Kurzweil’s Next Book: Creating An Artificial Mind

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Kurzweil's next book is all about artificial intelligence.

Ray Kurzweil is working on another book, this one to explore the principles of human level intelligence in machines. Titled How the Mind Works and How to Build One, the new book will explore all the amazing developments in reverse engineering the brain that have come along since his last book, the Singularity is Near was released in 2005. Whether or not you agree with Ray Kurzweil’s predictions, the inventor and author stands out as one of the foremost futurists of our time. What inspiration or controversy will this next book bring?

Kurzweil has been mentioning How the Mind Works… in public since last year. Both H+ Magazine and World Future Review have excellent interviews with the author that highlight some of the motivations for the book, and what it might discuss. As Kurzweil mentioned in his BCI X presentation, and elsewhere, scientists are making progress with directly modeling the cerebral cortex in computers. Endeavors like the Blue Brain Project raise the possibility that we could create a “brain in a box” in the next few decades (or perhaps sooner).

Those projects, however, face some serious obstacles. The human brain is one of the most complex processors we know. It still far exceeds computers in pattern recognition and creative decision making. As digital processing power increases, we’ll likely have the means to simulate the physical structure of the brain, but will there be mechanisms we haven’t anticipated? Will we really understand how the brain stores memories in its neural connectivity? When we make a simulation of the brain, will we simply copy an individual’s neuron pattern – is that even possible? – and if we don’t will the simulation be an accurate replication of a mind? Is the hardware of the brain (the neuron connections) actually the software as well, or is there an OS we just haven’t found yet? All of these questions stand in the way to creating an artificial brain. Kurzweil’s book, if it does propose that we’ll make an artificial mind successfully, will have to address these concerns and many others.

Yet as we approach human level computer intelligence we won’t merely be concerned with replicating the machinery of the brain. We’ll have to deal with the morality, politics, and philosophical ramifications of creating systems with some level of consciousness. The complex consequences of spawning artificial general intelligences is something Kurzweil is acutely aware of. Not only does it inform the entire narrative plot of his Singularity is Near Movie, it is partly responsible for his next book using ‘mind’ and not ‘brain’ in the title. As always Kurzweil does more than simply predict what may happen, he ventures to understand the implications and consequences of future technology before it arrives. How the Mind Works and How to Build One should be a very interesting read. I can’t wait.

[image credit: Futurismic]
[source: H+, World Future, Kurweil AI]

Discussion — 30 Responses

  • Nathan Waters May 27, 2010 on 12:42 am

    I think the Blue Brain Project will help us understand the human brain more extensively and open the doors to more brain-like parrallel processing utilization in CPUs. But I don’t think reverse-engineering the brain will result in any amazing AI. The issue will still be the substrate the artificial brain is built on.

    For example, from what I understand of the Blue Brain Project, each neuron is simulated on an individual CPU running in an IBM supercomputer. Once they have accurately scanned, mapped and virtualized the brain; then the trick is to replicate this supercomputer brain onto a single chip. And to do so, the chip must be re-engineered to be more brain-like… and perhaps this could only be achieved through self-organizing molecular computing with some kind of fractal structuring.

    The better approach to building AI had already started back when human beings understood the power of cooperation and connections. Much like ants build intricate and complex ant-hills and bees with beehives, humans have built our global economy, the Internet, and are moving towards collective AI. And in much the same way that individual ants don’t understand what they’ve built, humans don’t fully understand the economy, the Internet or the AI they’re building.

    Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technology is less than a decade away from kicking-off now, with companies like Intel saying by 2020 they will have brain implants to easily control computers. Extrapolate a decade beyond that and the end-game will be to connect each and every human brain on the planet at the neural level. That is a super-collective AI. To fully automate this creation and remove reliance on human input, you just need to turn each human into a perfect algorithm (or virtual self). Include the Semantic Web, and I think we’re there.

    AI will come about via collective intelligence.

    • KronosDeret Nathan Waters May 27, 2010 on 8:01 am

      Well, i agree with you and I would almost say that this is happening right now with the internet. People ale learning to cooperate on great projects and share more and more intimate information about themselves. Its interesting to observe normaly very intimate things and thoughts flow very easily on the web.

    • Joe Nickence Nathan Waters April 4, 2011 on 5:29 pm

      BCI has always existed. It’s called “hands”. Our hands are taken for granted until they’re not there. Consider this: the first room sized computers were accessed via rheostat dials, hand turned. Keyboards in many forms quickly followed. The biggest revolution, and one that still stands it’s ground, is the mouse. Trackballs and touchpads are simply variations. Touch screens, either stylus or finger operated are the current darlings. My contention is before brain implants, we will achieve immersive heads-up displays, first spectacle based, then eye contacts.

      A super-collective AI already exists. That’s called the internet. Neural input is going to be opt-in. There will be individuals whose physiology will reject implants.

  • Nathan Waters May 26, 2010 on 8:42 pm

    I think the Blue Brain Project will help us understand the human brain more extensively and open the doors to more brain-like parrallel processing utilization in CPUs. But I don’t think reverse-engineering the brain will result in any amazing AI. The issue will still be the substrate the artificial brain is built on.

    For example, from what I understand of the Blue Brain Project, each neuron is simulated on an individual CPU running in an IBM supercomputer. Once they have accurately scanned, mapped and virtualized the brain; then the trick is to replicate this supercomputer brain onto a single chip. And to do so, the chip must be re-engineered to be more brain-like… and perhaps this could only be achieved through self-organizing molecular computing with some kind of fractal structuring.

    The better approach to building AI had already started back when human beings understood the power of cooperation and connections. Much like ants build intricate and complex ant-hills and bees with beehives, humans have built our global economy, the Internet, and are moving towards collective AI. And in much the same way that individual ants don’t understand what they’ve built, humans don’t fully understand the economy, the Internet or the AI they’re building.

    Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technology is less than a decade away from kicking-off now, with companies like Intel saying by 2020 they will have brain implants to easily control computers. Extrapolate a decade beyond that and the end-game will be to connect each and every human brain on the planet at the neural level. That is a super-collective AI. To fully automate this creation and remove reliance on human input, you just need to turn each human into a perfect algorithm (or virtual self). Include the Semantic Web, and I think we’re there.

    AI will come about via collective intelligence.

    • KronosDeret Nathan Waters May 27, 2010 on 4:01 am

      Well, i agree with you and I would almost say that this is happening right now with the internet. People ale learning to cooperate on great projects and share more and more intimate information about themselves. Its interesting to observe normaly very intimate things and thoughts flow very easily on the web.

  • Afterthought June 1, 2010 on 4:41 am

    Totally past his prime.

  • Afterthought June 1, 2010 on 12:41 am

    Totally past his prime.

  • Whatznext June 1, 2010 on 8:02 am

    The interesting part is that, if there is any purpose to it, by creating an artificial mind, scientists will totally exclude the possibilities of a soul in our bodies. It will be at this time the end of faith and religions.

  • Whatznext June 1, 2010 on 4:02 am

    The interesting part is that, if there is any purpose to it, by creating an artificial mind, scientists will totally exclude the possibilities of a soul in our bodies. It will be at this time the end of faith and religions.

  • krneki June 15, 2010 on 2:30 pm

    @Whatznext

    On the contrary, we will prove that even machines can have a soul.

  • krneki June 15, 2010 on 10:30 am

    @Whatznext

    On the contrary, we will prove that even machines can have a soul.

  • Ari August 10, 2010 on 3:48 pm

    I have been working on a theory that leads to the idea that in order to foster the development of a mind based in an artificial brain, a way must be found to inflict pain on the physical artifact of the brain, or body that contains it, and that brain must be able to sense it. It will then on it’s own do everything it can to organize itself to find ways to lessen it.

  • Ari August 10, 2010 on 11:48 am

    I have been working on a theory that leads to the idea that in order to foster the development of a mind based in an artificial brain, a way must be found to inflict pain on the physical artifact of the brain, or body that contains it, and that brain must be able to sense it. It will then on it’s own do everything it can to organize itself to find ways to lessen it.

  • Michael Zeldich September 21, 2010 on 6:11 am

    Endeavors like the Blue Brain Project raise the possibility that we could create a “brain in a box” in the next few decades (or perhaps sooner).

    That will never happen simply because it is not sufficient to model a brain to have an reasonable agent. I put aside the dynamics of a brain. It is creating the astonishing level of technical difficulties, but it is not the principal problem. The principal problem is in the fact that a brain isolated from the surrounding and never have an information about causes in it delivered to the brain for processing.

    Michael

  • Stefano Vaj October 23, 2011 on 1:16 pm

    Short-term, I am more interested in the emulation of the brain of fruitflies.

    A nuch more tractable problem, with metaphysical stuff and grand rhetorical questions becoming more more ridiculous in the contest.

    The rest will follow as a matter of course, one step after another.