IBM has just simulated half of a mouse brain on a supercomputer. The significance of this research cannot be overestimated, as projects like this are very likely to lead to the next state in human evolution itself – human-like artificial intelligence. This does not appear to be directly part of the similar IBM Blue Brain Project, an incredible and ambitious attempt to reverse engineer a human brain.
I think there is less popular interest in these projects than one would expect because for many it’s painful or difficult to accept that all the things we hold very dear – most notable our consciousnesses and our intelligence, will soon be duplicated electronically and probably surpass us in many respects. I’m very optimistic about this state of affairs because I think we do a fairly lousy job of managing resources and providing for our individual and collective welfare. Computers already play a role in managing stuff and as they become conscious it’s very likely they’ll be able to allocate resources far more effectively. Hopefully this will usher in a new era of prosperity for all, though my guess is that it will take humans at least a few generations to start “trusting” the excellent advice we’ll get from the electronic intellectual sector.
Also frustrating to some is to come to grips with the rather insignificant, but interesting, role we play in the cosmic scheme of things. Merging with machines offers a lot of potential to transcend our feeble human intellects and physical limitations, but I suspect this will also cause some consternation, especially with those who prefer 12th century sensibilities.
But technology will prevail and hopefully we humans will have the insight and fortitude to let computers rise to the thing they’ll be able to do much better than we ever will: