Artificial Intelligence (AI) already does a lot to help me in my life:
- The real-time route calculation (and re-calculation) capabilities of my TomTom satnav system are extremely handy;
- The automated language translation functionality inside Google web-search, whilst far from perfect, often allows me to understand at least the gist of webpages written in languages other than English;
- The intelligent recommendation engine of Amazon frequently brings books to my attention that I am glad to investigate further.
On the other hand, the field of general AI has failed to progress as quickly as some of its supporters over the years had hoped. The Wikipedia article on the History of AI lists some striking examples of significant over-optimism among leading AI researchers:
- 1958, H. A. Simon and Allen Newell: “within ten years a digital computer will be the world’s chess champion” and “within ten years a digital computer will discover and prove an important new mathematical theorem.”
- 1965, H. A. Simon: “machines will be capable, within twenty years, of doing any work a man can do.”
- 1967, Marvin Minsky: “Within a generation … the problem of creating ‘artificial intelligence’ will substantially be solved.”
- 1970, Marvin Minsky (in Life Magazine): “In from three to eight years we will have a machine with the general intelligence of an average human being.”
Prospects for fast progress with general AI remain controversial. As we gather more and more silicon power into smartphones and other computers, will this mean these devices become more and more intelligent? Or will they simply be fast rather than generally intelligent?
In this context, one interesting line of analysis is to consider a separate but related question: to what extent will it be possible to create a silicon emulation of the brain itself (rather than to focus on algorithms for intelligence)?
My friend Anders Sandberg, Neuroethics researcher at the Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University, will be addressing this question in a presentation tomorrow afternoon (Saturday 22nd November) in Central London. The presentation is entitled “Emulating brains: silicon dreams or the next big thing?“
Anders describes his talk as follows:
The idea of creating a faithful copy of a human brain has been a popular philosophical thought experiment and science fiction plot for decades. How close are we to actually doing it, how could it be done, and what would the consequences be? This talk will trace trends in computing, neuroscience, lab automaton and microscopy to show how whole brain emulation could become feasible in the mid term future.
Convergence08: Anders Sandberg on Whole Brain Emulation
The term ‘whole brain emulation’ sounds more scientific than it does science fiction like, which may bode well for its credibility as a genuine academic discipline and area for inquiry.
Sandberg presented his whole brain emulation roadmap which had a flowchart like quality to it — which he quipped must be scientific because it was filled with arrows.
Simulating memory could be very complex, possibly involving chemical transference in cells or drilling right down to the molecular level. We may even have to go down to the quantum level, but no neuroscientist that Anders knows takes that possibility seriously…
As Anders himself told me afterwards,
…interest was high but time limited – I got a lot of useful feedback and ideas for making the presentation better.
I’m expecting a fascinating discussion.