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People Would Rather a Self-Driving Car Kill a Criminal Than a Dog

Snap Decisions

On first glance, a site that collects people’s opinions about whose life an autonomous car should favor doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. But look closer, and you’ll catch a glimpse of humanity’s dark side.

The Moral Machine is an online survey designed by MIT researchers to gauge how the public would want an autonomous car to behave in a scenario in which someone has to die. It asks questions like: “If an autonomous car has to choose between killing a man or a woman, who should it kill? What if the woman is elderly but the man is young?”

Essentially, it’s a 21st century update on the Trolley Problem, an ethical thought experiment no doubt permanently etched into the mind of anyone who’s seen the second season of “The Good Place.”

Ethical Dilemma

The MIT team launched the Moral Machine in 2016, and more than two million people from 233 countries participated in the survey — quite a significant sample size.

On Wednesday, the researchers published the results of the experiment in the journal Nature, and they really aren’t all that surprising: Respondents value the life of a baby over all others, with a female child, male child, and pregnant woman following closely behind. Yawn.

It’s when you look at the other end of the spectrum — the characters survey respondents were least likely to “save” — that you’ll see something startling: Survey respondents would rather the autonomous car kill a human criminal than a dog.

moral machine
Image Credit: MIT

Ugly Reflection

While the team designed the survey to help shape the future of autonomous vehicles, it’s hard not to focus on this troubling valuing of a dog’s life over that of any human, criminal or not. Does this tell us something important about how society views the criminal class? Reveal that we’re all monsters when hidden behind the internet’s cloak of anonymity? Confirm that we really like dogs?

The MIT team doesn’t address any of these questions in their paper, and really, we wouldn’t expect them to — it’s their job to report the survey results, not extrapolate some deeper meaning from them. But whether the Moral Machine informs the future of autonomous vehicles or not, it’s certainly held up a mirror to humanity’s values, and we do not like the reflection we see.

READ MORE: Driverless Cars Should Spare Young People Over Old in Unavoidable Accidents, Massive Survey Finds [Motherboard]

More on the Moral Machine: MIT’s “Moral Machine” Lets You Decide Who Lives & Dies in Self-Driving Car Crashes

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People Would Rather a Self-Driving Car Kill a Criminal Than a Dog

Scientists Say New Material Could Hold up an Actual Space Elevator

Space Elevator

It takes a lot of energy to put stuff in space. That’s why one longtime futurist dream is a “space elevator” — a long cable strung between a geostationary satellite and the Earth that astronauts could use like a dumbwaiter to haul stuff up into orbit.

The problem is that such a system would require an extraordinarily light, strong cable. Now, researchers from Beijing’s Tsinghua University say they’ve developed a carbon nanotube fiber so sturdy and lightweight that it could be used to build an actual space elevator.

Going Up

The researchers published their paper in May, but it’s now garnering the attention of their peers. Some believe the Tsinghua team’s material really could lead to the creation of an elevator that would make it cheaper to move astronauts and materials into space.

“This is a breakthrough,” colleague Wang Changqing, who studies space elevators at Northwestern Polytechnical University, told the South China Morning Post.

Huge If True

There are still countless galling technical problems that need to be overcome before a space elevator would start to look plausible. Wang pointed out that it’d require tens of thousands of kilometers of the new material, for instance, as well as a shield to protect it from space debris.

But the research brings us one step closer to what could be a true game changer: a vastly less expensive way to move people and spacecraft out of Earth’s gravity.

READ MORE: China Has Strongest Fibre That Can Haul 160 Elephants – and a Space Elevator? [South China Morning Post]

More on space elevators: Why Space Elevators Could Be the Future of Space Travel

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Scientists Say New Material Could Hold up an Actual Space Elevator

An AI Conference Refusing a Name Change Highlights a Tech Industry Problem

Name Game

There’s a prominent artificial intelligence conference that goes by the suggestive acronym NIPS, which stands for “Neural Information Processing Systems.”

After receiving complaints that the acronym was alienating to women, the conference’s leadership collected suggestions for a new name via an online poll, according to WIRED. But the conference announced Monday that it would be sticking with NIPS all the same.

Knock It Off

It’s convenient to imagine that this acronym just sort of emerged by coincidence, but let’s not indulge in that particular fantasy.

It’s more likely that tech geeks cackled maniacally when they came up with the acronym, and the refusal to do better even when people looking up the conference in good faith are bombarded with porn is a particularly telling failure of the AI research community.

Small Things Matter

This problem goes far beyond a silly name — women are severely underrepresented in technology research and even more so when it comes to artificial intelligence. And if human decency — comforting those who are regularly alienated by the powers that be — isn’t enough of a reason to challenge the sexist culture embedded in tech research, just think about what we miss out on.

True progress in artificial intelligence cannot happen without a broad range of diverse voices — voices that are silenced by “locker room talk” among an old boy’s club. Otherwise, our technological development will become just as stuck in place as our cultural development often seems to be.

READ MORE: AI RESEARCHERS FIGHT OVER FOUR LETTERS: NIPS [WIRED]

More on Silicon Valley sexism: The Tech Industry’s Gender Problem Isn’t Just Hurting Women

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An AI Conference Refusing a Name Change Highlights a Tech Industry Problem

Scientists Are Hopeful AI Could Help Predict Earthquakes

Quake Rate

Earlier this year, I interviewed U.S. Geological Survey geologist Annemarie Baltay for a story about why it’s incredibly difficult to predict earthquakes.

“We don’t use that ‘p word’ — ‘predict’ — at all,” she told me. “Earthquakes are chaotic. We don’t know when or where they’ll occur.”

Neural Earthwork

That could finally be starting to change, according to a fascinating feature in The New York Times.

By feeding seismic data into a neural network — a type of artificial intelligence that learns to recognize patterns by scrutinizing examples — researchers say they can now predict moments after a quake strikes how far its aftershocks will travel.

And eventually, some believe, they’ll be able to listen to signals from fault lines and predict when an earthquake will strike in the first place.

Future Vision

But like Baltay, some researchers aren’t convinced we’ll ever be able to predict earthquakes.University of Tokyo seismologist Robert Geller told the Times that until an algorithm actually predicts an upcoming quake, he’ll remain skeptical.

“There are no shortcuts,” he said. “If you cannot predict the future, then your hypothesis is wrong.”

READ MORE: A.I. Is Helping Scientist Predict When and Where the Next Big Earthquake Will Be [The New York Times]

More on earthquake AI: A New AI Detected 17 Times More Earthquakes Than Traditional Methods

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Scientists Are Hopeful AI Could Help Predict Earthquakes

A Stem Cell Transplant Let a Wheelchair-Bound Man Dance Again

Stand Up Guy

For 10 years, Roy Palmer had no feeling in his lower extremities. Two days after receiving a stem cell transplant, he cried tears of joy because he could feel a cramp in his leg.

The technical term for the procedure the British man underwent is hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). And while risky, it’s offering new hope to people like Palmer, who found himself wheelchair-bound after multiple sclerosis (MS) caused his immune system to attack his nerves’ protective coverings.

Biological Reboot

Ever hear the IT troubleshooting go-to of turning a system off and on again to fix it? The HSCT process is similar, but instead of a computer, doctors attempt to reboot a patient’s immune system.

To do this, they first remove stem cells from the patient’s body. Then the patient undergoes chemotherapy, which kills the rest of their immune system. After that, the doctors use the extracted stem cells to reboot the patient’s immune system.

It took just two days for the treatment to restore some of the feeling in Palmer’s legs. Eventually, he was able to walk on his own and even dance. He told the BBC in a recent interview that he now feels like he has a second chance at life.

“We went on holiday, not so long ago, to Turkey. I walked on the beach,” said Palmer. “Little things like that, people do not realize what it means to me.”

Risk / Reward

Still, HSCT isn’t some miracle cure for MS. Though it worked for Palmer, that’s not always the case, and HSCT can also cause infections and infertility. The National MS Society still considers HSCT to be an experimental treatment, and the Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve the therapy in the U.S.

However, MS affects more than 2.3 million people, and if a stem cell transplant can help even some of those folks the way it helped Palmer, it’s a therapy worth exploring.

READ MORE: Walking Again After Ten Years With MS [BBC]

More on HCST: New Breakthrough Treatment Could “Reverse Disability” for MS Patients

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A Stem Cell Transplant Let a Wheelchair-Bound Man Dance Again

You Can Now Preorder a $150,000 Hoverbike

Please, Santa?

It’s never too early to start writing your Christmas wish list, right? Because we know what’s now at the top of ours: a hoverbike.

We’ve had our eyes on Hoversurf’s Scorpion-3 since early last year — but now, the Russian drone start-up is accepting preorders on an updated version of the vehicle.

Flying Bike

The S3 2019 is part motorcycle and part quadcopter. According to the Hoversurf website, the battery-powered vehicle weighs 253 pounds and has a flight time of 10 to 25 minutes depending on operator weight. Its maximum legal speed is 60 mph — though as for how fast the craft can actually move, that’s unknown. Hoversurf also notes that the vehicle’s “safe flight altitude” is 16 feet, but again, we aren’t sure how high it can actually soar.

What we do know: The four blades that provide S3 with its lift spin at shin level, and while this certainly looks like it would be a safety hazard, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration approved the craft for legal use as an ultralight vehicle in September.

That means you can only operate an S3 for recreational or sports purposes — but you can’t cruise to work on your morning commute.

Plummeting Bank Account

You don’t need a pilot’s license to operate an S3, but you will need a decent amount of disposable income — the Star Wars-esque craft will set you back $150,000.

If that number doesn’t cause your eyes to cross, go ahead and slap down the $10,000 deposit needed to claim a spot in the reservation queue. You’ll then receive an email when it’s time to to place your order. You can expect to receive your S3 2019 two to six months after that, according to the company website.

That means there’s a pretty good chance you won’t be able to hover around your front yard this Christmas morning, but a 2019 jaunt is a genuine possibility.

READ MORE: For $150,000 You Can Now Order Your Own Hoverbike [New Atlas]

More on Hoversurf: Watch the World’s First Rideable Hoverbike in Flight

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You Can Now Preorder a $150,000 Hoverbike

FBI’s Tesla Criminal Probe Reportedly Centers on Model 3 Production

Ups and Downs

Can we please get off Mr. Musk’s Wild Ride now? We don’t know how much more of this Tesla rollercoaster we can take.

In 2018 alone, Elon Musk’s clean energy company has endured a faulty flufferbot, furious investors, and an SEC probe and settlement. But there was good news, too. Model 3 deliveries reportedly increased, and just this week, we found out that Tesla had a historic financial quarter, generating $312 million in profit.

And now we’re plummeting again.

Closing In

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is deepening a criminal probe into whether Tesla “misstated information about production of its Model 3 sedans and misled investors about the company’s business going back to early 2017.”

We’ve known about the FBI’s Tesla criminal probe since September 18, but this is the first report confirming that Model 3 production is at the center of the investigation.

According to the WSJ’s sources, FBI agents have been reaching out to former Tesla employees in recent weeks to ask if they’d be willing to testify in the criminal case, though no word yet on whether any have agreed.

Casual CEO

We might be having trouble keeping up with these twists and turns, but Musk seems to be taking the FBI’s Tesla criminal probe all in stride — he spent much of Friday afternoon joking around with his Twitter followers about dank memes.

Clearly he has the stomach for this, but it’d be hard to blame any Tesla investors for deciding they’d had enough.

READ MORE: Tesla Faces Deepening Criminal Probe Over Whether It Misstated Production Figures [The Wall Street Journal]

More on Tesla: Elon Musk Says Your Tesla Will Earn You Money While You Sleep

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FBI’s Tesla Criminal Probe Reportedly Centers on Model 3 Production

Zero Gravity Causes Worrisome Changes In Astronauts’ Brains

Danger, Will Robinson

As famous Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield demonstrated with his extraterrestrial sob session, fluids behave strangely in space.

And while microgravity makes for a great viral video, it also has terrifying medical implications that we absolutely need to sort out before we send people into space for the months or years necessary for deep space exploration.

Specifically, research published Thursday In the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated that our brains undergo lasting changes after we spend enough time in space. According to the study, cerebrospinal fluid — which normally cushions our brain and spinal cord — behaves differently in zero gravity, causing it to pool around and squish our brains.

Mysterious Symptoms

The brains of the Russian cosmonauts who were studied in the experiment mostly bounced back upon returning to Earth.

But even seven months later, some abnormalities remained. According to National Geographic, the researchers suspect that high pressure  inside the cosmonauts’ skulls may have squeezed extra water into brain cells which later drained out en masse.

Now What?

So far, scientists don’t know whether or not this brain shrinkage is related to any sort of cognitive or other neurological symptoms — it might just be a weird quirk of microgravity.

But along with other space hazards like deadly radiation and squished eyeballs, it’s clear that we have a plethora of medical questions to answer before we set out to explore the stars.

READ MORE: Cosmonaut brains show space travel causes lasting changes [National Geographic]

More on space medicine: Traveling to Mars Will Blast Astronauts With Deadly Cosmic Radiation, new Data Shows

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Zero Gravity Causes Worrisome Changes In Astronauts’ Brains

We Aren’t Growing Enough Healthy Foods to Feed Everyone on Earth

Check Yourself

The agriculture industry needs to get its priorities straight.

According to a newly published study, the world food system is producing too many unhealthy foods and not enough healthy ones.

“We simply can’t all adopt a healthy diet under the current global agriculture system,” said study co-author Evan Fraser in a press release. “Results show that the global system currently overproduces grains, fats, and sugars, while production of fruits and vegetables and, to a smaller degree, protein is not sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of the current population.”

Serving Downsized

For their study, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from the University of Guelph compared global agricultural production with consumption recommendations from Harvard University’s Healthy Eating Plate guide. Their findings were stark: The agriculture industry’s overall output of healthy foods does not match humanity’s needs.

Instead of the recommended eight servings of grains per person, it produces 12. And while nutritionists recommend we each consume 15 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, the industry produces just five. The mismatch continues for oils and fats (three servings instead of one), protein (three servings instead of five), and sugar (four servings when we don’t need any).

Overly Full Plate

The researchers don’t just point out the problem, though — they also calculated what it would take to address the lack of healthy foods while also helping the environment.

“For a growing population, our calculations suggest that the only way to eat a nutritionally balanced diet, save land, and reduce greenhouse gas emission is to consume and produce more fruits and vegetables as well as transition to diets higher in plant-based protein,” said Fraser.

A number of companies dedicated to making plant-based proteins mainstream are already gaining traction. But unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the agriculture industry will decide to prioritize growing fruits and veggies over less healthy options as long as people prefer having the latter on their plates.

READ MORE: Not Enough Fruits, Vegetables Grown to Feed the Planet, U of G Study Reveals [University of Guelph]

More on food scarcity: To Feed a Hungry Planet, We’re All Going to Need to Eat Less Meat

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We Aren’t Growing Enough Healthy Foods to Feed Everyone on Earth

Report Identifies China as the Source of Ozone-Destroying Emissions

Emissions Enigma

For years, a mystery puzzled environmental scientists. The world had banned the use of many ozone-depleting compounds in 2010. So why were global emission levels still so high?

The picture started to clear up in June. That’s when The New York Times published an investigation into the issue. China, the paper claimed, was to blame for these mystery emissions. Now it turns out the paper was probably right to point a finger.

Accident or Incident

In a paper published recently in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, an international team of researchers confirms that eastern China is the source of at least half of the 40,000 tonnes of carbon tetrachloride emissions currently entering the atmosphere each year.

They figured this out using a combination of ground-based and airborne atmospheric concentration data from near the Korean peninsula. They also relied on two models that simulated how the gases would move through the atmosphere.

Though they were able to narrow down the source to China, the researchers weren’t able to say exactly who’s breaking the ban and whether they even know about the damage they’re doing.

Pinpoint

“Our work shows the location of carbon tetrachloride emissions,” said co-author Matt Rigby in a press release. “However, we don’t yet know the processes or industries that are responsible. This is important because we don’t know if it is being produced intentionally or inadvertently.”

If we can pinpoint the source of these emissions, we can start working on stopping them and healing our ozone. And given that we’ve gone nearly a decade with minimal progress on that front, there’s really no time to waste.

READ MORE: Location of Large ‘Mystery’ Source of Banned Ozone Depleting Substance Uncovered [University of Bristol]

More on carbon emissions: China Has (Probably) Been Pumping a Banned Gas Into the Atmosphere

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Report Identifies China as the Source of Ozone-Destroying Emissions

Scientists May Have Put Microbes in a State of Quantum Entanglement

Hall of Mirrors

A few years ago, the journal Small published a study showing how photosynthetic bacteria could absorb and release photons as the light bounced across a minuscule gap between two mirrors.

Now, a retroactive look at the study’s data published in The Journal of Physics Communications suggests something more may have been going on. The bacteria may have been the first living organisms to operate in the realm of quantum physics, becoming entangled with the bouncing light at the quantum scale.

Cat’s Cradle

The experiment in question, as described by Scientific American, involved individual photons — the smallest quantifiable unit of light that can behave like a tiny particle but also a wave of energy within quantum physics — bouncing between two mirrors separated by a microscopic distance.

But a look at the energy levels in the experimental setup suggests that the bacteria may have become entangled, as some individual photons seem to have simultaneously interacted with and missed the bacterium at the same time.

Super Position

There’s reason to be skeptical of these results until someone actually recreates the experiment while looking for signs of quantum interactions. As with any look back at an existing study, scientists are restricted to the amount and quality of data that was already published. And, as Scientific American noted, the energy levels of the bacteria and the mirror setup should have been recorded individually — which they were not — in order to verify quantum entanglement.

But if this research holds up, it would be the first time a life form operated on the realm of quantum physics, something usually limited to subatomic particles. And even though the microbes are small, that’s a big deal.

READ MORE“Schrödinger’s Bacterium” Could Be a Quantum Biology Milestone [Scientific American]

More on quantum physics: The World’s First Practical Quantum Computer May Be Just Five Years Away

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Scientists May Have Put Microbes in a State of Quantum Entanglement

There’s No Way China’s Artificial Moon Will Work, Says Expert

Good Luck

On October 10, a Chinese organization called the Tian Fu New Area Science Society revealed plans to replace the streetlights in the city of Chengdu with a satellite designed to reflect sunlight toward the Earth’s surface at night.

But in a new interview with Astronomy, an associate professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Texas at Austin named Ryan Russel argued that based on what he’s read, the artificial moon plan would be impossible to implement.

Promised the Moon

Wu Chunfeng, the head of the Tian Fu New Area Science Society, told China Daily the artificial moon would orbit about 310 miles above Earth, delivering an expected brightness humans would perceive to be about one-fifth that of a typical streetlight.

The plan is to launch one artificial moon in 2020 and then three more in 2022 if the first works as hoped. Together, these satellites could illuminate an area of up to 4,000 square miles, Chunfeng claims.

But Russell is far from convinced.

“Their claim for 1 [low-earth orbit satellite] at [300 miles] must be a typo or misinformed spokesperson,” he told Astronomy. “The article I read implied you could hover a satellite over a particular city, which of course is not possible.”

Overkill Overhead

To keep the satellite in place over Chengdu, it would need to be about 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface, said Russel, and its reflective surface would need to be massive to reflect sunlight from that distance. At an altitude of just 300 miles, the satellite would quickly zip around the Earth, constantly illuminating new locations.

Even if the city could put the artificial moon plan into action, though, Russell isn’t convinced it should.

“It’s a very complicated solution that affects everyone to a simple problem that affects a few,” he told Astronomy. “It’s light pollution on steroids.”

Maybe Chengdu shouldn’t give up on its streetlights just yet.

READ MORE: Why China’s Artificial Moon Probably Won’t Work [Astronomy]

More on the artificial moon: A Chinese City Plans to Replace Its Streetlights With an Artificial Moon

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There’s No Way China’s Artificial Moon Will Work, Says Expert

Clean Coal Startup Turns Human Waste Into Earth-Friendly Fuel

Gold Nuggets

A company called Ingelia says it’s figured out a way to turn human waste — the solid kind — into a combustible material it’s calling biochar. And if Ingelia’s claims are accurate, biochar can be burned for fuel just like coalexcept with nearzero greenhouse gas emissions, according to Business Insider.

That’s because almost all of the pollutants and more harmful chemicals that would normally be given off while burning solid fuels is siphoned away into treatable liquid waste, leaving a dry, combustible rod of poop fuel.

“Clean Coal

Ingelia, which is currently working to strike a deal with Spanish waste management facilities, hopes to make enough biochar to replace 220 thousand tons of coal per year, corresponding to 500 thousand tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

But that’s by 2022, at which point we’ll have even less time to reach the urgent clean energy goals of that doomsday United Nations report. In an ideal world, we would have moved away from coal years ago. At least this gives us a viable alternative as we transition to other, renewable forms of electricity.

So while we can, in part, poop our way to a better world, biochar — and other new sewage-based energy sources — will only be one of many new world-saving sources of clean energy.

READ MORE: This Spanish company found a way to produce a fuel that emits no CO2 — and it’s made of sewage [Business Insider]

More on poop: Edible Tech is Finally Useful, is Here to Help you Poop

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Clean Coal Startup Turns Human Waste Into Earth-Friendly Fuel

Ford’s Self-Driving Cars Are About to Chauffeur Your Senator

Green-Light District

It doesn’t matter how advanced our self-driving cars get — if they aren’t allowed on roads, they aren’t going to save any lives.

The future of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the U.S. depends on how lawmakers in Washington D.C. choose to regulate the vehicles. But until now, AV testing has largely taken place far from the nation’s capital, mostly in California and Arizona.

Ford is about to change that. The company just announced plans to be the first automaker to test its self-driving cars in the Distinct of Columbia — and how lawmakers feel about those vehicles could influence future AV legislation.

Career Day

Sherif Marakby, CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles, announced the decision to begin testing in D.C. via a blog post last week. According to Marakby, Ford’s politician-friendly focus will be on figuring out how its AVs could promote job creation in the District.

To that end, Ford plans to assess how AVs could increase mobility in D.C., thereby helping residents get to jobs that might otherwise be outside their reach, as well as train residents for future positions as AV technicians or operators.

Up Close and Personal

Marakby notes that D.C. is a particularly suitable location for this testing because the District is usually bustling with activity. The population increases significantly during the day as commuters arrive from the suburbs for work, while millions of people flock to D.C. each year for conferences or tourism.

D.C. is also home to the people responsible for crafting and passing AV legislation. “[I]t’s important that lawmakers see self-driving vehicles with their own eyes as we keep pushing for legislation that governs their safe use across the country,” Marakby wrote.

Ford’s ultimate goal is to launch a commercial AV service in D.C. in 2021. With this testing, the company has the opportunity to directly influence the people who could help it reach that goal — or oppose it.

READ MORE: A Monumental Moment: Our Self-Driving Business Development Expands to Washington, D.C. [Medium]

More on AV legislation: U.S. Senators Reveal the Six Principles They’ll Use to Regulate Self-Driving Vehicles

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Ford’s Self-Driving Cars Are About to Chauffeur Your Senator

This AI Lie Detector Flags Falsified Police Reports

Minority Report

Imagine this: You file a police report, but back at the station, they feed it into an algorithm — and it accuses you of lying, as though it had somehow looked inside your brain.

That might sound like science fiction, but Spain is currently rolling out a very similar program, called VeriPol, in many of its police stations. VeriPol’s creators say that when it flags a report as false, it turns out to be correct more than four-fifths of the time.

