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.
In January Henry Markram got a late Christmas present. After intense international competition, Markram’s quest for a brain simulation received one of the largest grants in the history of science – 500 million euros from Europe’s new Technology “Flagship” program.
The European Human Brain project is a large expansion of Markram’s “Blue Brain” efforts which have made amazing progress over the past several years. With this level of funding the HBP appears to have left the USA’s DARPA SyNAPSE as something of a funding pauper. However as politicians begin to recognize the significance of thinking computers DARPA is likely to get much higher funding.
From the HBP Executive Summary:
We propose that the HBP should be organised in three phases, lasting a total of ten years. For the first two and a half years (the “ramp-up” phase), the project should focus on setting up the initial versions of the ICT platforms and on seeding them with strategically selected data. At the end of this phase, the platforms should be ready for use by researchers inside and outside the project. For the following four and a half years (the “operational phase”), the project should intensify work to generate strategic data and to add new capabilities to the platforms, while simultaneously demonstrating the value of the platforms for basic neuroscience research and for applications in medicine and future computing technology. In the last three years (the “sustainability phase”), the project should continue these activities while simultaneously moving towards financial self-sustainability – ensuring that the capabilities and knowledge it has created become a permanent asset for European science and industry