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Archive for the ‘neuroscience’ category: Page 411

Jul 26, 2011

The Darwin Escape

Posted by in categories: existential risks, human trajectories, neuroscience

carboncopies.org

Concerns arose recently about the concept of so-called “catchment areas”, evolutionary developments that result in a very tight interdependence between requirements for survival and behavioral drives. In particular, the concern has been raised that such catchment might render any significant modification of the human mind, such as through brain enhancement, impossible (Suzanne Gildert, “Pavlov’s AI: What do superintelligences REALLY want?”, [email protected], 2010).

The concept of a catchment area assumes that beneath the veneer of goal-oriented rational planning, learned behavior and skill lies a basic set of drives and reward mechanisms. The only purpose of those drives and reward mechanisms is genetic survival, a necessary result of eons of natural selection. It follows that all of our perceived goals, our desires and interests, the pursuit of wealth, social acceptance or fame, love, scientific understanding, all of it is merely a means to an end. All of it points back to the set of drives and reward mechanisms that best enable us as individuals, us as a tribe and us as a species to survive in our given environment.

Why does that describe a catchment area, a type of prison of behavior? It is assumed that the distribution of behaviors that have enabled long-term survival is a narrow one with little real variance. Stray too far from the norm and your behaviors become counter-productive to survival. Worst of all, if you recognize your enslavement to those single-purpose drives and reward mechanisms, if you realize that they have no meaning beyond a survival that itself links to no universal purpose, then you risk embarking upon a nihilistic course that would likely end in your extermination or self-termination.

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Feb 17, 2011

The Global Brain and its role in Human Immortality

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, complex systems, futurism, life extension, neuroscience

It would be helpful to discuss these theoretical concepts because there could be significant practical and existential implications.

The Global Brain (GB) is an emergent world-wide entity of distributed intelligence, facilitated by communication and the meaningful interconnections between millions of humans via technology (such as the internet).

For my purposes I take it to mean the expressive integration of all (or the majority) of human brains through technology and communication, a Metasystem Transition from the human brain to a global (Earth) brain. The GB is truly global not only in geographical terms but also in function.

It has been suggested that the GB has clear analogies with the human brain. For example, the basic unit of the human brain (HB) is the neuron, whereas the basic unit of the GB is the human brain. Whilst the HB is space-restricted within our cranium, the GB is constrained within this planet. The HB contains several regions that have specific functions themselves, but are also connected to the whole (e.g. occipital cortex for vision, temporal cortex for auditory function, thalamus etc.). The GB contains several regions that have specific functions themselves, but are connected to the whole (e.g. search engines, governments, etc.).

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Dec 7, 2010

Rethinking Education to Build Better Learners — Naveen Jain

Posted by in categories: education, neuroscience

My generation was the last one to learn to use a slide rule in school. Today that skill is totally obsolete. So is the ability to identify the Soviet Socialist Republics on a map, the ability to write an operation in FORTAN, or how to drive a car with a standard transmission.

We live in a world of instant access to information and where technology is making exponential advances in synthetic biology, nanotechnology, genetics, robotics, neuroscience and artificial intelligence. In this world, we should not be focused on improving the classrooms but should be devoting resources to improving the brains that the students bring to that classroom.

To prepare students for this high-velocity, high-technology world the most valuable skill we can teach them is to be better learners so they can leap from one technological wave to the next. That means education should not be about modifying the core curricula of our schools but should be about building better learners by enhancing each student’s neural capacities and motivation for life-long learning.

Less than two decades ago this concept would have been inconceivable. We used to think that brain anatomy (and hence learning capacity) was fixed at birth. But recent breakthroughs in the neuroscience of learning have demonstrated that this view is fundamentally wrong.

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Nov 19, 2010

Stoic Philosophy and Human Immortality

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, futurism, neuroscience

The Stoic philosophical school shares several ideas with modern attempts at prolonging human lifespan. The Stoics believed in a non-dualistic, deterministic paradigm, where logic and reason formed part of their everyday life. The aim was to attain virtue, taken to mean human excellence.

I have recently described a model specifically referring to indefinite lifespans, where human biological immortality is a necessary and inevitable consequence of natural evolution (for details see www.elpistheory.info and for a comprehensive summary see http://cid-3d83391d98a0f83a.office.live.com/browse.aspx/Immo…=155370157).

This model is based on a deterministic, non-dualistic approach, described by the laws of Chaos theory (dynamical systems) and suggests that, in order to accelerate the natural transition from human evolution by natural selection to a post-Darwinian domain (where indefinite lifespans are the norm) , it is necessary to lead a life of constant intellectual stimulation, innovation and avoidance of routine (see http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/rej.2005.8.96?journalCode=rej and http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/rej.2009.0996) i.e. to seek human virtue (excellence, brilliance, and wisdom, as opposed to mediocrity and routine). The search for intellectual excellence increases neural inputs which effect epigenetic changes that can up-regulate age repair mechanisms.

Thus it is possible to conciliate the Stoic ideas with the processes that lead to both technological and developmental Singularities, using approaches that are deeply embedded in human nature and transcend time.