Lie Detector

VeriPol is the work of researchers at Cardiff University and Charles III University of Madrid.

In a paper published earlier this year in the journal Knowledge-Based Systems, they describe how they trained the lie detector with a data set of more than 1,000 robbery reports — including a number that police identified as false — to identify subtle signs that a report wasn’t true.

Thought Crime

In pilot studies in Murcia and Malaga, Quartz reported, further investigation showed that the algorithm was correct about 83 percent of the time that it suspected a report was false.

Still, the project raises uncomfortable questions about allowing algorithms to act as lie detectors. Fast Company reported earlier this year that authorities in the United States, Canada, and the European Union are testing a separate system called AVATAR that they want to use to collect biometric data about subjects at border crossings — and analyze it for signs that they’re not being truthful.

Maybe the real question isn’t whether the tech works, but whether we want to permit authorities to act upon what’s essentially a good — but not perfect — assumption that someone is lying.

READ MORE: Police Are Using Artificial Intelligence to Spot Written Lies [Quartz]

More on lie detectors: Stormy Daniels Took a Polygraph. What Do We Do With the Results?

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This AI Lie Detector Flags Falsified Police Reports

These Bacteria Digest Food Waste Into Biodegradable Plastic

Factory Farm

Plastics have revolutionized manufacturing, but they’re still terrible for the environment.

Manufacturing plastics is an energy-intensive slog that ends in mountains of toxic industrial waste and greenhouse gas emissions. And then the plastic itself that we use ends up sitting in a garbage heap for thousands of years before it biodegrades.

Scientists have spent years investigating ways to manufacture plastics without ruining the planet, and a Toronto biotech startup called Genecis says it’s found a good answer: factories where vats of bacteria digest food waste and use it to form biodegradable plastic in their tiny microbial guts.

One-Two Punch

The plastic-pooping bacteria stand to clean up several kinds of pollution while churning out usable materials, according to Genecis.

That’s because the microbes feed on waste food or other organic materials — waste that CBC reported gives off 20 percent of Canada’s methane emissions as it sits in landfills.

Then What?

The plastic that the little buggers produce isn’t anything new. It’s called PHA and it’s used in anything that needs to biodegrade quickly, like those self-dissolving stitches. What’s new here is that food waste is much cheaper than the raw materials that usually go into plastics, leading Genecis to suspect it can make the same plastics for 40 percent less cost.

There are a lot of buzzworthy new alternative materials out there, but with a clear environmental and financial benefit, it’s possible these little bacteria factories might be here to stay.

READ MORE: Greener coffee pods? Bacteria help turn food waste into compostable plastic [CBC]

More on cleaning up plastics: The EU Just Voted to Completely ban Single-Use Plastics

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These Bacteria Digest Food Waste Into Biodegradable Plastic

WHO Director: Air Pollution Is the “New Tobacco”

Wrong Direction

Breathing polluted air is as likely to kill you as tobacco use — worldwide, each kills about 7 million people annually. But while the world is making progress in the war against tobacco, air pollution is getting worse.

The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) hopes to change that.

“The world has turned the corner on tobacco,” wrote Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in an opinion piece published by The Guardian on Saturday. “Now it must do the same for the ‘new tobacco’ — the toxic air that billions breathe every day.”

Taking Action

According to the WHO, nine out of 10 people in the world breathe polluted air.

This week, the organization is hosting the first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, and Ghebreyesus is hopeful world leaders will use the conference as the opportunity to commit to cutting air pollution in their nations.

“Despite the overwhelming evidence, political action is still urgently needed to boost investments and speed up action to reduce air pollution,” he wrote, noting that this action could take the form of more stringent air quality standards, improved access to clean energy, or increased investment in green technologies.

Reduced Risk

The impact sustained action against air pollution could have on public health is hard to overstate.

“No one, rich or poor, can escape air pollution. A clean and healthy environment is the single most important precondition for ensuring good health,” wrote Ghebreyesus in his Guardian piece. “By cleaning up the air we breathe, we can prevent or at least reduce some of the greatest health risks.”

The conference ends on Thursday, so we won’t have to wait long to see which nations do — or don’t — heed the WHO’s call to action.

READ MORE: Air Pollution Is the New Tobacco. Time to Tackle This Epidemic [The Guardian]

More on air pollution: Dumber Humans — That’s Just One Effect of a More Polluted Future

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WHO Director: Air Pollution Is the “New Tobacco”

Mind uploading – Wikipedia

Whole brain emulation (WBE), mind upload or brain upload (sometimes called “mind copying” or “mind transfer”) is the hypothetical futuristic process of scanning the mental state (including long-term memory and “self”) of a particular brain substrate and copying it to a computer. The computer could then run a simulation model of the brain’s information processing, such that it responds in essentially the same way as the original brain (i.e., indistinguishable from the brain for all relevant purposes) and experiences having a conscious mind.[1][2][3]

Mind uploading may potentially be accomplished by either of two methods: Copy-and-transfer or gradual replacement of neurons. In the case of the former method, mind uploading would be achieved by scanning and mapping the salient features of a biological brain, and then by copying, transferring, and storing that information state into a computer system or another computational device. The biological brain may not survive the copying process. The simulated mind could be within a virtual reality or simulated world, supported by an anatomic 3D body simulation model. Alternatively the simulated mind could reside in a computer that is inside (or connected to) a (not necessarily humanoid) robot or a biological body.[4]

Among some futurists and within the transhumanist movement, mind uploading is treated as an important proposed life extension technology. Some believe mind uploading is humanity’s current best option for preserving the identity of the species, as opposed to cryonics. Another aim of mind uploading is to provide a permanent backup to our “mind-file”, to enable interstellar space travels, and a means for human culture to survive a global disaster by making a functional copy of a human society in a Matrioshka brain, i.e. a computing device that consumes all energy from a star. Whole brain emulation is discussed by some futurists as a “logical endpoint”[4] of the topical computational neuroscience and neuroinformatics fields, both about brain simulation for medical research purposes. It is discussed in artificial intelligence research publications as an approach to strong AI. Computer-based intelligence such as an upload could think much faster than a biological human even if it were no more intelligent. A large-scale society of uploads might, according to futurists, give rise to a technological singularity, meaning a sudden time constant decrease in the exponential development of technology.[5] Mind uploading is a central conceptual feature of numerous science fiction novels and films.

Substantial mainstream research in related areas is being conducted in animal brain mapping and simulation, development of faster supercomputers, virtual reality, braincomputer interfaces, connectomics and information extraction from dynamically functioning brains.[6] According to supporters, many of the tools and ideas needed to achieve mind uploading already exist or are currently under active development; however, they will admit that others are, as yet, very speculative, but still in the realm of engineering possibility. Neuroscientist Randal Koene has formed a nonprofit organization called Carbon Copies to promote mind uploading research.

The human brain contains, on average, about 86 billion nerve cells called neurons, each individually linked to other neurons by way of connectors called axons and dendrites. Signals at the junctures (synapses) of these connections are transmitted by the release and detection of chemicals known as neurotransmitters. The established neuroscientific consensus is that the human mind is largely an emergent property of the information processing of this neural network.[citation needed]

Neuroscientists have stated that important functions performed by the mind, such as learning, memory, and consciousness, are due to purely physical and electrochemical processes in the brain and are governed by applicable laws. For example, Christof Koch and Giulio Tononi wrote in IEEE Spectrum:

Consciousness is part of the natural world. It depends, we believe, only on mathematics and logic and on the imperfectly known laws of physics, chemistry, and biology; it does not arise from some magical or otherworldly quality.[7]

The concept of mind uploading is based on this mechanistic view of the mind, and denies the vitalist view of human life and consciousness.[citation needed]

Eminent computer scientists and neuroscientists have predicted that specially programmed[clarification needed] computers will be capable of thought and even attain consciousness, including Koch and Tononi,[7] Douglas Hofstadter,[8] Jeff Hawkins,[8] Marvin Minsky,[9] Randal A. Koene, and Rodolfo Llins.[10]

However, even though uploading is dependent upon such a general capability, it is conceptually distinct from general forms of AI in that it results from dynamic reanimation of information derived from a specific human mind so that the mind retains a sense of historical identity (other forms are possible but would compromise or eliminate the life-extension feature generally associated with uploading). The transferred and reanimated information would become a form of artificial intelligence, sometimes called an infomorph or “nomorph”.[citation needed]

Many theorists have presented models of the brain and have established a range of estimates of the amount of computing power needed for partial and complete simulations.[4][citation needed] Using these models, some have estimated that uploading may become possible within decades if trends such as Moore’s law continue.[11]

In theory, if the information and processes of the mind can be disassociated from the biological body, they are no longer tied to the individual limits and lifespan of that body. Furthermore, information within a brain could be partly or wholly copied or transferred to one or more other substrates (including digital storage or another brain), thereby from a purely mechanistic perspective reducing or eliminating “mortality risk” of such information. This general proposal was discussed in 1971 by biogerontologist George M. Martin of the University of Washington.[12]

An uploaded astronaut could be used instead of a “live” astronaut in human spaceflight, avoiding the perils of zero gravity, the vacuum of space, and cosmic radiation to the human body. It would allow for the use of smaller spacecraft, such as the proposed StarChip, and it would enable virtually unlimited interstellar travel distances.[13]

The focus of mind uploading, in the case of copy-and-transfer, is on data acquisition, rather than data maintenance of the brain. A set of approaches known as loosely coupled off-loading (LCOL) may be used in the attempt to characterize and copy the mental contents of a brain.[14] The LCOL approach may take advantage of self-reports, life-logs and video recordings that can be analyzed by artificial intelligence. A bottom-up approach may focus on the specific resolution and morphology of neurons, the spike times of neurons, the times at which neurons produce action potential responses.

Advocates of mind uploading point to Moore’s law to support the notion that the necessary computing power is expected to become available within a few decades. However, the actual computational requirements for running an uploaded human mind are very difficult to quantify, potentially rendering such an argument specious.

Regardless of the techniques used to capture or recreate the function of a human mind, the processing demands are likely to be immense, due to the large number of neurons in the human brain along with the considerable complexity of each neuron.

In 2004, Henry Markram, lead researcher of the “Blue Brain Project”, stated that “it is not [their] goal to build an intelligent neural network”, based solely on the computational demands such a project would have.[16]

It will be very difficult because, in the brain, every molecule is a powerful computer and we would need to simulate the structure and function of trillions upon trillions of molecules as well as all the rules that govern how they interact. You would literally need computers that are trillions of times bigger and faster than anything existing today.[17]

Five years later, after successful simulation of part of a rat brain, Markram was much more bold and optimistic. In 2009, as director of the Blue Brain Project, he claimed that A detailed, functional artificial human brain can be built within the next 10 years.[18]

Required computational capacity strongly depend on the chosen level of simulation model scale:[4]

Since the function of the human mind and how it might arise from the working of the brain’s neural network, are poorly understood issues, mind uploading relies on the idea of neural network emulation. Rather than having to understand the high-level psychological processes and large-scale structures of the brain, and model them using classical artificial intelligence methods and cognitive psychology models, the low-level structure of the underlying neural network is captured, mapped and emulated with a computer system. In computer science terminology,[dubious discuss] rather than analyzing and reverse engineering the behavior of the algorithms and data structures that resides in the brain, a blueprint of its source code is translated to another programming language. The human mind and the personal identity then, theoretically, is generated by the emulated neural network in an identical fashion to it being generated by the biological neural network.

On the other hand, a molecule-scale simulation of the brain is not expected to be required, provided that the functioning of the neurons is not affected by quantum mechanical processes. The neural network emulation approach only requires that the functioning and interaction of neurons and synapses are understood. It is expected that it is sufficient with a black-box signal processing model of how the neurons respond to nerve impulses (electrical as well as chemical synaptic transmission).

