cross pond high tech
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Elon Musk launches Neuralink, a venture to merge the human brain with AI

Elon Musk launches Neuralink, a venture to merge the human brain with AI | cross pond high tech | Scoop.it

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk is backing a brain-computer interface venture called Neuralink, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company, which is still in the earliest stages of existence and has no public presence whatsoever, is centered on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain, with the eventual purpose of helping human beings merge with software and keep pace with advancements in artificial intelligence. These enhancements could improve memory or allow for more direct interfacing with computing devices.

Musk has hinted at the existence of Neuralink a few times over the last six months or so. More recently, Musk told a crowd in Dubai, “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” He added that “it's mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output." On Twitter, Musk has responded to inquiring fans about his progress on a so-called “neural lace,” which is sci-fi shorthand for a brain-computer interface humans could use to improve themselves.

These types of brain-computer interfaces exist today only in science fiction. In the medical realm, electrode arrays and other implants have been used to help ameliorate the effects of Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and other neurodegenerative diseases. However, very few people on the planet have complex implants placed inside their skulls, while the number of patients with very basic stimulating devices number only in the tens of thousands. This is partly because it is incredibly dangerous and invasive to operate on the human brain, and only those who have exhausted every other medical option choose to undergo such surgery as a last resort.

This has not stopped a surge in Silicon Valley interest from tech industry futurists who are interested in accelerating the advancement of these types of far-off ideas. Kernel, a startup created by Braintree co-founder Bryan Johnson, is also trying to enhance human cognition. With more than $100 million of Johnson’s own money — the entrepreneur sold Braintree to PayPal for around $800 million in 2013 — Kernel and its growing team of neuroscientists and software engineers are working toward reversing the effects of neurodegenerative diseases and, eventually, making our brains faster and smarter and more wired.

Philippe J DEWOST's insight:

We are getting closer, totally unprepared : individuals, philosophers, society and even worse, politicians and policy makers are dramatically lagging behind, showing very limited interest, attention and focus...

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Top Neuroscientist Says the Brain Is Not Computable

Top Neuroscientist Says the Brain Is Not Computable | cross pond high tech | Scoop.it

Miguel Nicolelis, a top neuroscientist at Duke University, says computers will never replicate the human brain and that the technological Singularity is “a bunch of hot air.”

 

“The brain is not computable and no engineering can reproduce it,” says Nicolelis, author of several pioneering papers on brain-machine interfaces.

The Singularity, of course, is that moment when a computer super-intelligence emerges and changes the world in ways beyond our comprehension.

Among the idea’s promoters are futurist Ray Kurzweil, recently hired on at Google as a director of engineering, who has been predicting that not only will machine intelligence exceed our own, but people will be able to download their thoughts and memories into computers (see “Ray Kurzweil Plans to Create a Mind at Google—and Have It Serve You”).

 

Nicolelis calls that idea sheer bunk. “Downloads will never happen,” he said during remarks made at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston on Sunday. “There are a lot of people selling the idea that you can mimic the brain with a computer.”

Philippe J DEWOST's insight:

Ray Kurzweil's brain might not be downloadable after all

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Predicting the Future and Exponential Growth

Predicting the Future and Exponential Growth | cross pond high tech | Scoop.it
“How many times would I have to fold a sheet of paper for the height of the folded paper to reach the moon?”

Human beings have terrible intuition for exponential growth. If I asked you how many times you would have to fold a single sheet of US Letter paper to reach the moon, it would be difficult to intuitively comprehend that it only takes twenty folds to reach Mount Everest, forty-two folds to the moon, and fifty to reach the sun.

Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.” –Albert Einstein
Often times when looking at the future, we use the projection of the past to predict the outcome of the future. This suggestion is generally not understood properly as due to the natural linearity of time, people are more likely to look at the next five years assuming the growth will march linearly like the past five years.

The truth is that even from the last five years to now, growth particularly technological growth is never linear and is always exponential.

The Apollo Guidance Computer, for example, was built of 4100 integrated circuits, each of which was a 3 input gate for a total of approximately 12,300 transistors – having its performance clocking in at 41.6 instructions per second.

An iPhone 6 has 3.36 billion instructions per second meaning an iPhone 6 is 80 million times faster than Apollo on just instructions per second and around 120 million times faster than the guidance computer that put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon. A single iPhone 6 could theoretically guide 120 million Apollo rockets at the same time (an iPhone 6S is 70% faster than an iPhone 6). This also doesn’t include the fact that a 64 bit processor can use less operations to process more complex computations - so 120 million times faster is definitely an understatement.

So how can we explain this type of growth?
Philippe J DEWOST's insight:

We humans are desperately linear when it comes to aiming at the future. It took our societies thousands of years to switch from Mircea Eliades "myth of eternal return" way of looking at the world (after all, nature is mostly cyclical in its immediate perception) and unfold towards the "time arrow" paradigm we are currently living in.


Except that for the past decades, something different has been emerging, that involves exponential thinking as per illustrated in Ray Kurzweil "second half of the chessboard" metaphor (echoing a legend that has its local version in almost chess playing culture).


This post explains very well what exponential thinking is about, and why we humans are so often wrong in the way we try to define the future on 10-15 years time frames. Must read especially if you feel uncomfortable with all this tech popping out and surprising us (and our governments) for the past few years. AirBnB and Uber were indeed unforeseeable and here is why...

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