Artificial brains?

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Can single neurons be replaced by artificial ones, perhaps nano-bots of some kind? Or could a cluster of neurons be replaced by an artificial cluster, or perhaps hooked up to a computer which replicates their function? Is this technology possible? If so, could we ever reach a point where the entire human brain is replaced by an artificial one or somehow gradually "uploaded" into a computer? Or is that just science fiction?
 
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  • #2
Pythagorean
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Can single neurons be replaced by artificial ones, perhaps nano-bots of some kind? Or could a cluster of neurons be replaced by an artificial cluster, or perhaps hooked up to a computer which replicates their function? Is this technology possible? If so, could we ever reach a point where the entire human brain is replaced by an artificial one or somehow gradually "uploaded" into a computer? Or is that just science fiction?
I'm curious about this myself. My initial reaction is that there would be some problems. Firstly, I've heard that bio-photonics plays a roll in cell communication, including neurons... and that it's something that we don't understand that well yet.

I'd also assume that any neuron we can make with current technology would be a lot bigger than nature's neurons.
 
  • #3
chroot
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We do not currently understand neurons well enough to know if we could ever duplicate them with man-made technology.

- Warren
 
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Yes but could future technology do it?
 
  • #5
chroot
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Yes but could future technology do it?
How can we possibly know?

I believe it's inevitable than mankind will eventually have technology advanced enough to compete with what nature has devised, but that's just a blind belief.

- Warren
 
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Firstly, I've heard that bio-photonics plays a roll in cell communication, including neurons... and that it's something that we don't understand that well yet.
I've never heard of bio-photonics. The wikipedia doesn't have much:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biophotonics

I don't see an obvious relationship between photons and neuronal communication, not even in the case of vision. What have you read?
 
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  • #8
Pythagorean
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I've never heard of bio-photonics. The wikipedia doesn't have much:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biophotonics

I don't see an obvious relationship between photons and neuronal communication, not even in the case of vision. What have you read?
It was Initially hearsay from my girlfriend, who is a cell bio major. I don't think it's anything they studied, more likely something the teacher brought up as teacher's often do to alert students of recently found research that hasn't made it to textbooks. It's likely to be conjecture... in fact looking up these resources, I'm a bit discouraged about the whole idea.

This is a good overview that also seems a bit crackpottish:
http://www.bicomresonance.com/bioresonance.html [Broken]


from: http://www.biophotonicsresearchinstitute.com/

How does the EM Self-field Theory Affect Biophysics?

EM self-field theory predicts the existence of photonic compounds in regions of enhanced energy, and is fundamental to an underlying knowledge of biophotons, their dynamics, energetics, and internal structure. It helps understand how the photon behaves in certain ranges of energy, and how it changes polarity across these energy bands. These changes of polarity can cause precipitous chemical and structural outcomes. This is especially relevant to the cell cycle and how it is controlled and organised, for example the motions of intracellular components that take place before, during and after metaphase. Other biological occurrences of similar phenomena concern the extracellular matrix and cell-cell communications. The EM field itself then can be stratified as we see in the ionosphere and this too can have profound implications for biological structures.
International group in Germany, definitions:
http://www.biophotonik-international.de/biophotons.htm

and from this abstract:
http://eproceedings.worldscinet.com/9789812705181/9789812705181_0016.html

In the second part, a few studies on spontaneous photon emission and light-induced photon emission (delayed luminescence) of mammalian cells and green algal cells are discussed. It is suggested that the technique of photon counting, at least when it is highly sensitive, is a good technique in future cell biology that deals with the dynamics of the internal organization.
 
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Although not directly artificial brainery, I am maintaining a page on neurotech over at my website. Also, I've made a post to Slashdot re: neurotechnology that you may find interesting.

And, since we have for decades been using abstract neural models for our ANNs, we could easily hack up some "neural circuitry" with our electronics, however the interface between these artificial neurons and our (wetware) neurons would be difficult-- lots of stuff would need to be changed so that it works with the traditional chemical neurotransmitter flows etc.

Try the collection of comp sci bibliographies and http://pubmedcentral.gov [Broken] to search for medical papers re: synaptic signaling, neurotransmitter flows, etc.

- Bryan
 
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  • #10
Q_Goest
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hammertime said: Can single neurons be replaced by artificial ones, perhaps nano-bots of some kind? Or could a cluster of neurons be replaced by an artificial cluster, or perhaps hooked up to a computer which replicates their function? Is this technology possible? If so, could we ever reach a point where the entire human brain is replaced by an artificial one or somehow gradually "uploaded" into a computer? Or is that just science fiction?
Generally, the paradigm in science today is that in principal, replacing neurons with any computational bit of hardware will maintain conscious experience, though it doesn’t say that it is necessarily possible to create the actual hardware. We presently take it for granted that such hardware can be created.

Chalmers has a very famous thought experiment that discusses replacing neurons with silicone chips. The experiment is based on a concept called “functionalism” which basically states:
Functionalism in the philosophy of mind is the doctrine that what makes something a mental state of a particular type does not depend on its internal constitution, but rather on the way it functions, or the role it plays, in the system of which it is a part. … Functionalism is the doctrin that what makes something a thought, desire, pain (or any other type of mental state) depends not on its internal constitution, but solely on its function, or the role it plays, in the cognitive system of which it is a part. More precisely, functionalist theories take the identity of a mental state to be determined by its causal relations to sensory stimulations, other mental states, and behavior.
Ref: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/functionalism/

Here, “mental state” is refering to the physical configuration of matter (ie: neurons, molecules, etc…), signals and just the general configuration of the brain, and is generally understood to mean how that physical configuration changes over time.

Chalmers talks about removing a single neuron from a brain and replacing it with a chip. From there, the thought experiment would have you remove each and every neuron, one at a time, and imagine how that person’s conscious awareness might change.

The question arises: What is it like to be the systems in between? For those systems intermediate between me [a brain with neurons] and Robot [a brain replaced with silicone chips], what, if anything, are they experiencing? As we move along the spectrum of cases, how does conscious experience vary? Presumably the very early cases have experiences much like mine, and the very late cases have little or no experience, but what of the cases in the middle?
Given that Robot, at the far end of the spectrum, is not conscious, it seems that one of two things must happen along the way. Either consciousness gradually fades over the series of cases, before eventually disappearing, or somewhere along the way consciousness suddenly blinks out, although the preceding case had rich conscious experiences. Call the first possibility Fading Qualia and the second Suddenly Disappearing Qualia.
Ref: Chalmers, “Absent Qualia, Fading Qualia, Dancing Qualia”
http://consc.net/papers/qualia.html
Chalmers argument*, and the conclusion based on functionalism, is that there will be no change in any conscious experience had by Robot. In fact, this is the standard paradigm cognitive science works to today – though I’m not a backer of this concept. I believe the concept of functionalism is flawed, in which case, the answer to the question of can a neuron be replaced with a chip is only “no” for any neuron that maintains conscious experience, and you can’t upload a person into a computer. The argument against functionalism is rather lengthy though, so I won’t go further into detail.

*Note: I realize the section quoted from Chalmers sounds as if he believes there will be a loss of conscious experience, but that is not the conclusion he argues for.
 
  • #11
Pythagorean
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One difficulty I've always had with modeling anything perfectly is round-off error. To a certain point, you can eliminate round off error with more sophisticated technology, but when it comes to a number that has infinite decimal places, I don't see any way to represent it without rounding.

I believe this is how chaos theory was ignited by Lorenz.
 

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