A sufficiently complex and accurate model of the neurons is required. A traditional artificial neural network model, for example multi-layer perceptron network model, is not considered as sufficient. A dynamic spiking neural network model is required, which reflects that the neuron fires only when a membrane potential reaches a certain level. It is likely that the model must include delays, non-linear functions and differential equations describing the relation between electrophysical parameters such as electrical currents, voltages, membrane states (ion channel states) and neuromodulators.

Since learning and long-term memory are believed to result from strengthening or weakening the synapses via a mechanism known as synaptic plasticity or synaptic adaptation, the model should include this mechanism. The response of sensory receptors to various stimuli must also be modelled.

Furthermore, the model may have to include metabolism, i.e. how the neurons are affected by hormones and other chemical substances that may cross the bloodbrain barrier. It is considered likely that the model must include currently unknown neuromodulators, neurotransmitters and ion channels. It is considered unlikely that the simulation model has to include protein interaction, which would make it computationally complex.[4]

A digital computer simulation model of an analog system such as the brain is an approximation that introduces random quantization errors and distortion. However, the biological neurons also suffer from randomness and limited precision, for example due to background noise. The errors of the discrete model can be made smaller than the randomness of the biological brain by choosing a sufficiently high variable resolution and sample rate, and sufficiently accurate models of non-linearities. The computational power and computer memory must however be sufficient to run such large simulations, preferably in real time.

When modelling and simulating the brain of a specific individual, a brain map or connectivity database showing the connections between the neurons must be extracted from an anatomic model of the brain. For whole brain simulation, this network map should show the connectivity of the whole nervous system, including the spinal cord, sensory receptors, and muscle cells. Destructive scanning of a small sample of tissue from a mouse brain including synaptic details is possible as of 2010.[19]

However, if short-term memory and working memory include prolonged or repeated firing of neurons, as well as intra-neural dynamic processes, the electrical and chemical signal state of the synapses and neurons may be hard to extract. The uploaded mind may then perceive a memory loss of the events and mental processes immediately before the time of brain scanning.[4]

A full brain map has been estimated to occupy less than 2 x 1016 bytes (20,000 TB) and would store the addresses of the connected neurons, the synapse type and the synapse “weight” for each of the brains’ 1015 synapses.[4][not in citation given] However, the biological complexities of true brain function (e.g. the epigenetic states of neurons, protein components with multiple functional states, etc.) may preclude an accurate prediction of the volume of binary data required to faithfully represent a functioning human mind.

A possible method for mind uploading is serial sectioning, in which the brain tissue and perhaps other parts of the nervous system are frozen and then scanned and analyzed layer by layer, which for frozen samples at nano-scale requires a cryo-ultramicrotome, thus capturing the structure of the neurons and their interconnections.[20] The exposed surface of frozen nerve tissue would be scanned and recorded, and then the surface layer of tissue removed. While this would be a very slow and labor-intensive process, research is currently underway to automate the collection and microscopy of serial sections.[21] The scans would then be analyzed, and a model of the neural net recreated in the system that the mind was being uploaded into.

There are uncertainties with this approach using current microscopy techniques. If it is possible to replicate neuron function from its visible structure alone, then the resolution afforded by a scanning electron microscope would suffice for such a technique.[21] However, as the function of brain tissue is partially determined by molecular events (particularly at synapses, but also at other places on the neuron’s cell membrane), this may not suffice for capturing and simulating neuron functions. It may be possible to extend the techniques of serial sectioning and to capture the internal molecular makeup of neurons, through the use of sophisticated immunohistochemistry staining methods that could then be read via confocal laser scanning microscopy. However, as the physiological genesis of ‘mind’ is not currently known, this method may not be able to access all of the necessary biochemical information to recreate a human brain with sufficient fidelity.

It may be possible to create functional 3D maps of the brain activity, using advanced neuroimaging technology, such as functional MRI (fMRI, for mapping change in blood flow), magnetoencephalography (MEG, for mapping of electrical currents), or combinations of multiple methods, to build a detailed three-dimensional model of the brain using non-invasive and non-destructive methods. Today, fMRI is often combined with MEG for creating functional maps of human cortex during more complex cognitive tasks, as the methods complement each other. Even though current imaging technology lacks the spatial resolution needed to gather the information needed for such a scan, important recent and future developments are predicted to substantially improve both spatial and temporal resolutions of existing technologies.[23]

There is ongoing work in the field of brain simulation, including partial and whole simulations of some animals. For example, the C. elegans roundworm, Drosophila fruit fly, and mouse have all been simulated to various degrees.[citation needed]

The Blue Brain Project by the Brain and Mind Institute of the cole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne, Switzerland is an attempt to create a synthetic brain by reverse-engineering mammalian brain circuitry.

Underlying the concept of “mind uploading” (more accurately “mind transferring”) is the broad philosophy that consciousness lies within the brain’s information processing and is in essence an emergent feature that arises from large neural network high-level patterns of organization, and that the same patterns of organization can be realized in other processing devices. Mind uploading also relies on the idea that the human mind (the “self” and the long-term memory), just like non-human minds, is represented by the current neural network paths and the weights of the brain synapses rather than by a dualistic and mystic soul and spirit. The mind or “soul” can be defined as the information state of the brain, and is immaterial only in the same sense as the information content of a data file or the state of a computer software currently residing in the work-space memory of the computer. Data specifying the information state of the neural network can be captured and copied as a “computer file” from the brain and re-implemented into a different physical form.[24] This is not to deny that minds are richly adapted to their substrates.[25] An analogy to the idea of mind uploading is to copy the temporary information state (the variable values) of a computer program from the computer memory to another computer and continue its execution. The other computer may perhaps have different hardware architecture but emulates the hardware of the first computer.

These issues have a long history. In 1775 Thomas Reid wrote:[26] I would be glad to know… whether when my brain has lost its original structure, and when some hundred years after the same materials are fabricated so curiously as to become an intelligent being, whether, I say that being will be me; or, if, two or three such beings should be formed out of my brain; whether they will all be me, and consequently one and the same intelligent being.

A considerable portion of transhumanists and singularitarians place great hope into the belief that they may become immortal, by creating one or many non-biological functional copies of their brains, thereby leaving their “biological shell”. However, the philosopher and transhumanist Susan Schneider claims that at best, uploading would create a copy of the original person’s mind.[27] Susan Schneider agrees that consciousness has a computational basis, but this does not mean we can upload and survive. According to her views, “uploading” would probably result in the death of the original person’s brain, while only outside observers can maintain the illusion of the original person still being alive. For it is implausible to think that one’s consciousness would leave one’s brain and travel to a remote location; ordinary physical objects do not behave this way. Ordinary objects (rocks, tables, etc.) are not simultaneously here, and elsewhere. At best, a copy of the original mind is created.[27] Neural correlates of consciousness, a sub-branch of neuroscience, states that consciousness may be thought of as a state-dependent property of some undefined complex, adaptive, and highly interconnected biological system.[28]

Others have argued against such conclusions. For example, Buddhist transhumanist James Hughes has pointed out that this consideration only goes so far: if one believes the self is an illusion, worries about survival are not reasons to avoid uploading,[29] and Keith Wiley has presented an argument wherein all resulting minds of an uploading procedure are granted equal primacy in their claim to the original identity, such that survival of the self is determined retroactively from a strictly subjective position.[30][31] Some have also asserted that consciousness is a part of an extra-biological system that is yet to be discovered and cannot be fully understood under the present constraints of neurobiology. Without the transference of consciousness, true mind-upload or perpetual immortality cannot be practically achieved.[32]

Another potential consequence of mind uploading is that the decision to “upload” may then create a mindless symbol manipulator instead of a conscious mind (see philosophical zombie).[33][34] Are we to assume that an upload is conscious if it displays behaviors that are highly indicative of consciousness? Are we to assume that an upload is conscious if it verbally insists that it is conscious?[35] Could there be an absolute upper limit in processing speed above which consciousness cannot be sustained? The mystery of consciousness precludes a definitive answer to this question.[36] Numerous scientists, including Kurzweil, strongly believe that determining whether a separate entity is conscious (with 100% confidence) is fundamentally unknowable, since consciousness is inherently subjective (see solipsism). Regardless, some scientists strongly believe consciousness is the consequence of computational processes which are substrate-neutral. On the contrary, numerous scientists believe consciousness may be the result of some form of quantum computation dependent on substrate (see quantum mind).[37][38][39]

In light of uncertainty on whether to regard uploads as conscious, Sandberg proposes a cautious approach:[40]

Principle of assuming the most (PAM): Assume that any emulated system could have the same mental properties as the original system and treat it correspondingly.

It is argued that if a computational copy of one’s mind did exist, it would be impossible for one to verify this.[41] The argument for this stance is the following: for a computational mind to recognize an emulation of itself, it must be capable of deciding whether two Turing machines (namely, itself and the proposed emulation) are functionally equivalent. This task is uncomputable due to the undecidability of equivalence, thus there cannot exist a computational procedure in the mind that is capable of recognizing an emulation of itself.

The process of developing emulation technology raises ethical issues related to animal welfare and artificial consciousness.[40] The neuroscience required to develop brain emulation would require animal experimentation, first on invertebrates and then on small mammals before moving on to humans. Sometimes the animals would just need to be euthanized in order to extract, slice, and scan their brains, but sometimes behavioral and in vivo measures would be required, which might cause pain to living animals.[40]

In addition, the resulting animal emulations themselves might suffer, depending on one’s views about consciousness.[40] Bancroft argues for the plausibility of consciousness in brain simulations on the basis of the “fading qualia” thought experiment of David Chalmers. He then concludes:[42] If, as I argue above, a sufficiently detailed computational simulation of the brain is potentially operationally equivalent to an organic brain, it follows that we must consider extending protections against suffering to simulations.

It might help reduce emulation suffering to develop virtual equivalents of anaesthesia, as well as to omit processing related to pain and/or consciousness. However, some experiments might require a fully functioning and suffering animal emulation. Animals might also suffer by accident due to flaws and lack of insight into what parts of their brains are suffering.[40] Questions also arise regarding the moral status of partial brain emulations, as well as creating neuromorphic emulations that draw inspiration from biological brains but are built somewhat differently.[42]

Brain emulations could be erased by computer viruses or malware, without need to destroy the underlying hardware. This may make assassination easier than for physical humans. The attacker might take the computing power for its own use.[43]

Many questions arise regarding the legal personhood of emulations.[44] Would they be given the rights of biological humans? If a person makes an emulated copy of themselves and then dies, does the emulation inherit their property and official positions? Could the emulation ask to “pull the plug” when its biological version was terminally ill or in a coma? Would it help to treat emulations as adolescents for a few years so that the biological creator would maintain temporary control? Would criminal emulations receive the death penalty, or would they be given forced data modification as a form of “rehabilitation”? Could an upload have marriage and child-care rights?[44]

If simulated minds would come true and if they were assigned rights of their own, it may be difficult to ensure the protection of “digital human rights”. For example, social science researchers might be tempted to secretly expose simulated minds, or whole isolated societies of simulated minds, to controlled experiments in which many copies of the same minds are exposed (serially or simultaneously) to different test conditions.[citation needed]

Emulations could create a number of conditions that might increase risk of war, including inequality, changes of power dynamics, a possible technological arms race to build emulations first, first-strike advantages, strong loyalty and willingness to “die” among emulations, and triggers for racist, xenophobic, and religious prejudice.[43] If emulations run much faster than humans, there might not be enough time for human leaders to make wise decisions or negotiate. It is possible that humans would react violently against growing power of emulations, especially if they depress human wages. Emulations may not trust each other, and even well-intentioned defensive measures might be interpreted as offense.[43]

There are very few feasible technologies that humans have refrained from developing. The neuroscience and computer-hardware technologies that may make brain emulation possible are widely desired for other reasons, and logically their development will continue into the future. Assuming that emulation technology will arrive, a question becomes whether we should accelerate or slow its advance.[43]

Arguments for speeding up brain-emulation research:

Arguments for slowing down brain-emulation research:

Emulation research would also speed up neuroscience as a whole, which might accelerate medical advances, cognitive enhancement, lie detectors, and capability for psychological manipulation.[49]

Emulations might be easier to control than de novo AI because

As counterpoint to these considerations, Bostrom notes some downsides:

Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, claims to know and foresee that people will be able to “upload” their entire brains to computers and become “digitally immortal” by 2045. Kurzweil made this claim for many years, e.g. during his speech in 2013 at the Global Futures 2045 International Congress in New York, which claims to subscribe to a similar set of beliefs.[50] Mind uploading is also advocated by a number of researchers in neuroscience and artificial intelligence, such as Marvin Minsky[citation needed] while he was still alive. In 1993, Joe Strout created a small web site called the Mind Uploading Home Page, and began advocating the idea in cryonics circles and elsewhere on the net. That site has not been actively updated in recent years, but it has spawned other sites including MindUploading.org, run by Randal A. Koene, who also moderates a mailing list on the topic. These advocates see mind uploading as a medical procedure which could eventually save countless lives.

