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Simulating the human brain - will it work?

Sanddune

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Home - Human Brain Project

Is it realistic that the human brain as a whole will be simulated? Or is it just people looking for research grants and making everything sound awesome?

I see three problems, one of which can probably not be overcome

1) Limited computational power

2) Imaging/measuring techniques for biological parameters

3) The huge variation of the physical and chemical properties of everything in vivo means that you have thousands of model parameters with huge uncertainties and thus biological simulations won't tell you much about reality once they reach a certain complexity (this is the one which can probably not be overcome in a few years).

Therefore, I think it's people looking for research grants and making things sound cool. Which doesn't mean they won't do anything interesting, but it most probably won't be a simulation of the entire brain imo.

What do you think?
 

Rainman05

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I think it's perfectly possible to create a simulation of the brain. How the mind works is a different story.

To clarify. We have computers with 1.4bil tranzistors in them. And i'm talking about commercial computers. I think some FPGA devices breached 5-6bil last year. I think my professor told me something about that in college.

The human brain has at least 100 trillion neuron connections. 100 trillion. So we have some time to go till we can model the brain with transistors, and lets face it, it's the only viable way to do it now, electronically. But again, modelling the mind is a huge task. We can model parts of the brain. Each lobe as it were. Alternatively, we could just use software... and that's ok. But we would need huge processing power. I mean something like they use when they do airplane calculations and all that. Even more.

Anyway, it's a daunting task and it is something people should be working on for decades. It's not an easy win scenario, but then again, nothing worthwhile ever is.
 
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Sanddune

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I think it's perfectly possible to create a simulation of the brain. How the mind works is a different story.

To clarify. We have computers with 1.4bil tranzistors in them. And i'm talking about commercial computers. I think some FPGA devices breached 5-6bil last year. I think my professor told me something about that in college.

The human brain has at least 100 trillion neuron connections. 100 trillion. So we have some time to go till we can model the brain with transistors, and lets face it, it's the only viable way to do it now, electronically. But again, modelling the mind is a huge task. We can model parts of the brain. Each lobe as it were. Alternatively, we could just use software... and that's ok. But we would need huge processing power. I mean something like they use when they do airplane calculations and all that. Even more.

Anyway, it's a daunting task and it is something people should be working on for decades. It's not an easy win scenario, but then again, nothing worthwhile ever is.
That's solving problem 1. I agree, it will be solved at some point with Moore's law. What do you think about problems 2 and 3?

To clarify no. 2, you would need to do in vivo imaging of neuronal networks... which means pushing state of the art image resolution down by several orders of magnitude. Maybe, at some point, but later than getting the computational power.

But how about problem 3? If you have, say, 10 biological input parameters (it will be more like 1000), each having a statistical uncertainty of, say, 25%, how are you going to build a model which still gives you any useful results?
 

iliveonramen

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One of the most fascinating things to me is the energy efficiency of the human brain compared to energy needs to simulate the human brain.

As for what you mention...I think useful things typically come from trying to do the impossible.
 

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If you view the human brain as just a collection of neurons, then why could it not be duplicated?
If, on the other hand, there is a human spirit in possession of that brain, using it in the same way you use any other computer, then it can't be duplicated.

Time will tell, won't it?
 

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I think with time we could simulate the processing power of the human brain and the memory capacity, but what you would have would just be a crude imitation.

To this day Dr's and Scientist still debate on the origins of consciousness, or the seat of consciousness, and I think that's more than just neural connections and brain cells.
 

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I think the idea of simulating the human brain is neat, but I don't think we should attempt to create it. No matter how complex a computer simulated brain is created, it will still amount to 1/0 (yes/no) at the root level. And at what point of intelligence will the simulated brain decide it's a good idea to build more? What would become of society?
 

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Home - Human Brain Project

Is it realistic that the human brain as a whole will be simulated? Or is it just people looking for research grants and making everything sound awesome?