Apr 18, 2010

Ray Kurzweil to keynote “H+ Summit @ Harvard — The Rise Of The Citizen Scientist”

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, business, complex systems, education, events, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, human trajectories, information science, media & arts, neuroscience, robotics/AI

With our growing resources, the Lifeboat Foundation has teamed with the Singularity Hub as Media Sponsors for the 2010 Humanity+ Summit. If you have suggestions on future events that we should sponsor, please contact [email protected].

The summer 2010 “Humanity+ @ Harvard — The Rise Of The Citizen Scientist” conference is being held, after the inaugural conference in Los Angeles in December 2009, on the East Coast, at Harvard University’s prestigious Science Hall on June 12–13. Futurist, inventor, and author of the NYT bestselling book “The Singularity Is Near”, Ray Kurzweil is going to be keynote speaker of the conference.

Also speaking at the H+ Summit @ Harvard is Aubrey de Grey, a biomedical gerontologist based in Cambridge, UK, and is the Chief Science Officer of SENS Foundation, a California-based charity dedicated to combating the aging process. His talk, “Hype and anti-hype in academic biogerontology research: a call to action”, will analyze the interplay of over-pessimistic and over-optimistic positions with regards of research and development of cures, and propose solutions to alleviate the negative effects of both.

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Mar 12, 2010

Reduction of human intelligence as global risk

Posted by in categories: existential risks, neuroscience

Another risk is loss of human rationality, while preserving human life. In a society there are always so many people with limited cognitive abilities, and most of the achievements are made by a small number of talented people. Genetic and social degradation, reducing the level of education, loss of skills of logic can lead to a temporary decrease in intelligence of individual groups of people. But as long as humanity is very large in population, it is not so bad, because there will always be enough intelligent people. Significant drop in population after nonglobal disaster may exacerbate this problem. And the low intelligence of the remaining people will reduce their chances of survival. Of course, one can imagine such an absurd situation that people are so degraded that by the evolutionary path new species arise from us, which is not having a full-fledged intelligence — and that back then this kind of evolving reasonable, developed a new intelligence.
More dangerous is decline of intelligence because of the spread of technological contaminants (or use of a certain weapon). For example, I should mention constantly growing global arsenic contamination, which is used in various technological processes. Sergio Dani wrote about this in his article “Gold, coal and oil.” http://sosarsenic.blogspot.com/2009/11/gold-coal-and-oil-reg…is-of.html, http://www.medical-hypotheses.com/article/S0306-9877 (09) 00666–5/abstract
Disengaged during the extraction of gold mines in the arsenic remains in the biosphere for millennia. Dani binds arsenic with Alzheimer’s disease. In his another paper is demonstrated that increasing concentrations of arsenic leads to an exponential increase in incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. He believes that people are particularly vulnerable to arsenic poisoning, as they have large brains and longevity. If, however, according to Denis, in the course of evolution, people will adapt to high levels of arsenic, it will lead to a decline in the brain and life expectancy, resulting in the intellect of people will be lost.
In addition to arsenic contamination occurs among many other neurotoxic substances — CO, CO2, methane, benzene, dioxin, mercury, lead, etc. Although the level of pollution by each of them separately is below health standards, the sum of the impacts may be larger. One reason for the fall of the Roman Empire was called the total poisoning of its citizens (though not barbarians) of lead from water pipes. Of course, they could not have knowledge about these remote and unforeseen consequences — but we also may not know about the many consequences of our affairs.
In addition to dementia is alcohol and most drugs, many drugs (eg, side effect in the accompanying sheets of mixtures of heartburn called dementia). Also rigid ideological system, or memes.
Number of infections, particularly prion, also leads to dementia.
Despite this, the average IQ of people is growing as life expectancy.

Aug 17, 2009

A lifeboat for consciousness

Posted by in category: neuroscience

I recently began to worry that something/someone, some field, force, disease, prion, virus, bad luck and/or natural causes could threaten and perhaps destroy the most valuable entity in the universe, an entity more valuable than life itself. Consciousness. What good is life extension without conscious awareness? What is consciousness?

We know the brain works a lot like a computer, with neuron firings and synapses acting like bit states and switches. Brain-as-computer works very well to account for sensory processing, control of behavior, learning and other cognitive functions. These functions may in some cases be non-conscious, and other times associated with conscious experience and control. Scientists seek the distinction – the essential feature, or trick for consciousness.

Some suggest there is no trick, consciousness emerges as a by-product of cognitive computation among neurons. Others say we don’t know, that consciousness may indeed require some feature related to, but not quite the same as neuron-to-neuron cognition.

In either case, humans and other creatures could in principle become devoid of consciousness while maintaining cognitive behaviors, appearing more-or-less normal to outside observers. Such hypothetical non-conscious behaving entities are referred to in literature, films and philosophical texts as ‘zombies’. Philosopher David Chalmers introduced the philosophical zombie, a test case for whether or not consciousness is distinct from cognitive neurocomputation.

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Jul 23, 2009

Artificial brain ’10 years away’

Posted by in categories: engineering, human trajectories, information science, neuroscience, robotics/AI, supercomputing

Artificial brain ’10 years away’

By Jonathan Fildes
Technology reporter, BBC News, Oxford

A detailed, functional artificial human brain can be built within the next 10 years, a leading scientist has claimed.