Many transhumanists look forward to the development and deployment of mind uploading technology, with transhumanists such as Nick Bostrom predicting that it will become possible within the 21st century due to technological trends such as Moore’s law.[4]

Michio Kaku, in collaboration with Science, hosted a documentary, Sci Fi Science: Physics of the Impossible, based on his book Physics of the Impossible. Episode four, titled “How to Teleport”, mentions that mind uploading via techniques such as quantum entanglement and whole brain emulation using an advanced MRI machine may enable people to be transported to vast distances at near light-speed.

The book Beyond Humanity: CyberEvolution and Future Minds by Gregory S. Paul & Earl D. Cox, is about the eventual (and, to the authors, almost inevitable) evolution of computers into sentient beings, but also deals with human mind transfer. Richard Doyle’s Wetwares: Experiments in PostVital Living deals extensively with uploading from the perspective of distributed embodiment, arguing for example that humans are currently part of the “artificial life phenotype”. Doyle’s vision reverses the polarity on uploading, with artificial life forms such as uploads actively seeking out biological embodiment as part of their reproductive strategy.

Kenneth D. Miller, a professor of neuroscience at Columbia and a co-director of the Center for Theoretical Neuroscience, raised doubts about the practicality of mind uploading. His major argument is that reconstructing neurons and their connections is in itself a formidable task, but it is far from being sufficient. Operation of the brain depends on the dynamics of electrical and biochemical signal exchange between neurons; therefore, capturing them in a single “frozen” state may prove insufficient. In addition, the nature of these signals may require modeling down to the molecular level and beyond. Therefore, while not rejecting the idea in principle, Miller believes that the complexity of the “absolute” duplication of an individual mind is insurmountable for the nearest hundreds of years.[51]

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Mind uploading – Wikipedia

Mind uploading – Wikipedia

Whole brain emulation (WBE), mind upload or brain upload (sometimes called “mind copying” or “mind transfer”) is the hypothetical futuristic process of scanning the mental state (including long-term memory and “self”) of a particular brain substrate and copying it to a computer. The computer could then run a simulation model of the brain’s information processing, such that it responds in essentially the same way as the original brain (i.e., indistinguishable from the brain for all relevant purposes) and experiences having a conscious mind.[1][2][3]

Mind uploading may potentially be accomplished by either of two methods: Copy-and-transfer or gradual replacement of neurons. In the case of the former method, mind uploading would be achieved by scanning and mapping the salient features of a biological brain, and then by copying, transferring, and storing that information state into a computer system or another computational device. The biological brain may not survive the copying process. The simulated mind could be within a virtual reality or simulated world, supported by an anatomic 3D body simulation model. Alternatively the simulated mind could reside in a computer that is inside (or connected to) a (not necessarily humanoid) robot or a biological body.[4]

Among some futurists and within the transhumanist movement, mind uploading is treated as an important proposed life extension technology. Some believe mind uploading is humanity’s current best option for preserving the identity of the species, as opposed to cryonics. Another aim of mind uploading is to provide a permanent backup to our “mind-file”, to enable interstellar space travels, and a means for human culture to survive a global disaster by making a functional copy of a human society in a Matrioshka brain, i.e. a computing device that consumes all energy from a star. Whole brain emulation is discussed by some futurists as a “logical endpoint”[4] of the topical computational neuroscience and neuroinformatics fields, both about brain simulation for medical research purposes. It is discussed in artificial intelligence research publications as an approach to strong AI. Computer-based intelligence such as an upload could think much faster than a biological human even if it were no more intelligent. A large-scale society of uploads might, according to futurists, give rise to a technological singularity, meaning a sudden time constant decrease in the exponential development of technology.[5] Mind uploading is a central conceptual feature of numerous science fiction novels and films.

Substantial mainstream research in related areas is being conducted in animal brain mapping and simulation, development of faster supercomputers, virtual reality, braincomputer interfaces, connectomics and information extraction from dynamically functioning brains.[6] According to supporters, many of the tools and ideas needed to achieve mind uploading already exist or are currently under active development; however, they will admit that others are, as yet, very speculative, but still in the realm of engineering possibility. Neuroscientist Randal Koene has formed a nonprofit organization called Carbon Copies to promote mind uploading research.

The human brain contains, on average, about 86 billion nerve cells called neurons, each individually linked to other neurons by way of connectors called axons and dendrites. Signals at the junctures (synapses) of these connections are transmitted by the release and detection of chemicals known as neurotransmitters. The established neuroscientific consensus is that the human mind is largely an emergent property of the information processing of this neural network.[citation needed]

Neuroscientists have stated that important functions performed by the mind, such as learning, memory, and consciousness, are due to purely physical and electrochemical processes in the brain and are governed by applicable laws. For example, Christof Koch and Giulio Tononi wrote in IEEE Spectrum:

Consciousness is part of the natural world. It depends, we believe, only on mathematics and logic and on the imperfectly known laws of physics, chemistry, and biology; it does not arise from some magical or otherworldly quality.[7]

The concept of mind uploading is based on this mechanistic view of the mind, and denies the vitalist view of human life and consciousness.[citation needed]

Eminent computer scientists and neuroscientists have predicted that specially programmed[clarification needed] computers will be capable of thought and even attain consciousness, including Koch and Tononi,[7] Douglas Hofstadter,[8] Jeff Hawkins,[8] Marvin Minsky,[9] Randal A. Koene, and Rodolfo Llins.[10]

However, even though uploading is dependent upon such a general capability, it is conceptually distinct from general forms of AI in that it results from dynamic reanimation of information derived from a specific human mind so that the mind retains a sense of historical identity (other forms are possible but would compromise or eliminate the life-extension feature generally associated with uploading). The transferred and reanimated information would become a form of artificial intelligence, sometimes called an infomorph or “nomorph”.[citation needed]

Many theorists have presented models of the brain and have established a range of estimates of the amount of computing power needed for partial and complete simulations.[4][citation needed] Using these models, some have estimated that uploading may become possible within decades if trends such as Moore’s law continue.[11]

In theory, if the information and processes of the mind can be disassociated from the biological body, they are no longer tied to the individual limits and lifespan of that body. Furthermore, information within a brain could be partly or wholly copied or transferred to one or more other substrates (including digital storage or another brain), thereby from a purely mechanistic perspective reducing or eliminating “mortality risk” of such information. This general proposal was discussed in 1971 by biogerontologist George M. Martin of the University of Washington.[12]

An uploaded astronaut could be used instead of a “live” astronaut in human spaceflight, avoiding the perils of zero gravity, the vacuum of space, and cosmic radiation to the human body. It would allow for the use of smaller spacecraft, such as the proposed StarChip, and it would enable virtually unlimited interstellar travel distances.[13]

The focus of mind uploading, in the case of copy-and-transfer, is on data acquisition, rather than data maintenance of the brain. A set of approaches known as loosely coupled off-loading (LCOL) may be used in the attempt to characterize and copy the mental contents of a brain.[14] The LCOL approach may take advantage of self-reports, life-logs and video recordings that can be analyzed by artificial intelligence. A bottom-up approach may focus on the specific resolution and morphology of neurons, the spike times of neurons, the times at which neurons produce action potential responses.

Advocates of mind uploading point to Moore’s law to support the notion that the necessary computing power is expected to become available within a few decades. However, the actual computational requirements for running an uploaded human mind are very difficult to quantify, potentially rendering such an argument specious.

Regardless of the techniques used to capture or recreate the function of a human mind, the processing demands are likely to be immense, due to the large number of neurons in the human brain along with the considerable complexity of each neuron.

In 2004, Henry Markram, lead researcher of the “Blue Brain Project”, stated that “it is not [their] goal to build an intelligent neural network”, based solely on the computational demands such a project would have.[16]

It will be very difficult because, in the brain, every molecule is a powerful computer and we would need to simulate the structure and function of trillions upon trillions of molecules as well as all the rules that govern how they interact. You would literally need computers that are trillions of times bigger and faster than anything existing today.[17]

Five years later, after successful simulation of part of a rat brain, Markram was much more bold and optimistic. In 2009, as director of the Blue Brain Project, he claimed that A detailed, functional artificial human brain can be built within the next 10 years.[18]

Required computational capacity strongly depend on the chosen level of simulation model scale:[4]

Since the function of the human mind and how it might arise from the working of the brain’s neural network, are poorly understood issues, mind uploading relies on the idea of neural network emulation. Rather than having to understand the high-level psychological processes and large-scale structures of the brain, and model them using classical artificial intelligence methods and cognitive psychology models, the low-level structure of the underlying neural network is captured, mapped and emulated with a computer system. In computer science terminology,[dubious discuss] rather than analyzing and reverse engineering the behavior of the algorithms and data structures that resides in the brain, a blueprint of its source code is translated to another programming language. The human mind and the personal identity then, theoretically, is generated by the emulated neural network in an identical fashion to it being generated by the biological neural network.

On the other hand, a molecule-scale simulation of the brain is not expected to be required, provided that the functioning of the neurons is not affected by quantum mechanical processes. The neural network emulation approach only requires that the functioning and interaction of neurons and synapses are understood. It is expected that it is sufficient with a black-box signal processing model of how the neurons respond to nerve impulses (electrical as well as chemical synaptic transmission).

A sufficiently complex and accurate model of the neurons is required. A traditional artificial neural network model, for example multi-layer perceptron network model, is not considered as sufficient. A dynamic spiking neural network model is required, which reflects that the neuron fires only when a membrane potential reaches a certain level. It is likely that the model must include delays, non-linear functions and differential equations describing the relation between electrophysical parameters such as electrical currents, voltages, membrane states (ion channel states) and neuromodulators.

Since learning and long-term memory are believed to result from strengthening or weakening the synapses via a mechanism known as synaptic plasticity or synaptic adaptation, the model should include this mechanism. The response of sensory receptors to various stimuli must also be modelled.

Furthermore, the model may have to include metabolism, i.e. how the neurons are affected by hormones and other chemical substances that may cross the bloodbrain barrier. It is considered likely that the model must include currently unknown neuromodulators, neurotransmitters and ion channels. It is considered unlikely that the simulation model has to include protein interaction, which would make it computationally complex.[4]

A digital computer simulation model of an analog system such as the brain is an approximation that introduces random quantization errors and distortion. However, the biological neurons also suffer from randomness and limited precision, for example due to background noise. The errors of the discrete model can be made smaller than the randomness of the biological brain by choosing a sufficiently high variable resolution and sample rate, and sufficiently accurate models of non-linearities. The computational power and computer memory must however be sufficient to run such large simulations, preferably in real time.