I see three problems, one of which can probably not be overcome

1) Limited computational power

2) Imaging/measuring techniques for biological parameters

3) The huge variation of the physical and chemical properties of everything in vivo means that you have thousands of model parameters with huge uncertainties and thus biological simulations won't tell you much about reality once they reach a certain complexity (this is the one which can probably not be overcome in a few years).

Therefore, I think it's people looking for research grants and making things sound cool. Which doesn't mean they won't do anything interesting, but it most probably won't be a simulation of the entire brain imo.

What do you think?
I think the simulation of the brain is inevitable barring a metaphysical intrusion there is no reason it should not at some point be possible. Will we do it in 50 years? I think it is likely that we will get to something approximating it. One of the themes of invention is that usually we make our greatest breakthroughs by building upon nature instead of replicating it the prime example being heavier than air flight as we do not copy birds. A salient reason for pursuing brain simulation is to develop artificial intelligence, neural prosthetics, medical advances, psychological understanding, etc. It may be that we accomplish all of those things by using superior methods or innovations than the more difficult ones presented to us by nature.

But to give my answer on your three points:

1. I think the computing problem will be rapidly overcome this century if not much sooner. As we move towards exascale supercomputing infrastructure and extremely large data storage technologies we are quickly approaching the raw capacity to tackle this problem. Software and scientific understanding are another question.

2. Maybe I'm being simplistic but I don't actually see much of a problem with this. We already have fairly sophisticated metrics for measuring biological items as well as categorizing non-numerical phenomena.

3. This is closely linked with the first point and I'd actually disagree that aren't closer to it than people think. Though my definition of close is probably on the order of sometime before the middle of this century.

For me the real question is will brain simulation research efforts and experiments offer us the practical benefits and progress towards the areas I mentioned before and I think the answer is yes. Whether or not we create an exact replica of the human brain is less important to me personally.
 

Buck Ewer

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The biggest problem to overcome and the reason no conventional computer will ever accurately simulate the human brain, is that computers are binary by function and organic systems are analog.
It would be like trying to paint a color picture using only black and white paints.
 

Sanddune

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I think the simulation of the brain is inevitable barring a metaphysical intrusion there is no reason it should not at some point be possible. Will we do it in 50 years? I think it is likely that we will get to something approximating it. One of the themes of invention is that usually we make our greatest breakthroughs by building upon nature instead of replicating it the prime example being heavier than air flight as we do not copy birds. A salient reason for pursuing brain simulation is to develop artificial intelligence, neural prosthetics, medical advances, psychological understanding, etc. It may be that we accomplish all of those things by using superior methods or innovations than the more difficult ones presented to us by nature.

But to give my answer on your three points:

1. I think the computing problem will be rapidly overcome this century if not much sooner. As we move towards exascale supercomputing infrastructure and extremely large data storage technologies we are quickly approaching the raw capacity to tackle this problem. Software and scientific understanding are another question.

2. Maybe I'm being simplistic but I don't actually see much of a problem with this. We already have fairly sophisticated metrics for measuring biological items as well as categorizing non-numerical phenomena.

3. This is closely linked with the first point and I'd actually disagree that aren't closer to it than people think. Though my definition of close is probably on the order of sometime before the middle of this century.

For me the real question is will brain simulation research efforts and experiments offer us the practical benefits and progress towards the areas I mentioned before and I think the answer is yes. Whether or not we create an exact replica of the human brain is less important to me personally.
Very nice post. Biological models and simulations (also brain simulations) are definitely an interesting and increasing area of research, and given all the work that is done in that area, there hopefully will be some benefit.

The general problem with biological models is that once they reach a certain complexity, they lose their prediction capability because you get lots of parameters with high uncertainties going into them. That is not to say that it's a completely useless field of research, and I do see a potential for biological modeling combined with medical imaging to have an impact on medical treatment, if the models are kept simple enough. Having worked in the field a bit, I consider most (though not all) of the biological modeling that is going on to be useless from a practical/application point of view. I think if we look at it from a medical/application point of view, people should try to build simple models with 2 or 3 measurable input parameters. Anything else is just an interesting mathematical model.

