mind Will Never Be Uploadable.

The rise of computing and the exponential rate of increase in processing speed pose an intriguing questions for scientists; what happens when computers become smarter than their human masters — the so-called “Technological Singularity”. Will machines take over? Would they turn on humans and destroy us? Will we increasingly integrate computing modules into our bodies to cure disease or enhance our natural abilities? What effect does all of this technology have on issues of equality and power among the various members of the human race?

One of the popular philosophies attached to this futurist realm is the idea of transcendence (now a major motion picture!). That is, the concept that a person’s mind could be digitally uploaded to a computer, thus “transcending” the limitations of the biological body to acquire immortality. It’s a relatively widespread idea that has been written about extensively in popular science literature, even making a cameo in an episode of “The Big Bang Theory”. It is also a major theme for followers of Transhumanist philosophy. As the world focuses more and more on the implications of our technological development, transcendence is becoming one of those concepts in popular science that are so widely-known that they become accepted as inevitable, regardless of the state of current scientific knowledge regarding their actual feasibility. Fortunately, no one reading this in the early 21st Century will achieve immortality by uploading their mind to Amazon. Read More

Since the emergence of human consciousness,  mankind has been grappling with two eternal questions:

  • What is life and where did life come from?
  • What is death and what happens after death?

These questions gave rise to religion.  They also endure in works of art.

Paul Gaugain inscribed this on one of his masterpieces:

D’où Venons Nous / Que Sommes Nous / Où Allons Nous

(Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?)

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“Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” by Paul Gauguin

Charlotte's Web_9780064400558

E.B. White asked in “Charlotte’s Web”:

“After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die.”

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Photo by: Nathan Hunsinger

For fellow humans living in the 21st century, composer Tod Machover asks these existential questions again in a futuristic opera “Death and the Powers“, a production of the MIT Media Lab where he teaches Music and Media. Read More

where neural understanding interacts with the rest of life

The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education

where neural understanding interacts with the rest of life

Musings on Memory and Aging

where neural understanding interacts with the rest of life

where neural understanding interacts with the rest of life

Stanford Center on Longevity

where neural understanding interacts with the rest of life

where neural understanding interacts with the rest of life

The Beautiful Brain

a website about neuroscience and art that peaked in 2009 but is still going