When modelling and simulating the brain of a specific individual, a brain map or connectivity database showing the connections between the neurons must be extracted from an anatomic model of the brain. For whole brain simulation, this network map should show the connectivity of the whole nervous system, including the spinal cord, sensory receptors, and muscle cells. Destructive scanning of a small sample of tissue from a mouse brain including synaptic details is possible as of 2010.[19]

However, if short-term memory and working memory include prolonged or repeated firing of neurons, as well as intra-neural dynamic processes, the electrical and chemical signal state of the synapses and neurons may be hard to extract. The uploaded mind may then perceive a memory loss of the events and mental processes immediately before the time of brain scanning.[4]

A full brain map has been estimated to occupy less than 2 x 1016 bytes (20,000 TB) and would store the addresses of the connected neurons, the synapse type and the synapse “weight” for each of the brains’ 1015 synapses.[4][not in citation given] However, the biological complexities of true brain function (e.g. the epigenetic states of neurons, protein components with multiple functional states, etc.) may preclude an accurate prediction of the volume of binary data required to faithfully represent a functioning human mind.

A possible method for mind uploading is serial sectioning, in which the brain tissue and perhaps other parts of the nervous system are frozen and then scanned and analyzed layer by layer, which for frozen samples at nano-scale requires a cryo-ultramicrotome, thus capturing the structure of the neurons and their interconnections.[20] The exposed surface of frozen nerve tissue would be scanned and recorded, and then the surface layer of tissue removed. While this would be a very slow and labor-intensive process, research is currently underway to automate the collection and microscopy of serial sections.[21] The scans would then be analyzed, and a model of the neural net recreated in the system that the mind was being uploaded into.

There are uncertainties with this approach using current microscopy techniques. If it is possible to replicate neuron function from its visible structure alone, then the resolution afforded by a scanning electron microscope would suffice for such a technique.[21] However, as the function of brain tissue is partially determined by molecular events (particularly at synapses, but also at other places on the neuron’s cell membrane), this may not suffice for capturing and simulating neuron functions. It may be possible to extend the techniques of serial sectioning and to capture the internal molecular makeup of neurons, through the use of sophisticated immunohistochemistry staining methods that could then be read via confocal laser scanning microscopy. However, as the physiological genesis of ‘mind’ is not currently known, this method may not be able to access all of the necessary biochemical information to recreate a human brain with sufficient fidelity.

It may be possible to create functional 3D maps of the brain activity, using advanced neuroimaging technology, such as functional MRI (fMRI, for mapping change in blood flow), magnetoencephalography (MEG, for mapping of electrical currents), or combinations of multiple methods, to build a detailed three-dimensional model of the brain using non-invasive and non-destructive methods. Today, fMRI is often combined with MEG for creating functional maps of human cortex during more complex cognitive tasks, as the methods complement each other. Even though current imaging technology lacks the spatial resolution needed to gather the information needed for such a scan, important recent and future developments are predicted to substantially improve both spatial and temporal resolutions of existing technologies.[23]

There is ongoing work in the field of brain simulation, including partial and whole simulations of some animals. For example, the C. elegans roundworm, Drosophila fruit fly, and mouse have all been simulated to various degrees.[citation needed]

The Blue Brain Project by the Brain and Mind Institute of the cole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne, Switzerland is an attempt to create a synthetic brain by reverse-engineering mammalian brain circuitry.

Underlying the concept of “mind uploading” (more accurately “mind transferring”) is the broad philosophy that consciousness lies within the brain’s information processing and is in essence an emergent feature that arises from large neural network high-level patterns of organization, and that the same patterns of organization can be realized in other processing devices. Mind uploading also relies on the idea that the human mind (the “self” and the long-term memory), just like non-human minds, is represented by the current neural network paths and the weights of the brain synapses rather than by a dualistic and mystic soul and spirit. The mind or “soul” can be defined as the information state of the brain, and is immaterial only in the same sense as the information content of a data file or the state of a computer software currently residing in the work-space memory of the computer. Data specifying the information state of the neural network can be captured and copied as a “computer file” from the brain and re-implemented into a different physical form.[24] This is not to deny that minds are richly adapted to their substrates.[25] An analogy to the idea of mind uploading is to copy the temporary information state (the variable values) of a computer program from the computer memory to another computer and continue its execution. The other computer may perhaps have different hardware architecture but emulates the hardware of the first computer.

These issues have a long history. In 1775 Thomas Reid wrote:[26] I would be glad to know… whether when my brain has lost its original structure, and when some hundred years after the same materials are fabricated so curiously as to become an intelligent being, whether, I say that being will be me; or, if, two or three such beings should be formed out of my brain; whether they will all be me, and consequently one and the same intelligent being.

A considerable portion of transhumanists and singularitarians place great hope into the belief that they may become immortal, by creating one or many non-biological functional copies of their brains, thereby leaving their “biological shell”. However, the philosopher and transhumanist Susan Schneider claims that at best, uploading would create a copy of the original person’s mind.[27] Susan Schneider agrees that consciousness has a computational basis, but this does not mean we can upload and survive. According to her views, “uploading” would probably result in the death of the original person’s brain, while only outside observers can maintain the illusion of the original person still being alive. For it is implausible to think that one’s consciousness would leave one’s brain and travel to a remote location; ordinary physical objects do not behave this way. Ordinary objects (rocks, tables, etc.) are not simultaneously here, and elsewhere. At best, a copy of the original mind is created.[27] Neural correlates of consciousness, a sub-branch of neuroscience, states that consciousness may be thought of as a state-dependent property of some undefined complex, adaptive, and highly interconnected biological system.[28]

Others have argued against such conclusions. For example, Buddhist transhumanist James Hughes has pointed out that this consideration only goes so far: if one believes the self is an illusion, worries about survival are not reasons to avoid uploading,[29] and Keith Wiley has presented an argument wherein all resulting minds of an uploading procedure are granted equal primacy in their claim to the original identity, such that survival of the self is determined retroactively from a strictly subjective position.[30][31] Some have also asserted that consciousness is a part of an extra-biological system that is yet to be discovered and cannot be fully understood under the present constraints of neurobiology. Without the transference of consciousness, true mind-upload or perpetual immortality cannot be practically achieved.[32]

Another potential consequence of mind uploading is that the decision to “upload” may then create a mindless symbol manipulator instead of a conscious mind (see philosophical zombie).[33][34] Are we to assume that an upload is conscious if it displays behaviors that are highly indicative of consciousness? Are we to assume that an upload is conscious if it verbally insists that it is conscious?[35] Could there be an absolute upper limit in processing speed above which consciousness cannot be sustained? The mystery of consciousness precludes a definitive answer to this question.[36] Numerous scientists, including Kurzweil, strongly believe that determining whether a separate entity is conscious (with 100% confidence) is fundamentally unknowable, since consciousness is inherently subjective (see solipsism). Regardless, some scientists strongly believe consciousness is the consequence of computational processes which are substrate-neutral. On the contrary, numerous scientists believe consciousness may be the result of some form of quantum computation dependent on substrate (see quantum mind).[37][38][39]

In light of uncertainty on whether to regard uploads as conscious, Sandberg proposes a cautious approach:[40]

Principle of assuming the most (PAM): Assume that any emulated system could have the same mental properties as the original system and treat it correspondingly.

It is argued that if a computational copy of one’s mind did exist, it would be impossible for one to verify this.[41] The argument for this stance is the following: for a computational mind to recognize an emulation of itself, it must be capable of deciding whether two Turing machines (namely, itself and the proposed emulation) are functionally equivalent. This task is uncomputable due to the undecidability of equivalence, thus there cannot exist a computational procedure in the mind that is capable of recognizing an emulation of itself.

The process of developing emulation technology raises ethical issues related to animal welfare and artificial consciousness.[40] The neuroscience required to develop brain emulation would require animal experimentation, first on invertebrates and then on small mammals before moving on to humans. Sometimes the animals would just need to be euthanized in order to extract, slice, and scan their brains, but sometimes behavioral and in vivo measures would be required, which might cause pain to living animals.[40]

In addition, the resulting animal emulations themselves might suffer, depending on one’s views about consciousness.[40] Bancroft argues for the plausibility of consciousness in brain simulations on the basis of the “fading qualia” thought experiment of David Chalmers. He then concludes:[42] If, as I argue above, a sufficiently detailed computational simulation of the brain is potentially operationally equivalent to an organic brain, it follows that we must consider extending protections against suffering to simulations.

It might help reduce emulation suffering to develop virtual equivalents of anaesthesia, as well as to omit processing related to pain and/or consciousness. However, some experiments might require a fully functioning and suffering animal emulation. Animals might also suffer by accident due to flaws and lack of insight into what parts of their brains are suffering.[40] Questions also arise regarding the moral status of partial brain emulations, as well as creating neuromorphic emulations that draw inspiration from biological brains but are built somewhat differently.[42]

Brain emulations could be erased by computer viruses or malware, without need to destroy the underlying hardware. This may make assassination easier than for physical humans. The attacker might take the computing power for its own use.[43]

Many questions arise regarding the legal personhood of emulations.[44] Would they be given the rights of biological humans? If a person makes an emulated copy of themselves and then dies, does the emulation inherit their property and official positions? Could the emulation ask to “pull the plug” when its biological version was terminally ill or in a coma? Would it help to treat emulations as adolescents for a few years so that the biological creator would maintain temporary control? Would criminal emulations receive the death penalty, or would they be given forced data modification as a form of “rehabilitation”? Could an upload have marriage and child-care rights?[44]

If simulated minds would come true and if they were assigned rights of their own, it may be difficult to ensure the protection of “digital human rights”. For example, social science researchers might be tempted to secretly expose simulated minds, or whole isolated societies of simulated minds, to controlled experiments in which many copies of the same minds are exposed (serially or simultaneously) to different test conditions.[citation needed]

Emulations could create a number of conditions that might increase risk of war, including inequality, changes of power dynamics, a possible technological arms race to build emulations first, first-strike advantages, strong loyalty and willingness to “die” among emulations, and triggers for racist, xenophobic, and religious prejudice.[43] If emulations run much faster than humans, there might not be enough time for human leaders to make wise decisions or negotiate. It is possible that humans would react violently against growing power of emulations, especially if they depress human wages. Emulations may not trust each other, and even well-intentioned defensive measures might be interpreted as offense.[43]

There are very few feasible technologies that humans have refrained from developing. The neuroscience and computer-hardware technologies that may make brain emulation possible are widely desired for other reasons, and logically their development will continue into the future. Assuming that emulation technology will arrive, a question becomes whether we should accelerate or slow its advance.[43]

Arguments for speeding up brain-emulation research:

Arguments for slowing down brain-emulation research:

Emulation research would also speed up neuroscience as a whole, which might accelerate medical advances, cognitive enhancement, lie detectors, and capability for psychological manipulation.[49]

Emulations might be easier to control than de novo AI because

As counterpoint to these considerations, Bostrom notes some downsides:

Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, claims to know and foresee that people will be able to “upload” their entire brains to computers and become “digitally immortal” by 2045. Kurzweil made this claim for many years, e.g. during his speech in 2013 at the Global Futures 2045 International Congress in New York, which claims to subscribe to a similar set of beliefs.[50] Mind uploading is also advocated by a number of researchers in neuroscience and artificial intelligence, such as Marvin Minsky[citation needed] while he was still alive. In 1993, Joe Strout created a small web site called the Mind Uploading Home Page, and began advocating the idea in cryonics circles and elsewhere on the net. That site has not been actively updated in recent years, but it has spawned other sites including MindUploading.org, run by Randal A. Koene, who also moderates a mailing list on the topic. These advocates see mind uploading as a medical procedure which could eventually save countless lives.

Many transhumanists look forward to the development and deployment of mind uploading technology, with transhumanists such as Nick Bostrom predicting that it will become possible within the 21st century due to technological trends such as Moore’s law.[4]

Michio Kaku, in collaboration with Science, hosted a documentary, Sci Fi Science: Physics of the Impossible, based on his book Physics of the Impossible. Episode four, titled “How to Teleport”, mentions that mind uploading via techniques such as quantum entanglement and whole brain emulation using an advanced MRI machine may enable people to be transported to vast distances at near light-speed.

The book Beyond Humanity: CyberEvolution and Future Minds by Gregory S. Paul & Earl D. Cox, is about the eventual (and, to the authors, almost inevitable) evolution of computers into sentient beings, but also deals with human mind transfer. Richard Doyle’s Wetwares: Experiments in PostVital Living deals extensively with uploading from the perspective of distributed embodiment, arguing for example that humans are currently part of the “artificial life phenotype”. Doyle’s vision reverses the polarity on uploading, with artificial life forms such as uploads actively seeking out biological embodiment as part of their reproductive strategy.

Kenneth D. Miller, a professor of neuroscience at Columbia and a co-director of the Center for Theoretical Neuroscience, raised doubts about the practicality of mind uploading. His major argument is that reconstructing neurons and their connections is in itself a formidable task, but it is far from being sufficient. Operation of the brain depends on the dynamics of electrical and biochemical signal exchange between neurons; therefore, capturing them in a single “frozen” state may prove insufficient. In addition, the nature of these signals may require modeling down to the molecular level and beyond. Therefore, while not rejecting the idea in principle, Miller believes that the complexity of the “absolute” duplication of an individual mind is insurmountable for the nearest hundreds of years.[51]

See original here:

Mind uploading – Wikipedia

Mind uploading – Wikipedia

Whole brain emulation (WBE), mind upload or brain upload (sometimes called “mind copying” or “mind transfer”) is the hypothetical futuristic process of scanning the mental state (including long-term memory and “self”) of a particular brain substrate and copying it to a computer. The computer could then run a simulation model of the brain’s information processing, such that it responds in essentially the same way as the original brain (i.e., indistinguishable from the brain for all relevant purposes) and experiences having a conscious mind.[1][2][3]

Mind uploading may potentially be accomplished by either of two methods: Copy-and-transfer or gradual replacement of neurons. In the case of the former method, mind uploading would be achieved by scanning and mapping the salient features of a biological brain, and then by copying, transferring, and storing that information state into a computer system or another computational device. The biological brain may not survive the copying process. The simulated mind could be within a virtual reality or simulated world, supported by an anatomic 3D body simulation model. Alternatively the simulated mind could reside in a computer that is inside (or connected to) a (not necessarily humanoid) robot or a biological body.[4]

Among some futurists and within the transhumanist movement, mind uploading is treated as an important proposed life extension technology. Some believe mind uploading is humanity’s current best option for preserving the identity of the species, as opposed to cryonics. Another aim of mind uploading is to provide a permanent backup to our “mind-file”, to enable interstellar space travels, and a means for human culture to survive a global disaster by making a functional copy of a human society in a Matrioshka brain, i.e. a computing device that consumes all energy from a star. Whole brain emulation is discussed by some futurists as a “logical endpoint”[4] of the topical computational neuroscience and neuroinformatics fields, both about brain simulation for medical research purposes. It is discussed in artificial intelligence research publications as an approach to strong AI. Computer-based intelligence such as an upload could think much faster than a biological human even if it were no more intelligent. A large-scale society of uploads might, according to futurists, give rise to a technological singularity, meaning a sudden time constant decrease in the exponential development of technology.[5] Mind uploading is a central conceptual feature of numerous science fiction novels and films.

Substantial mainstream research in related areas is being conducted in animal brain mapping and simulation, development of faster supercomputers, virtual reality, braincomputer interfaces, connectomics and information extraction from dynamically functioning brains.[6] According to supporters, many of the tools and ideas needed to achieve mind uploading already exist or are currently under active development; however, they will admit that others are, as yet, very speculative, but still in the realm of engineering possibility. Neuroscientist Randal Koene has formed a nonprofit organization called Carbon Copies to promote mind uploading research.

The human brain contains, on average, about 86 billion nerve cells called neurons, each individually linked to other neurons by way of connectors called axons and dendrites. Signals at the junctures (synapses) of these connections are transmitted by the release and detection of chemicals known as neurotransmitters. The established neuroscientific consensus is that the human mind is largely an emergent property of the information processing of this neural network.[citation needed]

Neuroscientists have stated that important functions performed by the mind, such as learning, memory, and consciousness, are due to purely physical and electrochemical processes in the brain and are governed by applicable laws. For example, Christof Koch and Giulio Tononi wrote in IEEE Spectrum:

Consciousness is part of the natural world. It depends, we believe, only on mathematics and logic and on the imperfectly known laws of physics, chemistry, and biology; it does not arise from some magical or otherworldly quality.[7]

The concept of mind uploading is based on this mechanistic view of the mind, and denies the vitalist view of human life and consciousness.[citation needed]

Eminent computer scientists and neuroscientists have predicted that specially programmed[clarification needed] computers will be capable of thought and even attain consciousness, including Koch and Tononi,[7] Douglas Hofstadter,[8] Jeff Hawkins,[8] Marvin Minsky,[9] Randal A. Koene, and Rodolfo Llins.[10]

However, even though uploading is dependent upon such a general capability, it is conceptually distinct from general forms of AI in that it results from dynamic reanimation of information derived from a specific human mind so that the mind retains a sense of historical identity (other forms are possible but would compromise or eliminate the life-extension feature generally associated with uploading). The transferred and reanimated information would become a form of artificial intelligence, sometimes called an infomorph or “nomorph”.[citation needed]

Many theorists have presented models of the brain and have established a range of estimates of the amount of computing power needed for partial and complete simulations.[4][citation needed] Using these models, some have estimated that uploading may become possible within decades if trends such as Moore’s law continue.[11]

In theory, if the information and processes of the mind can be disassociated from the biological body, they are no longer tied to the individual limits and lifespan of that body. Furthermore, information within a brain could be partly or wholly copied or transferred to one or more other substrates (including digital storage or another brain), thereby from a purely mechanistic perspective reducing or eliminating “mortality risk” of such information. This general proposal was discussed in 1971 by biogerontologist George M. Martin of the University of Washington.[12]

An uploaded astronaut could be used instead of a “live” astronaut in human spaceflight, avoiding the perils of zero gravity, the vacuum of space, and cosmic radiation to the human body. It would allow for the use of smaller spacecraft, such as the proposed StarChip, and it would enable virtually unlimited interstellar travel distances.[13]

The focus of mind uploading, in the case of copy-and-transfer, is on data acquisition, rather than data maintenance of the brain. A set of approaches known as loosely coupled off-loading (LCOL) may be used in the attempt to characterize and copy the mental contents of a brain.[14] The LCOL approach may take advantage of self-reports, life-logs and video recordings that can be analyzed by artificial intelligence. A bottom-up approach may focus on the specific resolution and morphology of neurons, the spike times of neurons, the times at which neurons produce action potential responses.

Advocates of mind uploading point to Moore’s law to support the notion that the necessary computing power is expected to become available within a few decades. However, the actual computational requirements for running an uploaded human mind are very difficult to quantify, potentially rendering such an argument specious.

Regardless of the techniques used to capture or recreate the function of a human mind, the processing demands are likely to be immense, due to the large number of neurons in the human brain along with the considerable complexity of each neuron.

In 2004, Henry Markram, lead researcher of the “Blue Brain Project”, stated that “it is not [their] goal to build an intelligent neural network”, based solely on the computational demands such a project would have.[16]

It will be very difficult because, in the brain, every molecule is a powerful computer and we would need to simulate the structure and function of trillions upon trillions of molecules as well as all the rules that govern how they interact. You would literally need computers that are trillions of times bigger and faster than anything existing today.[17]

Five years later, after successful simulation of part of a rat brain, Markram was much more bold and optimistic. In 2009, as director of the Blue Brain Project, he claimed that A detailed, functional artificial human brain can be built within the next 10 years.[18]

Required computational capacity strongly depend on the chosen level of simulation model scale:[4]

Since the function of the human mind and how it might arise from the working of the brain’s neural network, are poorly understood issues, mind uploading relies on the idea of neural network emulation. Rather than having to understand the high-level psychological processes and large-scale structures of the brain, and model them using classical artificial intelligence methods and cognitive psychology models, the low-level structure of the underlying neural network is captured, mapped and emulated with a computer system. In computer science terminology,[dubious discuss] rather than analyzing and reverse engineering the behavior of the algorithms and data structures that resides in the brain, a blueprint of its source code is translated to another programming language. The human mind and the personal identity then, theoretically, is generated by the emulated neural network in an identical fashion to it being generated by the biological neural network.

On the other hand, a molecule-scale simulation of the brain is not expected to be required, provided that the functioning of the neurons is not affected by quantum mechanical processes. The neural network emulation approach only requires that the functioning and interaction of neurons and synapses are understood. It is expected that it is sufficient with a black-box signal processing model of how the neurons respond to nerve impulses (electrical as well as chemical synaptic transmission).

A sufficiently complex and accurate model of the neurons is required. A traditional artificial neural network model, for example multi-layer perceptron network model, is not considered as sufficient. A dynamic spiking neural network model is required, which reflects that the neuron fires only when a membrane potential reaches a certain level. It is likely that the model must include delays, non-linear functions and differential equations describing the relation between electrophysical parameters such as electrical currents, voltages, membrane states (ion channel states) and neuromodulators.

Since learning and long-term memory are believed to result from strengthening or weakening the synapses via a mechanism known as synaptic plasticity or synaptic adaptation, the model should include this mechanism. The response of sensory receptors to various stimuli must also be modelled.

Furthermore, the model may have to include metabolism, i.e. how the neurons are affected by hormones and other chemical substances that may cross the bloodbrain barrier. It is considered likely that the model must include currently unknown neuromodulators, neurotransmitters and ion channels. It is considered unlikely that the simulation model has to include protein interaction, which would make it computationally complex.[4]

A digital computer simulation model of an analog system such as the brain is an approximation that introduces random quantization errors and distortion. However, the biological neurons also suffer from randomness and limited precision, for example due to background noise. The errors of the discrete model can be made smaller than the randomness of the biological brain by choosing a sufficiently high variable resolution and sample rate, and sufficiently accurate models of non-linearities. The computational power and computer memory must however be sufficient to run such large simulations, preferably in real time.

When modelling and simulating the brain of a specific individual, a brain map or connectivity database showing the connections between the neurons must be extracted from an anatomic model of the brain. For whole brain simulation, this network map should show the connectivity of the whole nervous system, including the spinal cord, sensory receptors, and muscle cells. Destructive scanning of a small sample of tissue from a mouse brain including synaptic details is possible as of 2010.[19]

However, if short-term memory and working memory include prolonged or repeated firing of neurons, as well as intra-neural dynamic processes, the electrical and chemical signal state of the synapses and neurons may be hard to extract. The uploaded mind may then perceive a memory loss of the events and mental processes immediately before the time of brain scanning.[4]

A full brain map has been estimated to occupy less than 2 x 1016 bytes (20,000 TB) and would store the addresses of the connected neurons, the synapse type and the synapse “weight” for each of the brains’ 1015 synapses.[4][not in citation given] However, the biological complexities of true brain function (e.g. the epigenetic states of neurons, protein components with multiple functional states, etc.) may preclude an accurate prediction of the volume of binary data required to faithfully represent a functioning human mind.

A possible method for mind uploading is serial sectioning, in which the brain tissue and perhaps other parts of the nervous system are frozen and then scanned and analyzed layer by layer, which for frozen samples at nano-scale requires a cryo-ultramicrotome, thus capturing the structure of the neurons and their interconnections.[20] The exposed surface of frozen nerve tissue would be scanned and recorded, and then the surface layer of tissue removed. While this would be a very slow and labor-intensive process, research is currently underway to automate the collection and microscopy of serial sections.[21] The scans would then be analyzed, and a model of the neural net recreated in the system that the mind was being uploaded into.