This of course takes us the issue of medical imaging, which is mainly CT and MRI if you want to look at what is happening inside the brain. PET has a poor resolution. Functional and anatomical imaging techniques of various kinds at µm resolution of the entire brain (this is what you would need) are not really in sight, but who knows how that might change?

The development of artificial intelligence is a different matter and it will develop further and do lots of things both good and evil. I like your analogy (the brain being the bird, and artificial intelligence being the airplane) and I think it applies very well here. However, I doubt that artificial intelligence will be modeled primarily on the human brain.

So to sum it up, I agree that brain simulation can help to develop new medical methods, but I still find it dishonest for a research project starting now to say that they are going to simulate the entire human brain. We're far away from that, and as I said, once you have a certain number of parameters in a biological model you're lost, and you'll certainly get there if you simulate the entire brain.

Then again, when Max Planck started to study physics, a professor told him it would be a waste of his talent because physics wouldn't develop anymore. So, as it always is in science, whatever I'm saying now might be completely wrong, obsolete or even laughable in 100 years...
 

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One of the most fascinating things to me is the energy efficiency of the human brain compared to energy needs to simulate the human brain.

As for what you mention...I think useful things typically come from trying to do the impossible.
That's an excellent point. Research on this magnitude would, I think, lead to many important discoveries having not much to do with researchers' end goal.
 

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The very first typed out message from the first guy to " successfully " dowload his brain into a server will will look a little like this ...

..." KILL ME !!!! "....
 

Helix

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If you view the human brain as just a collection of neurons, then why could it not be duplicated?
If, on the other hand, there is a human spirit in possession of that brain, using it in the same way you use any other computer, then it can't be duplicated.

Time will tell, won't it?
it also brings up the question that if the human brain is successfully duplicated, does that entity attain personhood?
 

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it also brings up the question that if the human brain is successfully duplicated, does that entity attain personhood?
That is an interesting question. Create a machine that thinks and is self aware, and just what is it?
 

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That is an interesting question. Create a machine that thinks and is self aware, and just what is it?
An animal analog. Or a machine a thinks like a person. We aren't the only ones who think and are self-aware.
 

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An animal analog. Or a machine a thinks like a person. We aren't the only ones who think and are self-aware.
Good point. Some of the higher animals do the same.

which kind of blurs the distinction between human and non human, and brings up the question of just what a human being is, doesn't it?
 

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Good point. Some of
the higher animals do the same.

which kind of blurs the distinction between human and non human, and
brings up the question of just what a human being is, doesn't it?
We can understand the workings of the human body on a genetic scale but to this day scientist really have no idea where the individual seat of consciousness exist and what in our brains is responsible for it.

Theories is all they have, but to think it could be replicated on a digital scale is stil just science fiction.
 

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We can understand the workings of the human body on a genetic scale but to this day scientist really have no idea where the individual seat of consciousness exist and what in our brains is responsible for it.

Theories is all they have, but to think it could be replicated on a digital scale is stil just science fiction.
As I said earlier, if the brain is just a collection of neurons, then it may be possible to duplicate it one day. If, on the other hand, that "seat of consciousness is really a human spirit in control of those neurons, then it can never be duplicated.
 

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Creating an artificial brain seems do-able; as sooner or later raw computational
power will be sufficient. However, to create a human mind consisting of imagination,
opinion, morals, etc does not seem possible as we utterly lack any clue how this
comes about.
 

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Whether or not simulating a human brain is ever doable, it is not possible to simulate what "lives" in the brain, so to speak.

Heart, mind and soul are more than just major neuro-clustered families at the center, left, and right of the new brain (in western 'man).

They reflect the zero-point matching-frequency spirit that unites there with the material, the spirit of us that gives one the "I am" experience and personally unique decision power.

That can't be realistically simulated.
 

