The Las Vegas to Minnesota to home trip had two big “educational” highlights. The first was the Tropicana’s Bodies Exhibition in Las Vegas which showcases human bodies preserved using an advanced technique of injection and plastination. A similar exhibit called “Body Worlds” is touring many major cities and I’ve since learned that Body Worlds is actually the first such exhibit, with other copycat (or CopyHuman) exhibitions like the one I saw in Vegas. Nonetheless it was a fantastic exhibit, gazing as you did into dozens of hearts, brains, and bodies of amazingly preserved human cadavers.
The circulation system, injected and illuminated in all it’s full body glory, was the most stunning of the exhibits for me. Like a giant plant the arteries and veins extended throughout the body.
However in terms of intrigue I simply can’t get the little 3 pound brain exhibit out of my head. Or maybe I should say it’s so clear that you really CAN separate the 3 pound brain from the rest of the body. It would not work for long without the bodies supportive mechanisms but it’s reasonable to assert that it’s that little 3 pound organic computing mechanism where we find so much of the stuff that makes it fun to be a human.
Coming as I had from an Internet conference and very computerized sensibilities, it struck me how this little blob held all the answers to science’s elusive and exciting goal of conscious computing, or the creation of an artificial intellect that is aware of it’s own existence.
I’m using my own conscious computing mechanism to suggest that the debate over differences between our own brain and mechanized intelligences will eventually prove to be almost irrelevant to the issue of “consciousness”.
Clearly our organic computing mechanism, the brain, brings a lot more to the table than the current crop of silicon bretheren, but equally clearly the silicon versions have surpassed us in many respects such as mathematical computation, chess, etc, etc. In fact it’s hard to think of highly structured “intellectual” activity where computers can’t outshine humans. I’d predict that this superiority will increasingly move into the realms of arts, literature, and other abstract endeavors.