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Jul 6, 2009

Unique opportunity to sponsor research investigating an infectious cause and potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, neuroscience

Unique opportunity to sponsor research investigating an infectious cause and potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease



Alzheimer’s disease afflicts some 20 million people world-wide, over 5 million people of whom reside in the United States. It is currently the seventh-leading cause of death in the US. The number of people with the disease is predicted to increase by over 50% by 2030. The economic as well as emotional costs are huge, the costs being estimated as more than $148 billion each year (direct and indirect, for of all types of dementia, to Medicare, Medicaid and businesses).

The causes of Alzheimer’s disease are unknown, apart from the very small proportion with familial disease. We are investigating the involvement of infectious agents in the disease, with particular emphasis on the virus that causes oral herpes/cold sores/fever blisters. We discovered that most elderly humans harbour this virus in their brains and that in those (and only those) who possess a certain genetic factor, the virus confers a strong risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Also, we found that the virus is directly involved with the characteristic abnormalities seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients.

There are several treatment possibilities available to combat this virus and all would be suitable candidates as therapies in Alzheimer’s disease. However, much more research is needed before trials of these agents for Alzheimer’s disease in humans can begin.

In these financially difficult times many funding bodies have to prioritise projects based around long established hypotheses. Projects involving new avenues of investigation can receive very positive comments by scientific reviewers, yet are rarely funded, as they almost always appear risky compared with projects largely confirming or expanding existing ideas. Such conservative projects are almost guaranteed to produce useful data, though with modest impact. This situation can mean that research proposals with the potential to transform our understanding of a disease and offer new approaches to its treatment never reach the threshold for funding and are not implemented, even though the potential and quality of the science is acknowledged by reviewers and funding panel.

It appears that our work examining a viral cause for Alzheimer’s disease is in this category. Despite our publishing a large number of potentially very exciting papers on this topic, and despite our research projects being reviewed favourably by scientific referees, few funding panels are prepared to commit resources to fund our work, as by doing so they deny funding to other more straightforward, very low risk projects.

We are therefore actively seeking sponsorship for several projects of varying costs to investigate the interaction of virus and specific genetic factor, the pathways of viral damage in the brain, and the effects of antiviral agents. All the projects would provide significant evidence strengthening the case for trialling antiviral agents in Alzheimer’s disease.

Antiviral agents would inhibit a likely major cause of the disease in contrast to current treatments, which merely inhibit the symptoms.

If any Lifeboat member knows of a company or individual that would be interested in sponsoring some of our research on Alzheimer’s disease then please contact me for further details.

Ruth Itzhaki

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May 30, 2009

Create an AI on Your Computer

Posted by in categories: complex systems, human trajectories, information science, neuroscience, robotics/AI, supercomputing

Singularity Hub

Create an AI on Your Computer

Written on May 28, 2009 – 11:48 am | by Aaron Saenz |

If many hands make light work, then maybe many computers can make an artificial brain. That’s the basic reasoning behind Intelligence Realm’s Artificial Intelligence project. By reverse engineering the brain through a simulation spread out over many different personal computers, Intelligence Realm hopes to create an AI from the ground-up, one neuron at a time. The first waves of simulation are already proving successful, with over 14,000 computers used and 740 billion neurons modeled. Singularity Hub managed to snag the project’s leader, Ovidiu Anghelidi, for an interview: see the full text at the end of this article.

The ultimate goal of Intelligence Realm is to create an AI or multiple AIs, and use these intelligences in scientific endeavors. By focusing on the human brain as a prototype, they can create an intelligence that solves problems and “thinks” like a human. This is akin to the work done at FACETS that Singularity Hub highlighted some weeks ago. The largest difference between Intelligence Realm and FACETS is that Intelligence Realm is relying on a purely simulated/software approach.

Which sort of makes Intelligence Realm similar to the Blue Brain Project that Singularity Hub also discussed. Both are computer simulations of neurons in the brain, but Blue Brain’s ultimate goal is to better understand neurological functions, while Intelligence Realm is seeking to eventually create an AI. In either case, to successfully simulate the brain in software alone, you need a lot of computing power. Blue Brain runs off a high-tech supercomputer, a resource that’s pretty much exclusive to that project. Even with that impressive commodity, Blue Brain is hitting the limit of what it can simulate. There’s too much to model for just one computer alone, no matter how powerful. Intelligence Realm is using a distributed computing solution. Where one computer cluster alone may fail, many working together may succeed. Which is why Intelligence Realm is looking for help.

The AI system project is actively recruiting, with more than 6700 volunteers answering the call. Each volunteer runs a small portion of the larger simulation on their computer(s) and then ships the results back to the main server. BOINC, the Berkeley built distributed computing software that makes it all possible, manages the flow of data back and forth. It’s the same software used for SETI’s distributed computing processing. Joining the project is pretty simple: you just download BOINC, some other data files, and you’re good to go. You can run the simulation as an application, or as part of your screen saver.

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