hi all, the balloon boy circus makes me think that maybe its a slow news week or something, so I was scrounging to come up with something not as much "ripped from the headlines" because the headlines are kinda bland/empty/vacuous it seems.
over the months Ive accumulated enough links on the following to sew up a post--somewhat in the Frankensteinian sense. (happy Halloween...)
so anyway, living with a "digital brain" has its own unique set of advantages and hazards, but one of them is scifi perspective on our universe. the painful part of this is that you have an intense feeling for the stupidity of humans, the daily wasted potential [like a large part of the sentient population focusing its undivided attention on the plight of balloon boy]. on the other hand, you can imagine the possibilities if we dont annhilate ourselves in a nuclear terrorist war first.
the scifi event of the millenium, possibly of all time, is named the Singularity. if you google this you will turn up myriad wondrous links. several large, very good books have been written on the subject. and then theres wonderboy Kurzweil, sort of the First Acolyte.
Singularity-- I wish I could summarize it. summarizing the Singularity is sort of like trying to summarize Christianity or some equally old, or older religion. and in fact there are a lot of parallels between the two insofar as the Singularity has a lot of religious connections.
the Singularity is a sort of amplified Skynet concept, if you have seen Terminator. imagine Skynet becoming powerful enough to engulf or take over, or swallow humanity completely. "Posthuman". marriage of man and machine. cybernetics. the Matrix movie was obviously highly influenced by Singulatarian ideas/ideals, and if you need a quick glimpse, thats the dystopian version. but there is potentially a Utopian version also.
of course, you could describe it differently, and Id certainly be interested to hear your own POV in the comments.
lately a few links have been popping up that give me hope that artificial intelligence (AI) at least is within the realm of our lifetimes, if you are not more than middle aged. (sorry Kurzweil, I think you are pushing the envelope and will be extremely lucky to see it in your lifetime.)
Reverse-Engineering of Human Brain Likely by 2020, Expert Predicts | Gadget Lab | Wired.com
The Ultimate Escape: The Bizarre Libertarian Plan of Uploading Brains into Robots to Escape Society
Led by Futurist Roy Kurzweil, "Transhumanism," promotes the adoption of technologies that will eventually help “humans transcend biology."
Ray Kurzweil On 'The Singularity' Future
The noted futurist has released a movie, The Singularity is Near, exploring how technology may reshape the fabric of our physical reality and life experiences.
it is my great pleasure to share with you some of those links. they are on several basic subjects that I feel are converging toward AI. even just a few years ago, they would have sounded pretty scifi. but here they are, right in front of us. sometimes, its a wondrous world.
footnote: this post & topic is dedicated to/partly inspired by CA, a weird twisted dude on OS but one of the most intelligent & well-read ppl Ive ever met in cyberspace, and who has nailed probably over a hundred comments on my posts over the few months we've been jousting in cyberspace, and who encourages me to be my better self & write to my fullest/most meaningful potential, whatever that is. one of the few who has the background knowledge to appreciate the wider implications of the contents herein.
(a) blue brain
a charismatic, grandiose, showy, but very accomplished scientific guy named Henry Markram in europe is leading a project called Blue Brain. its based on the basic hypothesis that a cortical column in the brain, still someone weakly understood by scientists, is the basic building block or atomic unit of the brain and intelligence, and that simulating it in silico will lead to real intelligence as an emergent property.
markram proposes one of my lifelong fantasies Ive had ever since a teenager. (you know, the one that didnt involve farrah fawcett or bo derek). that is, to build a simulation that includes a virtual environment, in which a virtual agent interacts and behaves. a sandbox for intelligence experimentation.
this is a breakthrough idea that I would argue is actually rarely encountered in the literature. I dont know who first proposed it, I would be very interested in its academic geneology.
you would create different "algorithms" for intelligence, plug them into the virtual brain, and then see how the virtual agent interacts with its environment, which might include objects, laws of physics, and other intelligent entities (generally provided by humans interfacing with the VR). after he recently announced the simulated agent idea, I think markram is closer than anyone in the world to discovering the algorithm for intelligence, when many are not even smart enough to be looking for it.
Blue Brain in a Virtual Body | h+ Magazine
BBC NEWS | Technology | Artificial brain '10 years away'
postscript. pentagon announces plan & funding to reverse engineer the cat brain.
Scientists work on artificial cat brain
Pentagon backs neural reverse-engineering effort
(b) million-node windows botnet simulation
this is not quite as scifi, but promising. los alamos has announced that they are simulating entire botnets with a million virtual computers running windows. this will help them analyze the behavior of real botnets.
[I am sure they will be missing something, because I have this theory, confirmed by evidence, that botnets behave based on the exact data that is found on the target machines, and that they adjust their strategies based on the specific machines they compromise. for example, a home computer might just be turned into a spam node, but a financial computer with sensitive financial data might be "custom hacked" by the botnet controllers.]
anyway, the collective supercomputing firepower in this project is probably rivalling that of a smaller biological brain, maybe a mouse. so its good indication that the supercomputing power will be available whenever we figure out the magic "algorithm" that is running our brains.
Computer scientists successfully boot one million Linux kernels as virtual machines
Botnet Project Could Yield Internet Secrets
Scientists get a million Linux kernels to run at once
Researchers Boot Million Linux Kernels to Help Botnet Research
(c) mousebrain-driven robot
the media approached this as a sort of cute gimmick, but anyway, a scientist hooked up a slice of rat neurons to a robot and its controls, and the neurons actually seemed to learn to navigate, and possibly engage in obstacle avoidance. now, this is much deeper than many realize or the articles mentioned, because why would the neurons, divorced of their in-situ, in-vivo environment, "know" to do that?
it tends to support my long developed theory that neurons may intrinsically be implementing some kind of algorithm that is a basic formula for intelligence. they probably self-organize to generate emergent behavior that we call "intelligence", in my opinion. there is a scientist Jeff Hawkins who has written a book on the subject that basically presents this hypothesis, check it out.
anyway, I havent seen any papers that attempt to analyze, what algorithm are the neurons running? again, generally, it seems scientists seem not even smart enough to ask that question. oh well, maybe next lifetime. in contrast to Kuhnian theories about punctuated equilibrium being felt in scientific meme-scapes.... maybe science actually advances via one parlor trick to the next? for scientists to impress women? hmmmm
(d) "brain on a chip"
other scientists are working on similar projects like Markrams called "brain on a chip" that I suspect will all tend to converge someday.
Brain On a Chip
A Roundup of Projects Working on Silicon Intelligence
IBM gets $16 million to bolster its brain-on-a-chip technology
(e) improved brain imaging technology
brain imaging technology is getting very sophisticated, and leading to new insights and even breakthroughs.
Tracking and understanding the complex connections within the brain may finally reveal the neural secret of cognitive ability.
The Young and the Neuro
(f) Titan Robot (Dubai)
if a robot can entertain a mesmerized crowd with Frank Sinatra tunes and weak dancing, how much of the Turing test has been fulfilled? Real AI cant be far behind right? or maybe its already here...
postscript--- CA asks "does that rat brain like silicon cheese?" uh, I dont know, but I do know from the New Yorker that robotic dogs urinate in a distinct way, wink