There are uncertainties with this approach using current microscopy techniques. If it is possible to replicate neuron function from its visible structure alone, then the resolution afforded by a scanning electron microscope would suffice for such a technique.[21] However, as the function of brain tissue is partially determined by molecular events (particularly at synapses, but also at other places on the neuron’s cell membrane), this may not suffice for capturing and simulating neuron functions. It may be possible to extend the techniques of serial sectioning and to capture the internal molecular makeup of neurons, through the use of sophisticated immunohistochemistry staining methods that could then be read via confocal laser scanning microscopy. However, as the physiological genesis of ‘mind’ is not currently known, this method may not be able to access all of the necessary biochemical information to recreate a human brain with sufficient fidelity.

It may be possible to create functional 3D maps of the brain activity, using advanced neuroimaging technology, such as functional MRI (fMRI, for mapping change in blood flow), magnetoencephalography (MEG, for mapping of electrical currents), or combinations of multiple methods, to build a detailed three-dimensional model of the brain using non-invasive and non-destructive methods. Today, fMRI is often combined with MEG for creating functional maps of human cortex during more complex cognitive tasks, as the methods complement each other. Even though current imaging technology lacks the spatial resolution needed to gather the information needed for such a scan, important recent and future developments are predicted to substantially improve both spatial and temporal resolutions of existing technologies.[23]

There is ongoing work in the field of brain simulation, including partial and whole simulations of some animals. For example, the C. elegans roundworm, Drosophila fruit fly, and mouse have all been simulated to various degrees.[citation needed]

The Blue Brain Project by the Brain and Mind Institute of the cole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne, Switzerland is an attempt to create a synthetic brain by reverse-engineering mammalian brain circuitry.

Underlying the concept of “mind uploading” (more accurately “mind transferring”) is the broad philosophy that consciousness lies within the brain’s information processing and is in essence an emergent feature that arises from large neural network high-level patterns of organization, and that the same patterns of organization can be realized in other processing devices. Mind uploading also relies on the idea that the human mind (the “self” and the long-term memory), just like non-human minds, is represented by the current neural network paths and the weights of the brain synapses rather than by a dualistic and mystic soul and spirit. The mind or “soul” can be defined as the information state of the brain, and is immaterial only in the same sense as the information content of a data file or the state of a computer software currently residing in the work-space memory of the computer. Data specifying the information state of the neural network can be captured and copied as a “computer file” from the brain and re-implemented into a different physical form.[24] This is not to deny that minds are richly adapted to their substrates.[25] An analogy to the idea of mind uploading is to copy the temporary information state (the variable values) of a computer program from the computer memory to another computer and continue its execution. The other computer may perhaps have different hardware architecture but emulates the hardware of the first computer.

These issues have a long history. In 1775 Thomas Reid wrote:[26] I would be glad to know… whether when my brain has lost its original structure, and when some hundred years after the same materials are fabricated so curiously as to become an intelligent being, whether, I say that being will be me; or, if, two or three such beings should be formed out of my brain; whether they will all be me, and consequently one and the same intelligent being.

A considerable portion of transhumanists and singularitarians place great hope into the belief that they may become immortal, by creating one or many non-biological functional copies of their brains, thereby leaving their “biological shell”. However, the philosopher and transhumanist Susan Schneider claims that at best, uploading would create a copy of the original person’s mind.[27] Susan Schneider agrees that consciousness has a computational basis, but this does not mean we can upload and survive. According to her views, “uploading” would probably result in the death of the original person’s brain, while only outside observers can maintain the illusion of the original person still being alive. For it is implausible to think that one’s consciousness would leave one’s brain and travel to a remote location; ordinary physical objects do not behave this way. Ordinary objects (rocks, tables, etc.) are not simultaneously here, and elsewhere. At best, a copy of the original mind is created.[27] Neural correlates of consciousness, a sub-branch of neuroscience, states that consciousness may be thought of as a state-dependent property of some undefined complex, adaptive, and highly interconnected biological system.[28]

Others have argued against such conclusions. For example, Buddhist transhumanist James Hughes has pointed out that this consideration only goes so far: if one believes the self is an illusion, worries about survival are not reasons to avoid uploading,[29] and Keith Wiley has presented an argument wherein all resulting minds of an uploading procedure are granted equal primacy in their claim to the original identity, such that survival of the self is determined retroactively from a strictly subjective position.[30][31] Some have also asserted that consciousness is a part of an extra-biological system that is yet to be discovered and cannot be fully understood under the present constraints of neurobiology. Without the transference of consciousness, true mind-upload or perpetual immortality cannot be practically achieved.[32]

Another potential consequence of mind uploading is that the decision to “upload” may then create a mindless symbol manipulator instead of a conscious mind (see philosophical zombie).[33][34] Are we to assume that an upload is conscious if it displays behaviors that are highly indicative of consciousness? Are we to assume that an upload is conscious if it verbally insists that it is conscious?[35] Could there be an absolute upper limit in processing speed above which consciousness cannot be sustained? The mystery of consciousness precludes a definitive answer to this question.[36] Numerous scientists, including Kurzweil, strongly believe that determining whether a separate entity is conscious (with 100% confidence) is fundamentally unknowable, since consciousness is inherently subjective (see solipsism). Regardless, some scientists strongly believe consciousness is the consequence of computational processes which are substrate-neutral. On the contrary, numerous scientists believe consciousness may be the result of some form of quantum computation dependent on substrate (see quantum mind).[37][38][39]

In light of uncertainty on whether to regard uploads as conscious, Sandberg proposes a cautious approach:[40]

Principle of assuming the most (PAM): Assume that any emulated system could have the same mental properties as the original system and treat it correspondingly.

It is argued that if a computational copy of one’s mind did exist, it would be impossible for one to verify this.[41] The argument for this stance is the following: for a computational mind to recognize an emulation of itself, it must be capable of deciding whether two Turing machines (namely, itself and the proposed emulation) are functionally equivalent. This task is uncomputable due to the undecidability of equivalence, thus there cannot exist a computational procedure in the mind that is capable of recognizing an emulation of itself.

The process of developing emulation technology raises ethical issues related to animal welfare and artificial consciousness.[40] The neuroscience required to develop brain emulation would require animal experimentation, first on invertebrates and then on small mammals before moving on to humans. Sometimes the animals would just need to be euthanized in order to extract, slice, and scan their brains, but sometimes behavioral and in vivo measures would be required, which might cause pain to living animals.[40]

In addition, the resulting animal emulations themselves might suffer, depending on one’s views about consciousness.[40] Bancroft argues for the plausibility of consciousness in brain simulations on the basis of the “fading qualia” thought experiment of David Chalmers. He then concludes:[42] If, as I argue above, a sufficiently detailed computational simulation of the brain is potentially operationally equivalent to an organic brain, it follows that we must consider extending protections against suffering to simulations.

It might help reduce emulation suffering to develop virtual equivalents of anaesthesia, as well as to omit processing related to pain and/or consciousness. However, some experiments might require a fully functioning and suffering animal emulation. Animals might also suffer by accident due to flaws and lack of insight into what parts of their brains are suffering.[40] Questions also arise regarding the moral status of partial brain emulations, as well as creating neuromorphic emulations that draw inspiration from biological brains but are built somewhat differently.[42]

Brain emulations could be erased by computer viruses or malware, without need to destroy the underlying hardware. This may make assassination easier than for physical humans. The attacker might take the computing power for its own use.[43]

Many questions arise regarding the legal personhood of emulations.[44] Would they be given the rights of biological humans? If a person makes an emulated copy of themselves and then dies, does the emulation inherit their property and official positions? Could the emulation ask to “pull the plug” when its biological version was terminally ill or in a coma? Would it help to treat emulations as adolescents for a few years so that the biological creator would maintain temporary control? Would criminal emulations receive the death penalty, or would they be given forced data modification as a form of “rehabilitation”? Could an upload have marriage and child-care rights?[44]

If simulated minds would come true and if they were assigned rights of their own, it may be difficult to ensure the protection of “digital human rights”. For example, social science researchers might be tempted to secretly expose simulated minds, or whole isolated societies of simulated minds, to controlled experiments in which many copies of the same minds are exposed (serially or simultaneously) to different test conditions.[citation needed]

Emulations could create a number of conditions that might increase risk of war, including inequality, changes of power dynamics, a possible technological arms race to build emulations first, first-strike advantages, strong loyalty and willingness to “die” among emulations, and triggers for racist, xenophobic, and religious prejudice.[43] If emulations run much faster than humans, there might not be enough time for human leaders to make wise decisions or negotiate. It is possible that humans would react violently against growing power of emulations, especially if they depress human wages. Emulations may not trust each other, and even well-intentioned defensive measures might be interpreted as offense.[43]

There are very few feasible technologies that humans have refrained from developing. The neuroscience and computer-hardware technologies that may make brain emulation possible are widely desired for other reasons, and logically their development will continue into the future. Assuming that emulation technology will arrive, a question becomes whether we should accelerate or slow its advance.[43]

Arguments for speeding up brain-emulation research:

Arguments for slowing down brain-emulation research:

Emulation research would also speed up neuroscience as a whole, which might accelerate medical advances, cognitive enhancement, lie detectors, and capability for psychological manipulation.[49]

Emulations might be easier to control than de novo AI because

As counterpoint to these considerations, Bostrom notes some downsides:

Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, claims to know and foresee that people will be able to “upload” their entire brains to computers and become “digitally immortal” by 2045. Kurzweil made this claim for many years, e.g. during his speech in 2013 at the Global Futures 2045 International Congress in New York, which claims to subscribe to a similar set of beliefs.[50] Mind uploading is also advocated by a number of researchers in neuroscience and artificial intelligence, such as Marvin Minsky[citation needed] while he was still alive. In 1993, Joe Strout created a small web site called the Mind Uploading Home Page, and began advocating the idea in cryonics circles and elsewhere on the net. That site has not been actively updated in recent years, but it has spawned other sites including MindUploading.org, run by Randal A. Koene, who also moderates a mailing list on the topic. These advocates see mind uploading as a medical procedure which could eventually save countless lives.

Many transhumanists look forward to the development and deployment of mind uploading technology, with transhumanists such as Nick Bostrom predicting that it will become possible within the 21st century due to technological trends such as Moore’s law.[4]

Michio Kaku, in collaboration with Science, hosted a documentary, Sci Fi Science: Physics of the Impossible, based on his book Physics of the Impossible. Episode four, titled “How to Teleport”, mentions that mind uploading via techniques such as quantum entanglement and whole brain emulation using an advanced MRI machine may enable people to be transported to vast distances at near light-speed.

The book Beyond Humanity: CyberEvolution and Future Minds by Gregory S. Paul & Earl D. Cox, is about the eventual (and, to the authors, almost inevitable) evolution of computers into sentient beings, but also deals with human mind transfer. Richard Doyle’s Wetwares: Experiments in PostVital Living deals extensively with uploading from the perspective of distributed embodiment, arguing for example that humans are currently part of the “artificial life phenotype”. Doyle’s vision reverses the polarity on uploading, with artificial life forms such as uploads actively seeking out biological embodiment as part of their reproductive strategy.

Kenneth D. Miller, a professor of neuroscience at Columbia and a co-director of the Center for Theoretical Neuroscience, raised doubts about the practicality of mind uploading. His major argument is that reconstructing neurons and their connections is in itself a formidable task, but it is far from being sufficient. Operation of the brain depends on the dynamics of electrical and biochemical signal exchange between neurons; therefore, capturing them in a single “frozen” state may prove insufficient. In addition, the nature of these signals may require modeling down to the molecular level and beyond. Therefore, while not rejecting the idea in principle, Miller believes that the complexity of the “absolute” duplication of an individual mind is insurmountable for the nearest hundreds of years.[51]

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Mind uploading – Wikipedia


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