Total Pageviews


Will a Computer's Conscious Mind Emerge?

If the human brain is data being passed from neuron to neuron at its basic level and we can simulate that in a computer, shouldn’t a conscious mind start to emerge ?

As you might have heard, supercomputers are now powerful enough to simulate crucial parts of cat brains and are on their way to map sections of the human mind to learn more about its basic functions. One day in the near future, we may very well be looking at complete simulations of a human brain that can imitate our key mental abilities. And if you believe some of the more ambitious computer science theoreticians, we’d make a giant leap towards creating conscious and aware artificial intelligence.
If the human brain is data being passed from neuron to neuron at its basic level and we can simulate that in a computer, shouldn’t a conscious mind start to emerge?
Simulated Thought Is a Long Way from Real Thinking
This argument, advanced by Michael Vassar or the Singularity Institute and his colleagues, is one of those ideas that sound intuitively plausible, but highly dubious in practice. The difference between simulated thinking and conscious thinking can be illustrated by thinking about the difference between a computer simulated boat and a real one.
High end graphic programs will let you draw a boat and put it on a virtual plane of water. It will let you specify the environment, solve a number of Navier-Stokes equations, calculate the exact amount of force to apply to each section of the ship and then it will calculate how the ship reacts to the changes. The end result is a visualization of what we think looks right instead of a real boat.
If you want to simulate how the brain works, you need to imitate the electrical signals there that tell neurons which neurotransmitters to release. It's a messy and complicated process rife with constant misfiring.
Just like our example of a virtual boat, a digital human brain would be a visualization of what we’re pretty sure happens in our heads according to current scientific knowledge. This is why the manager of IBM’s Cognitive Computing Unit, Dharmendra Modha, says"Our hope is that by incorporating many of the ingredients that neuroscientists think may be important to cognition in the brain, such as general statistical connectivity pattern and plastic synapses, we may be able to use the model as a tool to help understand how the brain produces cognition."Translation: the simulations of a human brain will give us an approximate map of how the thought process plays out and a conscious, self-aware mind is not going to arise from this statistical construct. The point is to try and make a computer that comes up with several approaches to tackling a problem, not to create a virtual human, or a digital cat that can match wits with a real human or a real feline respectively.
A Computer Brain is Still Just Code
In the future, if we model an entire brain in real time on the level of every neuron, every signal, and every burst of the neurotransmitter, we’ll just end up with a very complex visualization controlled by a complex set of routines and subroutines.
These models could help neurosurgeons by mimicking what would happen during novel brain surgery, or provide ideas for neuroscientists, but they’re not going to become alive or self aware since as far as a computer is concerned, they live as millions of lines of code based on a multitude of formulas and rules. The real chemistry that makes our brains work will be locked in our heads, far away from the circuitry trying to reproduce its results.
Now, if we built a new generation of computers using organic components, the simulations we could run could have some very interesting results.
content provided by Greg Fish / Discovery News

No comments: