Artificial Intelligence research seeking “Strong AI” – essentially a self aware, conscious computing system where the machine would think as effectively as humans, had languished for many years after initial hype failed to pan out.
Thankfully, this line of research is now coming back online in a very big way, with enough funding and supercomputing power to usher in the biggest technology breakthrough in the history of humanity. Thinking computers would revolutionize the world in many ways, allowing much more efficient resource development, utilization, and conservation. Barring the unlikely scenario of an “unfriendly AI” that would seek to destroy humanity, a “friendly AI” would bring massively faster problem solving and, very likely, would improve at a spectacular rate leading to greater and greater technological breakthroughs.
Where President Obama has proposed a “Brain Mapping Project” it’s not yet clear yet that full funding will be realized: http://www.whitehouse.gov/share/brain-initiative
Europe, however, has now pledged a billion Euro to the Human Brain Project under the stewardship of the man who is arguably the most knowledgeable in this field, Henry Markram. You can read Dr. Markram’s guest post here at Technology Report comparing his original “Blue Brain” project with the Darpa SyNAPSE efforts in the USA.
Although the “cat brain controversy” was somewhat contentious, we’re hoping Dr. Markram’s desire to cooperate with others across the brain project spectrum – much as happened during the human genome project – will become the standard.
The Brain Activity Map Project is a major effort to map *every neuron” in the human brain, and may represent a significant advance towards conscious machine intelligence sometimes called “Strong General Artificial Intelligence” or “Strong AI”. The Brain Activity Map is expected to get Obama administration funding to the tune of approximately 3 billion over the next decade.
The project has some similarities to Europe’s new “Human Brain Project” effort, a well funded extension of Henry Markram’s “Blue Brain Project” which seeks to create a working model of the human brain in the next decade.
At these funding levels technological optimists can hope for even more dramatic progress towards the technological singularity, the point at which machine intelligence far surpasses that of humans. Futurist and engineer Ray Kurzweil has written extensively about the coming technological singularity, and his recent appointment as Google’s director of engineering suggests that the private sector will also be funding machine consciousness projects at unprecedented levels.
Countdown to the SINGULARITY?
Technology report has been focused on this topic for some time, and it’s now fair to say that funding levels are starting to match the enormous potential of machine intelligence to revolutionize virtually every aspect of human existence. Although some pessimists fear the worst, we think it’s very likely that superintelligences will either ignore us or help humankind solve the many problems we face. The likelihood of a hostile superintelligence or “unfriendly AI” seems low.