Removable Mind

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Creating an artificial brain seems do-able; as sooner or later raw computational
power will be sufficient. However, to create a human mind consisting of imagination,
opinion, morals, etc does not seem possible as we utterly lack any clue how this
comes about.
Marvin Minsky, co-founder of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, has stated that he believes that humans could well be a form of artificial intelligence. That's something to ponder.
 

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Whether or not simulating a human brain is ever doable, it is not possible to simulate what "lives" in the brain, so to speak.

Heart, mind and soul are more than just major neuro-clustered families at the center, left, and right of the new brain (in western 'man).

They reflect the zero-point matching-frequency spirit that unites there with the material, the spirit of us that gives one the "I am" experience and personally unique decision power.

That can't be realistically simulated.
Based on what scientific evidence do you claim that? There is no reason that I've yet been made aware of that would seem to indicate that consciousness cannot be replicated artificially. Most in neuroscience today adhere to a naturalistic theory of the mind with one of the rising theories of the past twenty years being the computational theory of the mind. If you were to create a thinking machine, an artificial intelligence, it would be because we managed to replicate many of the cognitive rules or mechanics of our brain. Heart, mind, and soul can very well be 'nothing more' than neuro-clustered families and chunks of cerebral cortex. Neurons, axons, dendrites in my opinion (and I should say in the opinion of most neuroscientist's I've ever heard of or read) the sum of the mind, anticipating that there 'must' be a spirit acting behind the brain as you seem to be indicating can never be proven it requires an act of faith.
 

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Based on what scientific evidence do you claim that? There is no reason that I've yet been made aware of that would seem to indicate that consciousness cannot be replicated artificially. Most in neuroscience today adhere to a naturalistic theory of the mind with one of the rising theories of the past twenty years being the computational theory of the mind. If you were to create a thinking machine, an artificial intelligence, it would be because we managed to replicate many of the cognitive rules or mechanics of our brain. Heart, mind, and soul can very well be 'nothing more' than neuro-clustered families and chunks of cerebral cortex. Neurons, axons, dendrites in my opinion (and I should say in the opinion of most neuroscientist's I've ever heard of or read) the sum of the mind, anticipating that there 'must' be a spirit acting behind the brain as you seem to be indicating can never be proven it requires an act of faith.
Einstein and the classical gang recognized the zero-point field long ago, but because it was such a constant, they simply factored it out of their equations.

We now know that there's much more going on there, that the nearly limitless unique frequencies of photons in this absolute-zero field is found in dark matter, dark matter that exists in abundance between the galaxies .. and that also exists inside the human body.

Each brain with its unique frequency receiver can house one of these dark matter spiritual entities.

Without that spiritual entity, the brain is just a machine without an "operator".
 

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If, in the next century or so, human beings manage to make a machine that is self aware, has creativity, a moral compass, everything that a human being is and has, then it will have been proven t hat we're no more than physical entities.

If, on the other hand, such a machine is still in the realm of science fiction, that will be sufficient evidence to conclude that humans are, in fact, spiritual entities in control of a physical body.

But, a century or so from now, anyone reading this will already have lost his/her physical body. If there really is a spirit, then that spirit will know beyond any doubt of its existence.

If, on the other hand, the physical brain is all there is, then none of us will ever know it.
 

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Einstein and the classical gang recognized the zero-point field long ago, but because it was such a constant, they simply factored it out of their equations.

We now know that there's much more going on there, that the nearly limitless unique frequencies of photons in this absolute-zero field is found in dark matter, dark matter that exists in abundance between the galaxies .. and that also exists inside the human body.

Each brain with its unique frequency receiver can house one of these dark matter spiritual entities.

Without that spiritual entity, the brain is just a machine without an "operator".
Forgive me for saying so but most of that just sounds like gibberish. Unless I'm missing something huge I'm not sure what zero point energy has to do with neuroscience or cognitive science. Certainly nothing that I've ever read about physics or the limited amount I know about 'zero point energy' would lead me to ascribe anything spiritual to it. It seems as though you may be trying to make an argument about the complexity of the brain which is a very separate discussion.
 
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