In the Year 2121: Which Brains Will Rule the Earth?

In the first Part of the Next Human Century, Will the World be Ruled by Smart Human Brains, Dumb Human Brains (as is now the case), Dumber Human Brains (as in total dysgenic Idiocracy), Machine Brains, or Space Alien Brains?

Einstein's Brain:  A Smart Human Brain

Einstein’s Brain: A Smart Human Brain

What will the future be like for humans? That will depend upon what sort of brain is setting the priorities. What kind of intelligence will be directing the use of global resources and watching out for your great-great-great grandchildren?

The study of brains and intelligence is being well-funded. The European Union is undergoing a $1.3 billion 10-year plan to produce a complete human brain emulator with two goals in mind:

  1. To help develop better treatments for brain conditions and diseases
  2. To help produce artificial brains more human-like than anything presently devised

More: 32 pp PDF EU report via NBF

Brian Wang also reports on a 5-year project to emulate the 100,000 neuron fruit fly brain

But this suggests an incongruity: If a convincing fruit fly brain emulation (100,000 neurons) will require at least 5 more years to create, why does the EU believe that it can create a human brain emulation (100 billion neurons and far greater complexity) in only 10 years? The answer is, no one in their right minds truly expects for the EU Human Brain Project to achieve its stated goals within 10 years. Perhaps 20 years, or 30, if they’re lucky and can keep funding the project that long. Perhaps not.

What about Artificial Intelligence?

Machine brain ambitions have scaled down a bit from the grandiose predictions of past decades. But machine brains are making progress. Consider Amelia:

Amelia is designed to bring advanced artificial intelligence (AI) to help desks and other interactive operations by engaging callers in more intuitive and natural conversations.

Named after American aviator Amelia Earhart, Amelia is the result of 15 years of development by New York-based IPsoft and is intended to do the work of a human online assistant, but with a much shorter training period. The AI system is programmed to interact with phone callers using natural language instead of having them adapt their behavior to suit the system. According to IPsoft, Amelia adapts to various business procedures and is programmed for 20 languages.

Instead of imitating the human brain, Amelia concentrates on the task of understanding and responding to spoken language by using algorithms to employ context, logic, and inference to determine the meaning of what is being said rather than responding to key words and phrases. By building relationships between facts, it can glean information from existing manuals and other materials to produce its own process map rather than being specially programmed. _ IPSoft’s Amelia AI Platform

Interesting. Such a relatively modest approach to AI is likely to be profitable within specific niches.

Duke University researchers are taking a more hybrid approach, employing brain-like machine algorithms along with advanced brain neuron cultures grown in the lab. They hope to learn to build prosthetic devices capable of substituting for damaged brain tissues. This approach seems more workable in a long-term and realistic way, than some other projects:

With funding from the National Science Foundation, Silvia Ferrari of the Laboratory for Intelligent Systems and Controls at Duke University uses a new variation of spiking neural networks to better replicate the behavioral learning processes of mammalian brains.

Behavioral learning involves the use of sensory feedback, such as vision, touch and sound, to improve motor performance and enable people to respond and quickly adapt to their changing environment.

The team has constructed an algorithm that teaches spiking neural networks which information is relevant and how important each factor is to the overall goal. Using computer simulations, they’ve demonstrated the algorithm on aircraft flight control and robot navigation.

They started, however, with an insect.

“Our method has been tested by training a virtual insect to navigate in an unknown terrain and find foods,” said Xu Zhang, a Ph.D. candidate who works on training the spiking neural network. “The nervous system was modeled by a large spiking neural network with unknown and random synaptic connections among those neurons.”

Having tested their algorithm in computer simulations, they now are in the process of testing it biologically.

To do so, they will use lab-grown brain cells genetically altered to respond to certain types of light. This technique, called optogenetics, allows researchers to control how nerve cells communicate. When the light pattern changes, the neural activity changes.

The researchers hope to observe that the living neural network adapts over time to the light patterns and therefore have the ability to store and retrieve sensory information, just as human neuronal networks do.

Large-scale applications of small-scale findings

Uncovering the fundamental mechanisms responsible for the brain’s learning processes can potentially yield insights into how humans learn—and make an everyday difference in people’s lives.

Such insights may advance the development of certain artificial devices that can substitute for certain motor, sensory or cognitive abilities, particularly prosthetics that respond to feedback from the user and the environment. People with Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy have already benefited from these types of devices. __

Here at the Al Fin Institute for Advanced Cognitive Studies, we feel that the development of brain prostheses is an important intermediate step to the devising of a more advanced human brain. The human brain is the only working prototype for mid-level general intelligence in the known universe. It makes sense to understand the human brain and learn how it can be made more powerful, before trying to build a general machine intelligence in entirety.

The EU is taking a grandiose approach to understanding the complete human brain in a relatively short time. Duke University researchers are taking a more incremental approach over a longer-term, which seems a more realistic path.

We will need to try all feasible approaches to solve this most significant puzzle.

Cryonics: Freezing the Human Brain — Will this technology play a role in saving the human brain, as we know it? Perhaps.

Given the rate of human population dysgenics, it is not certain that humans will be able to support the ambitious scientific and technological research programs that currently exist.

Take a look at the scientific output of Africa and the Muslim world. This is where most human procreation is taking place, and where Europe is likely to draw most of its immigrants. The average IQ in SubSaharan Africa is roughly 75, and the average IQ of the diverse populations of the Muslim world is barely above 80. Not a good foundation upon which to build a future scientific and technological wonderland.

It would seem that the focus of future scientific research might shift away from Europe and toward India and China — at least partially. But the science establishments of both India and China leave much to be desired in terms of transparency, reproducibility, freedom from corruption, and ability to produce innovative output.

Which leaves the possibility of alien invasion and the takeover of the Earth system by alien brains — whether biological, machine, or of an other, currently unknown nature. While this possibility seems unlikely, you may want to ask yourself: When confronted with the possibility of an alien takeover, would you rather have human societies represented by smart human brains, dumb human brains (as at present), dumber human brains (a dysgenic Idiocracy), terrestrial machine brains, or any combination of the above?

In the absence of an alien invasion and takeover, but in the likelihood of an accelerating dysgenic decline leading to a dominant Idiocracy, it may be that cryonically frozen human brains will be the only semi-smart human brains remaining to our descendants.

When seen in that light, perhaps your more intelligent progeny should begin setting aside funds in order to have the future option of brain freezing — or vitrification. While it will probably prove to be a waste of money, it may help support future research into brain preservation and resilience. That would not be a total waste.

Too bad we didn’t have the technology available when Einstein died?

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2 Responses to In the Year 2121: Which Brains Will Rule the Earth?

  1. Abelard Lindsey says:

    The technology trends suggested by Carlson’s Curve projections in biotechnology and the rise of 3-D printing and other advanced automation suggests that a higher rate of technological innovation should be sustainable by smaller and smaller groups of individuals. Thus, technological innovation continues to progress even in a world sinking into idiocracy. Your concept of a decentralized network of resilient communities fits in with this thesis.

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