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Reverse-Engineering The Brain: Kurzweil Defends Ideas In Open Letter

The Debate Continues

At the most recent Singularity Summit on August 14, 2010 Ray Kurzweil delivered a keynote promoting his thesis on how and when mankind might understand the principles of operation of the human brain.  Yesterday the Hub reported that biologist PZ Myers had attacked Kurzweil’s thesis in a post that gained a huge amount of press on major science and technology blogs across the net.  Today in an open letter to the community, Kurzweil attempts to set the record straight, and he has given Singularity Hub his permission to post the entire letter below.

Ray Kurzweil’s Open Letter to “Ray Kurzweil does not understand the brain”

While most of PZ Myers’ comments (in his blog post entitled “Ray Kurzweil does not understand the brain” posted on Pharyngula on August 17, 2010) do not deserve a response, I do want to set the record straight, as he completely mischaracterizes my thesis.

For starters, I said that we would be able to reverse-engineer the brain sufficiently to understand its basic principles of operation within two decades, not one decade, as Myers reports.

Myers, who apparently based his second-hand comments on erroneous press reports (he wasn’t at my talk), goes on to claim that my thesis is that we will reverse-engineer the brain from the genome. This is not at all what I said in my presentation to the Singularity Summit. I explicitly said that our quest to understand the principles of operation of the brain is based on many types of studies — from detailed molecular studies of individual neurons, to scans of neural connection patterns, to studies of the function of neural clusters, and many other approaches. I did not present studying the genome as even part of the strategy for reverse-engineering the brain.

I mentioned the genome in a completely different context. I presented a number of arguments as to why the design of the brain is not as complex as some theorists have advocated. This is to respond to the notion that it would require trillions of lines of code to create a comparable system. The argument from the amount of information in the genome is one of several such arguments. It is not a proposed strategy for accomplishing reverse-engineering. It is an argument from information theory, which Myers obviously does not understand.

The amount of information in the genome (after lossless compression, which is feasible because of the massive redundancy in the genome) is about 50 million bytes (down from 800 million bytes in the uncompressed genome). It is true that the information in the genome goes through a complex route to create a brain, but the information in the genome constrains the amount of information in the brain prior to the brain’s interaction with its environment.

It is true that the brain gains a great deal of information by interacting with its environment – it is an adaptive learning system. But we should not confuse the information that is learned with the innate design of the brain. The question we are trying to address is: what is the complexity of this system (that we call the brain) that makes it capable of self-organizing and learning from its environment?  The original source of that design is the genome (plus a small amount of information from the epigenetic machinery), so we can gain an estimate of the amount of information in this way.

But we can take a much more direct route to understanding the amount of information in the brain’s innate design, which I also discussed: to look at the brain itself. There, we also see massive redundancy. Yes there are trillions of connections, but they follow massively repeated patterns.

For example, the cerebellum (which has been modeled, simulated and tested) — the region responsible for part of our skill formation, like catching a fly ball — contains a module of four types of neurons. That module is repeated about ten billion times. The cortex, a region that only mammals have and that is responsible for our ability to think symbolically and in hierarchies of ideas, also has massive redundancy. It has a basic pattern-recognition module that is considerably more complex than the repeated module in the cerebellum, but that cortex module is repeated about a billion times. There is also information in the interconnections, but there is massive redundancy in the connection pattern as well.

Yes, the system learns and adapts to its environment. We have sufficiently high-resolution in-vivo brain scanners now that we can see how our brain creates our thoughts and see our thoughts create our brain.  This type of plasticity or learning is an essential part of the paradigm and a capability of the brain’s design. The question is: how complex is the design of the system (the brain) that is capable of this level of self-organization in response to a complex environment?

To summarize, my discussion of the genome was one of several arguments for the information content of the brain prior to learning and adaptation, not a proposed method for reverse-engineering.

The goal of reverse-engineering the brain is the same as for any other biological or nonbiological system – to understand its principles of operation. We can then implement these methods using other substrates other than a biochemical system that sends messages at speeds that are a million times slower than contemporary electronics. The goal of engineering is to leverage and focus the powers of principles of operation that are understood, just as we have leveraged the power of Bernoulli’s principle to create the entire world of aviation.

As for the time frame, some of my critics claim that I underestimate the complexity of the problem. I have studied these issues for over four decades, so I believe I have a good appreciation for the level of challenge. What I would say is that my critics underestimate the power of the exponential growth of information technology.

Halfway through the genome project, the project’s original critics were still going strong, pointing out that we were halfway through the 15 year project and only 1 percent of the genome had been identified. The project was declared a failure by many skeptics at this point. But the project had been doubling in price-performance and capacity every year, and at one percent it was only seven doublings (at one year per doubling) away from completion. It was indeed completed seven years later. Similarly, my projection of a worldwide communication network tying together tens and ultimately hundreds of millions of people, emerging in the mid to late 1990s, was scoffed at in the 1980s, when the entire U.S. Defense Budget could only tie together a few thousand scientists with the ARPANET. But it happened as I predicted, and again this resulted from the power of exponential growth.

Linear thinking about the future is hardwired into our brains. Linear predictions of the future were quite sufficient when our brains were evolving. At that time, our most pressing problem was figuring out where that animal running after us was going to be in 20 seconds. Linear projections worked quite well thousands of years ago and became hardwired. But exponential growth is the reality of information technology.

We’ve seen smooth exponential growth in the price-performance and capacity of computing devices since the 1890 U.S. census, in the capacity of wireless data networks for over 100 years, and in biological technologies since before the genome project. There are dozens of other examples. This exponential progress applies to every aspect of the effort to reverse-engineer the brain.

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66 comments

  • cg says:

    Kurzweil’s description of the brain sounds awfully familiar to an experimental software project I’ve been working on which I think will accomplish strong AI. I’d love to discuss it with him…

    • Tor says:

      You can find his e-mail address at the end of his book The singularity is near – which can be downloaded on piratebay.

      • John Newbury says:

        Tor,

        Somewhat unfair, to say the least, effectively to suggest illegally downloading RK’s book, and an especially gross cheek in a comment on his article! :-(

        • Tor says:

          Maybe it was. But I wanted to give him a way to find to Kurzweils e-mail address easily without posting it directly. I’m glad that Kurzweils book has sold a lot by the way, and encourage people too buy it. It’s a bad thing when illegal downloading stops people from buying stuff, but the good thing about sharing with torrents is that it gives access too many people (the great majority, actually) who wouldn’t buy it otherwise – without any cost too the author.

  • cg says:

    Kurzweil’s description of the brain sounds awfully familiar to an experimental software project I’ve been working on which I think will accomplish strong AI. I’d love to discuss it with him…

    • Tor says:

      You can find his e-mail address at the end of his book The singularity is near – which can be downloaded on piratebay.

      • John Newbury says:

        Tor,

        Somewhat unfair, to say the least, effectively to suggest illegally downloading RK’s book, and an especially gross cheek in a comment on his article! :-(

        • Tor says:

          Maybe it was. But I wanted to give him a way to find to Kurzweils e-mail address easily without posting it directly. I’m glad that Kurzweils book has sold a lot by the way, and encourage people too buy it. It’s a bad thing when illegal downloading stops people from buying stuff, but the good thing about sharing with torrents is that it gives access too many people (the great majority, actually) who wouldn’t buy it otherwise – without any cost too the author.

  • karl says:

    I am not convinced that Kurzweil is on solid ground when he says that the brains design is encapsulated in the genome (along with some epigenetic information). There is certainly a role to play for the environment during the development of the brain in utero. This environmental influence will add more complexity to the design of the brain the question is how much. I think that this is an important caveat to make when discussing the morphogenesis of the brain. A couple of small examples of this environmental influence are gravity, the fetuses (and the mothers) electric field, the mothers hormonal and nutritional state, the textures and mechanical strains found in the placenta. Perhaps these various forces are easy to add in to any model of development but that remains to be seen.

    • jeff says:

      Wouldn’t these environmental influences you mentioned also be present in the development of an ape brain for instance? Yet there is a clear distinction made in the level of intelligence by the miniscule difference in genetic information present in humand DNA.

    • John Newbury says:

      Karl, see my later post addressed to you that I evidently failed to enter as a reply.

    • Keith Henson says:

      A little thought experiment indicates that the uterine environment, important as it is, doesn’t provide a lot of the information that shapes the developing brain. Consider a split egg that would normally become twins. Implant them in different women. Do you expect the babies would (over their lives) become more different than normal identical twins? I don’t. That being the case, I don’t expect the information to grow a brain to come from other than the genes.

