Miguel Nicolelis Says The Singularity Is Hot Air

Friday, February 22, 2013

Neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis

 The Singularity
Miguel Nicolelis, the neuroscientist whose team was responsible for recently giving rats the ability to sense infrared wavelengths, and for wiring monkeys to play video games and control robots with their minds says computers will never replicate the human brain and that the Singularity is “a bunch of hot air.”
Miguel Nicolelis, the neuroscientist at Duke University, whose team was responsible for recently giving rats the ability to sense infrared wavelengths says computers will never replicate the human brain and that the technological Singularity is “a bunch of hot air.”

It is interesting that the man, who in some respects is helping make the Singularity a reality, does not subscribe to the idea; or at  least the mind uploading elements.

"The brain is not computable and no engineering can reproduce it," says Nicolelis, a long-time researcher into brain-machine interfaces.

The Singularity, as 33rd Square readers know, is that moment predicted in the not-to-distant future where exponential technology leads to a greater-than-human self-improving artificial intelligence.

Ray Kurzweil, recently hired on at Google as a director of engineering, is the greatest promoter of the Singularity and believes that once machine intelligence exceed our own people will also be able to upload their thoughts and memories into computers.

Nicolelis calls that idea total bunk. “Downloads will never happen,” Nicolelis said during remarks made at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston recently.

“There are a lot of people selling the idea that you can mimic the brain with a computer.” The debate over whether the brain is a kind of computer has been running for decades.

Although many scientists remain in the camp that mind uploading will not be possible, there has been a growing scientific and academic acceptance of the possibility.  Last year, the International Journal of Machine Consciousness, put out a special issue on the subject.

Also, neuroscientist Sebastian Seung does not discount the idea in his book, Connectome: How the Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Are.  He writes that we are our connectomes. Our unique selves—the way we think, act, feel—is etched into the wiring of our brains. Capturing the connectome and simulating it in a computer might therefore be an avenue to mind uploading.

Kurzweil delves into the idea of “reverse-engineering” the brain in his latest book, How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed, in which he writes that even though the human brain may be immensely complex, “the fact that it contains many billions of cells and trillions of connections does not necessarily make its primary method complex.”

However, Nicolelis thinks that human consciousness simply can’t be replicated in silicon. That’s because its most important features are the result of unpredictable, non-linear interactions between billions of cells, Nicolelis says.

“You can’t predict whether the stock market will go up or down because you can’t compute it,” he says. “You could have all the computer chips ever in the world and you won’t create a consciousness.”

The neuroscientist, originally from Brazil, instead thinks that humans will increasingly subsume machines (an idea, incidentally, that’s also part of Kurzweil’s predictions). His study giving rats the extra sense is one example of this.

SOURCE  TEDxTalks, MIT Technology Review

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