AI

My avatar’s name (or ‘handle’?) is RandomAI but I’d not claim any real expertise in that area.  I did program some rule systems many years ago, including backwards chaining and forwards chaining systems, but that was as an end-user, not the people inventing it.  My handle comes from video gaming where in solitary matches often a ‘AI’ is assigned as your random opponent – hence the RandomAI name.

I’ve just read an interesting article where the complexity of understanding the human brain is described.  The writer, a guest on that blog, expresses their frustration in strong language with the grant which the EU gave “to map the human brain in a computer simulation”.  They decry the waste of money for something which has no hope of succeeding.  My only comment is that life is not logical, the world is not fair, and generally people who succeed hardly ever “deserve” to succeed.  That’s not cynical, it comes from observing corporate culture in a Dilbert-type manner.  And if you complain that things are not fair, then I’d like to ask you: compared to what?  Showmanship, self-promotion, and

The article is an excellent expose in layman’s terms to just how far away we are from even remotely comprehending how a brain works.  I especially like a comment at the end by “tdhawkes” who says they are a working neuroscientist – I’m reproducing it here in full in case it disappears from the other site.

“I am a working neuroscientist, and I support this rant. I will add this information to the rant just to boggle the mind a bit further: the response of neurons to stimulation by other neurons is operationalized by gene transcription and protein constructions in the cell nucelus that result from cell to cell signaling in each neuron’s dendritic arbor, axon trigger zone, nodes of Ranvier and terminals, and the neuron soma (cell body). This signaling happens at synapses. These transcriptions and protein constructs that result from signaling are essential for cell to cell communication at the synapse, but happen at much faster timescales than spikes, and require the maintenance and monitoring of extensive intracellular molecular signaling pathways (this is one of thousands: http://faculty.cas.usf.edu/gullah/Rsearch.html), packaging of protein constructs, and movement of such along cytoskeletal pathways to target zones at synapses, and none of these essential processes are included in any modeling of any circuit so far. Be aware that each neuron contains thousands to hundreds of thousands of synapses, and that each synapse can be composed of millions of ion channels which participate in synapse activity. Each ion channel is monitored by something in the cell — and we have zero idea how this is accomplished — because the number, activation status, and repair of EVERY ion channel is accomplished such that the synapse’s functionality in the network of synapses that affect it is optimized. So, mathbabe — do the math — billions of neurons with thousands to hundreds of thousands of synapses with millions of ion channels per synapse, all working hard to generate your experience of mind. Further, each neuron has a unique set of synapses and ion channel distributions based on the neuron’s function in the network of neurons in which it has its life. To add further complexity, it has just been shown that each neuron has unique DNA sets from which to construct proteins to operationalize the neuron’s life. And we want to reverse engineer the limited neuron behaviors we have managed to observe, and map this complex living machine such that we can imitate it with a computer whose computational mechanisms are nothing like what the ranter or I have just described. Again,, you do the math on the odds that the currents mapping methods could possibly work.”

It reminds me a little of the extreme disingenuousness of those who publish books claiming that such-and-such a gene causes this or that aspect of human behaviour and then go on to explain it with little more than hand waving.  I suspect that we’ll look back at the era of ‘gene=behaviour’ with the same horror that we reserve for phrenonlogy or eugenics.

The AI part is interesting.  I’d like to ask you: do we fly?  The answer is yes, taken as a whole mankind flies – the trillions of kilometers flown by humans in airplanes is undeniable.  Then, do we fly like birds?  No, none of us has wings, nor do we have the skeletal musculature to flap them if we did.  Yet we do fly, as do butterflies and many other things such as spiders or gliding squirrels that do not ape birds at all.  “Flying”, when defined correctly (or loosely enough) to include simply anything which purposely moves through the air from one place to another can include many, many ways of doing that.  So too, “thinking like a human brain” is so weakly defined that I imagine scenarios where almost inanimate things such as rocks could be persuaded to run some sort of mathematical simulation.

So I agree with the rant – showmanship has diverted money from boring, real science and the lauded aims of that project are rubbish – but again, who is sitting in a big office with lots of research funds and computers to play with?

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