      • John Newbury says:

        In any case, any info provided by the uterus still depends on the human genome (in the mother). OK, maybe include a bit more of the genome in the bit count for the brain. In any case, the estimate of the part required to produce the brain is probably only very approximate.

        Not sure how that is possible at all, from current knowedge! Is it a pure guess? Probably just a plausible upper bound, effectively allowing for uterus &c. Anyway, the estimate presumably does not include the parts that are common to other kinds of cells (e.g., cell membrane, DNA transcription &c), so the total count would probably be higher if trying to represent/simulate the neurons as cells; much less if limited to their logical processing abiliites.

  • karl says:

    I am not convinced that Kurzweil is on solid ground when he says that the brains design is encapsulated in the genome (along with some epigenetic information). There is certainly a role to play for the environment during the development of the brain in utero. This environmental influence will add more complexity to the design of the brain the question is how much. I think that this is an important caveat to make when discussing the morphogenesis of the brain. A couple of small examples of this environmental influence are gravity, the fetuses (and the mothers) electric field, the mothers hormonal and nutritional state, the textures and mechanical strains found in the placenta. Perhaps these various forces are easy to add in to any model of development but that remains to be seen.

    • jeff says:

      Wouldn’t these environmental influences you mentioned also be present in the development of an ape brain for instance? Yet there is a clear distinction made in the level of intelligence by the miniscule difference in genetic information present in humand DNA.

    • John Newbury says:

      Karl, see my later post addressed to you that I evidently failed to enter as a reply.

    • Keith Henson says:

      A little thought experiment indicates that the uterine environment, important as it is, doesn’t provide a lot of the information that shapes the developing brain. Consider a split egg that would normally become twins. Implant them in different women. Do you expect the babies would (over their lives) become more different than normal identical twins? I don’t. That being the case, I don’t expect the information to grow a brain to come from other than the genes.

      • John Newbury says:

        In any case, any info provided by the uterus still depends on the human genome (in the mother). OK, maybe include a bit more of the genome in the bit count for the brain. In any case, the estimate of the part required to produce the brain is probably only very approximate.

        Not sure how that is possible at all, from current knowedge! Is it a pure guess? Probably just a plausible upper bound, effectively allowing for uterus &c. Anyway, the estimate presumably does not include the parts that are common to other kinds of cells (e.g., cell membrane, DNA transcription &c), so the total count would probably be higher if trying to represent/simulate the neurons as cells; much less if limited to their logical processing abiliites.

  • Pedro Marcal says:

    we already have a starting blueprint of the brain’s network. What we need is to flesh iout the intelligence at the end of each connection.

    The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published Tuesday a landmark paper entitled “Network architecture of the long-distance pathways in the macaque brain” (an open-access paper) by Dharmendra S. Modha (IBM Almaden) and Raghavendra Singh (IBM Research-India) with major implications for reverse-engineering the brain and developing a network of cognitive-computing chips.

  • Pedro Marcal says:

    we already have a starting blueprint of the brain’s network. What we need is to flesh iout the intelligence at the end of each connection.

    The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published Tuesday a landmark paper entitled “Network architecture of the long-distance pathways in the macaque brain” (an open-access paper) by Dharmendra S. Modha (IBM Almaden) and Raghavendra Singh (IBM Research-India) with major implications for reverse-engineering the brain and developing a network of cognitive-computing chips.

  • craig says:

    Mankind has not become more intelligent than his ancestors. Only the technology has become more intelligent. So, I can see the need for the Singularity, if you subscribe to the end motivation of all things – which is human dreaming.

  • craig says:

    Mankind has not become more intelligent than his ancestors. Only the technology has become more intelligent. So, I can see the need for the Singularity, if you subscribe to the end motivation of all things – which is human dreaming.

  • Marc says:

    I think your detractor confuses a bound on the maximum amount of information that the brain can contain versus a bound on the maximum level of information required to re-produce such system.

    What is the 1 standard deviation interval of confidence? Since the progression time is exponential, even a slight mistake could put you off by a whole digit… or 90 years. Progress is like the stock market, on average it’s exponential, but who knows there can be a period of slower growth.

  • Marc says:

    I think your detractor confuses a bound on the maximum amount of information that the brain can contain versus a bound on the maximum level of information required to re-produce such system.

    What is the 1 standard deviation interval of confidence? Since the progression time is exponential, even a slight mistake could put you off by a whole digit… or 90 years. Progress is like the stock market, on average it’s exponential, but who knows there can be a period of slower growth.

  • Tom says:

    A better criticism than Myers has made, would be as follows:

    It sounds to me, though I could be wrong, that Kurzweil speaks in relative ignorance of the advances of cognitive science, which would if anything increase his optimism for imminent simulation of the mind. (True emulation would be further off, but the interest there is more academic. Simulation of human minds, and new types of mind that have never yet existed, will be more appropriate for most applications anyway.)

    A layman may overtake Kurzweil’s *apparent* understanding of this subject just by reading a few popular science books by Steven Pinker. (I must stress the word apparent. I must also stress that I wasn’t at Kurzweil’s presentation any more than Myers was.)

    How The Mind Works is the most obviously relevant, but I also highly recommend The Language Instinct and The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature, which will both deepen and broaden the understanding gained from the former.

    Apologies to Kurzweil if I have underestimated his knowledge, but hopefully those recommendations will be useful to other readers anyway.

  • Tom says:

    A better criticism than Myers has made, would be as follows:

    It sounds to me, though I could be wrong, that Kurzweil speaks in relative ignorance of the advances of cognitive science, which would if anything increase his optimism for imminent simulation of the mind. (True emulation would be further off, but the interest there is more academic. Simulation of human minds, and new types of mind that have never yet existed, will be more appropriate for most applications anyway.)

    A layman may overtake Kurzweil’s *apparent* understanding of this subject just by reading a few popular science books by Steven Pinker. (I must stress the word apparent. I must also stress that I wasn’t at Kurzweil’s presentation any more than Myers was.)

    How The Mind Works is the most obviously relevant, but I also highly recommend The Language Instinct and The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature, which will both deepen and broaden the understanding gained from the former.

    Apologies to Kurzweil if I have underestimated his knowledge, but hopefully those recommendations will be useful to other readers anyway.

  • Brad Arnold says:

    How could someone be against reverse engineering the brain to gain knowledge? On the other hand, doing it as the quickest and easiest route to create an AI is silly. Frankly, modeling our jungle gene brain in silica to create a mind is like encoding a car to turn the pages of our browser – an elaborate exercise that doesn’t seem like a productive use of time. Good luck with that; when you are through you will have built a monument to evolutionary perversity.

    • Dave says:

      I think the idea is to study the brain, a molecular machine, to learn how it is that the property of conciousness emerges, then use this inspiration to replicate that property within more advanced substrates. Once we have a self-aware machine capable of learning and “tweaking” it’s own design, it won’t be long before any resemblence to the inspiration has disappeared.

  • Brad Arnold says:

    How could someone be against reverse engineering the brain to gain knowledge? On the other hand, doing it as the quickest and easiest route to create an AI is silly. Frankly, modeling our jungle gene brain in silica to create a mind is like encoding a car to turn the pages of our browser – an elaborate exercise that doesn’t seem like a productive use of time. Good luck with that; when you are through you will have built a monument to evolutionary perversity.

    • Dave says:

      I think the idea is to study the brain, a molecular machine, to learn how it is that the property of conciousness emerges, then use this inspiration to replicate that property within more advanced substrates. Once we have a self-aware machine capable of learning and “tweaking” it’s own design, it won’t be long before any resemblence to the inspiration has disappeared.

  • quoter says:

    “We will succeed in reverse engineering the human brain by the 2020s.”

    – Ray Kurzweil, TED Talks, uploaded January 2007.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfbOyw3CT6A
    (18:40 to 18:55)

  • quoter says:

    “We will succeed in reverse engineering the human brain by the 2020s.”

    – Ray Kurzweil, TED Talks, uploaded January 2007.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfbOyw3CT6A
    (18:40 to 18:55)

  • Brain 2045 says:

    .

    Henry Markram says that it’s possible to simulate the whole human brain in 10 years.

    Check this 2 Astonishing lectures of Henry Markram, watch them in full screen:

    Lecture 1:
    http://neuroinformatics2008.org/congress-movies/Henry%20Markram.flv/view

    Lecture 2:
    http://ditwww.epfl.ch/cgi-perl/EPFLTV/home.pl?page=start_video&lang=2&connected=0&id=365&video_type=10&win_close=0

    .
    Check also the following article from the ‘Seed’ magazine:

    Part 1:
    http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/out_of_the_blue

    Part 2:
    http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/out_of_the_blue/P2

  • Brain 2045 says:

    .

    Henry Markram says that it’s possible to simulate the whole human brain in 10 years.

    Check this 2 Astonishing lectures of Henry Markram, watch them in full screen:

    Lecture 1:
    http://neuroinformatics2008.org/congress-movies/Henry%20Markram.flv/view

    Lecture 2:
    http://ditwww.epfl.ch/cgi-perl/EPFLTV/home.pl?page=start_video&lang=2&connected=0&id=365&video_type=10&win_close=0

    .
    Check also the following article from the ‘Seed’ magazine:

    Part 1:
    http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/out_of_the_blue

    Part 2:
    http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/out_of_the_blue/P2

  • John Newbury says:

    Karl,

    Kurzweil does not deny that the environment plays a role and provides information to the mature brain – the mechanism or stage at which it occurs is irrelevant here here. The measure of the human genome’s information that is specific to the brain is a naturally occurring approximation of the information that we would have to reverse engineer and/or design from first principles for any artificial brain. It is effectively a measure of the complexity of the problem, which can then be compared to known programs.

    In practice, the actual information required, or complexity of the problem, may be more or less, depending on the difficulty of mapping what is wanted/needed into the operations required to construct the brain from its substrate, whether chemical or electronic. In practice, this aspect is likely to have a minimal effect, just as the fractional change of size of a complex program (or minimal program need to generate a given string) generally depends little on the exact hardware instruction set or standard library.

    An organic environment may simplify the problem compared to conventional machines, e.g., protein molecules self-assemble after their linear generation, without the need for further tools in most cases; molecules are delivered to enzymes by Brownian motion, with no feed and transport mechanism essential within a cell.

    Conversely, an artificial system, being intelligently designed, can be designed more optimally and simpler in many ways that would be unlikely to occur naturally, e.g., advanced CAD for wiring &c. (avoiding vagus nerve and front wired photo receptor analogies!); not limited to organic chemistry where fast and small logic units are required, as they surely are. Furthermore, a computer program might well be take _far_ fewer bits, since genomes tend to be extremely wasteful (except in viruses, where space is a premium) – as illustrated by junk DNA. (Kurzweil was only counting non-junk DNA, but the relevant genes may well be bloated – even if the coded mechanisms are very close to a local optimum.)

  • John Newbury says:

    Karl,

    Kurzweil does not deny that the environment plays a role and provides information to the mature brain – the mechanism or stage at which it occurs is irrelevant here here. The measure of the human genome’s information that is specific to the brain is a naturally occurring approximation of the information that we would have to reverse engineer and/or design from first principles for any artificial brain. It is effectively a measure of the complexity of the problem, which can then be compared to known programs.

    In practice, the actual information required, or complexity of the problem, may be more or less, depending on the difficulty of mapping what is wanted/needed into the operations required to construct the brain from its substrate, whether chemical or electronic. In practice, this aspect is likely to have a minimal effect, just as the fractional change of size of a complex program (or minimal program need to generate a given string) generally depends little on the exact hardware instruction set or standard library.

    An organic environment may simplify the problem compared to conventional machines, e.g., protein molecules self-assemble after their linear generation, without the need for further tools in most cases; molecules are delivered to enzymes by Brownian motion, with no feed and transport mechanism essential within a cell.

    Conversely, an artificial system, being intelligently designed, can be designed more optimally and simpler in many ways that would be unlikely to occur naturally, e.g., advanced CAD for wiring &c. (avoiding vagus nerve and front wired photo receptor analogies!); not limited to organic chemistry where fast and small logic units are required, as they surely are. Furthermore, a computer program might well be take _far_ fewer bits, since genomes tend to be extremely wasteful (except in viruses, where space is a premium) – as illustrated by junk DNA. (Kurzweil was only counting non-junk DNA, but the relevant genes may well be bloated – even if the coded mechanisms are very close to a local optimum.)

  • a says:

    Myers is a hack, plain and simple.

  • a says:

    Myers is a hack, plain and simple.

    • Brain 2045 says:

      You are so wrong. for start check the links that I posted just above your message, it seems that the people who understand the brain and it’s complexity more than anyone else think that it’s possible to simulate the whole human brain on a computer in 10 years.

      So who is Myers?

    • Brain 2045 says:

      You are so wrong. for start check the links that I posted just above your message, it seems that the people who understand the brain and it’s complexity more than anyone else think that it’s possible to simulate the whole human brain on a computer in 10 years.

      So who is Myers?

  • Waldheri says:

    You should probably extend this post with the new reply by Myers.

    Kurzweil still doesn’t understand the brain (Pharyngula)

  • Waldheri says:

    You should probably extend this post with the new reply by Myers.

    Kurzweil still doesn’t understand the brain (Pharyngula)

  • neurotruth says:

    actually Brain 2045, the only neuroscientist who believes we will simulate a human brain in 10 yrs is Henry Markram, and a little asking around will reveal what other neuroscientists think of this idea, and of Markram’s approach. You’re not in neuroscience, so you don’t understand. You just parrot what you hear. Try using some critical thinking for a change

    • Brain 2045 says:

      Actually neurotruth, I DO use some critical thinking, lets start with the fact that Henry Markram is one of the leading in the neuroscience field, and when he say something I give his words more weight than what I hear from other neuroscientists, not talking about Myers.

      Idan Segev which is also one of the leaders in neuroscience also think that simulating the human brain on a computer is possible in the next 10-20 years.

      They both manage one of the most important journal today about neuroscience: “Frontiers in Neuroscience”, check it out.

      So yes, I listen to them more than to others.

      I’m also reading a lot about technology and I see how fast it’s going, just like Ray Kurzweil says: monkey that moves a robotic hand using his mind only, more and more applications that do things that till not so long ago where unique to humans: for example new feature in YouTube that translate automatically in a few seconds the Audio in the movie to Text, digital cameras that not only recognize people faces which is amazing by itself, but now they also recognize cats and dogs (the Z700) , applications that can look at a picture and tell you if there is a dog, or a cat, or a hourse, or a car in the picture and where it is exactly, man that is amazing if you don’t understand. If you told someone 3 years ago that computers will be able to do all this stuff he would laugh at your face and tell you that it’s a joke, but now it’s reality and everybody take it for granted.

      Ray is right, most people just don’t understand how fast the technology is developing and don’t understand the consequence of that.

      In my next reply I’ll try to send some links about this things.

  • neurotruth says:

    actually Brain 2045, the only neuroscientist who believes we will simulate a human brain in 10 yrs is Henry Markram, and a little asking around will reveal what other neuroscientists think of this idea, and of Markram’s approach. You’re not in neuroscience, so you don’t understand. You just parrot what you hear. Try using some critical thinking for a change

    • Brain 2045 says:

      Actually neurotruth, I DO use some critical thinking, lets start with the fact that Henry Markram is one of the leading in the neuroscience field, and when he say something I give his words more weight than what I hear from other neuroscientists, not talking about Myers.

      Idan Segev which is also one of the leaders in neuroscience also think that simulating the human brain on a computer is possible in the next 10-20 years.

      They both manage one of the most important journal today about neuroscience: “Frontiers in Neuroscience”, check it out.

      So yes, I listen to them more than to others.

      I’m also reading a lot about technology and I see how fast it’s going, just like Ray Kurzweil says: monkey that moves a robotic hand using his mind only, more and more applications that do things that till not so long ago where unique to humans: for example new feature in YouTube that translate automatically in a few seconds the Audio in the movie to Text, digital cameras that not only recognize people faces which is amazing by itself, but now they also recognize cats and dogs (the Z700) , applications that can look at a picture and tell you if there is a dog, or a cat, or a hourse, or a car in the picture and where it is exactly, man that is amazing if you don’t understand. If you told someone 3 years ago that computers will be able to do all this stuff he would laugh at your face and tell you that it’s a joke, but now it’s reality and everybody take it for granted.

      Ray is right, most people just don’t understand how fast the technology is developing and don’t understand the consequence of that.

      In my next reply I’ll try to send some links about this things.

  • Cracked LCD says:

    Myers has a new rebuttal up on his blog. It’s a strawman, which is probably the only thing he has left by now.
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/08/best_summary_of_the_kurzweil_n.php

  • Cracked LCD says:

    Myers has a new rebuttal up on his blog. It’s a strawman, which is probably the only thing he has left by now.
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/08/best_summary_of_the_kurzweil_n.php

  • J.S. says:

    Looks like Myers still doesn’t get it.

    His comparison of the brain to a computer system, although meant as ironic, is actually pretty accurate:

    “A-ha! We now understand what a small amount of information is actually required to create all those operating systems and computer games and Microsoft Word, and it is much, much smaller than everyone is assuming.”

    If people thought that computers are something magical, because Microsoft Word is so complex and fantastic that only something magical can produce such a thing, then seeing the circuit boards would indeed be a revelation of sorts.

    Nobody is expecting that building a computer by looking at the hardware of another computer is going to cause Microsoft Word to emerge out of it. How Myers doesn’t see this is beyond me.

  • J.S. says:

    Looks like Myers still doesn’t get it.

    His comparison of the brain to a computer system, although meant as ironic, is actually pretty accurate:

    “A-ha! We now understand what a small amount of information is actually required to create all those operating systems and computer games and Microsoft Word, and it is much, much smaller than everyone is assuming.”

    If people thought that computers are something magical, because Microsoft Word is so complex and fantastic that only something magical can produce such a thing, then seeing the circuit boards would indeed be a revelation of sorts.

    Nobody is expecting that building a computer by looking at the hardware of another computer is going to cause Microsoft Word to emerge out of it. How Myers doesn’t see this is beyond me.

  • Richard says:

    Kurtzweil criticizes his critics by saying they are thinking linearly, but then demonstrates that he also thinks linearly by saying, “We’ve seen smooth exponential growth in the price-performance and capacity of computing devices since the 1890 U.S. census, in the capacity of wireless data networks for over 100 years, and in biological technologies since before the genome project. There are dozens of other examples. This exponential progress applies to every aspect of the effort to reverse-engineer the brain.” Since growth has been exponential to this point, it will continue to be exponential, right? Just draw a straight line out — on a log graph!

  • Richard says:

    Kurtzweil criticizes his critics by saying they are thinking linearly, but then demonstrates that he also thinks linearly by saying, “We’ve seen smooth exponential growth in the price-performance and capacity of computing devices since the 1890 U.S. census, in the capacity of wireless data networks for over 100 years, and in biological technologies since before the genome project. There are dozens of other examples. This exponential progress applies to every aspect of the effort to reverse-engineer the brain.” Since growth has been exponential to this point, it will continue to be exponential, right? Just draw a straight line out — on a log graph!

  • David says:

    I don’t think “gravity” and “hormones” add much information, but I do think there’s a lot more hereditary information than what’s in the genome. Do you know how they clone extinct species? They take a cell nucleus from the extinct species and inject it into a blastocyst of a living species. What comes out is “mostly” the endangered species, but from what I hear, they tend to have some quirks and extra similarities to the mother. That means that we’re still a ways from being able to store a few cells in a jar and reconstitute it into a living specimen from scratch, and I think the differences are significant. The mitochondria, at the very least, need to come from the living mother’s cells, although I’m not sure mitochondria have changed much from species to species.

    That said, I don’t think Kurzweil’s approach is completely invalid, and Myers is taking it way out of context, but I don’t like him flatly stating that the compressed length of the genome is the maximum amount of complexity that can possibly be in the brain.

  • P.D.M. says:

    Scienceblogs has been most known for its vocal opponents to creationism, which itself isn’t a problem; the problem is that SB went from being science-centric to soapbox-centric, and that the most of PZM and certain other SB loudmouths’ appeal to the reader base was mock outrage over whatever religious fundamentalist idicoy could be dug up. Now, after well over a decade of mass-available ‘net discussion of the foolishness of fundamentalist religion, by now, only a fundamentalist anti-creationist cannot bored to death reading about the cre/ID-crowd’s follies. PZ knows this as well, so he is trolling for more attention to refresh his tired repertoire of come-see-the-creationist-idiocy-of-the-week. The target this time appears to be RK, though Mr. Kurzweil is quite capable of defending himself as can be read above, and show, perhaps too diplomatically, PZ for what he is – in the words of another poster – a hack, and one in dire need of attention.

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