The Quest for a Digital Brain : Entry 1
The good folks over at WIRED have a recurring series called #wiredsixword where they ask people to form a six word story on the basis of a prompt , The prompt’s deal with a wide range of fascinating concepts and Ideas.
So we at Astrophilia thought why not have the talented writers over here tackle one such prompt. The prompt we decided to go with was: The Quest to make a Digital Replica of your brain. This is what one of our fine writer Saraschandrika Bhavani Vajjala came up with.
There is nothing. Only warm, primordial blackness. Your conscience ferments in it — no larger than a single grain of malt.
— Ancient Reptilian Brain
After watching your “jewel in the crown” character from a movie, sitting in front of a mirror, talking with his or her own reflection, struggling with thoughts, have you ever wondered if it is possible to do so in real life? Imagine yourself conversing with your own replica physically! Sounds unfeasibly enthralling, but the fact is scientists are formulating different ways of creating a digital replica of human brain, which can think like you.
The making of artificial humans, dates back to the period of ancient Swiss people where Paracelsus, a Swiss born alchemist believed that by placing sperm of a man in horse dung and feeding it with human blood, the mixture can become a living infant in forty years! By 19th century, artificial men, thinking machines became a common plot for many fiction novels and movies. Some realistic human like automatic machines also known as automata were developed by craftsmen from every civilizations, which were believed to be imbued with real minds
And now, in this modern era, we refer to this technology as Artificial Intelligence, which is based on the fact that the rational thoughts or the rational observations we perceive, could be formulated as mathematical equations and algorithms. When we express these algorithms in the form of zeroes and ones (binary language), we come up with machines able to perform certain tasks. But the question is “can we come up with machines that can converse and think like humans?” or more precisely to say “to what extent, we can develop algorithms and deduce equations”? To answer this question, we need to solve a conundrum “what is thinking”? The perception of thinking in accordance with human brain is “processing the external stimuli”. If a machine is able to converse like humans or can come with facts or conclusions, we can say that “the machine thinks” although not exactly as the great encephalon.
It was in the year 1952 where some handful of scientists developed an urge for creating machines that could think or to produce the virtual copies of brain. Fundamentally, it is the electronic network of neurons that generates neurotransmitters for transmitting information. The external environment produces the neuron fire which give birth to the thoughts. This compound fusion of electric and magnetic fields developed inside the brain when studied deeply under MRI scannings and electroencephalography, a mathematical model of the brain could be stimulated in the computer. This model could be used to predict the stimulation of the treatments for various neurological disorders, and can also be used to develop new treatments.
But we come back to the same question we started from. Can our neuro twin think like us? This is an inscrutable question, but not hard to answer. The fundamental difference between a human brain and its digital replica is generation of thoughts and processing of thoughts. There is a difference between idea and information. Digital replicas and future supercomputers come up with enormous amount of information but its the idea that makes a difference. It’s a delusion that AI’s are perfect. The actual perfection is in making mistakes which is prone to only human brain or “brains with life”. We tend to make mistakes, break the rules, fail multiple times and come up with new theories which a digital replica cannot. An intelligent version of ourselves cannot replace the human brain because intelligence alone cannot be parameter to rule the world. If our replica is able to experience things, it’s the human brain that understands it. A replica would define a chair as an object with four legs, and a seat but it’s the human brain that understands the fact that chair is an object on which we can sit due to which we can create new designs according to our comfort levels. We do deep understanding whereas a replica does deep learning, and learning can be unlearned but understanding is permanent.
The future is aleatory. The technology which was nevertheless than wizardry spell a century ago, is now ubiquitous and things which appear to be dream today may be possible in coming years. But one thing that can be assured is a digital replica could be used for technical aid and experiments but its completely irrational for lifeless object to replace the human brain. The nexus of neurons will remain the most omnipotent and vivacious element that earth has ever witnessed.
Brain in a Jar:
A beautiful day of sentience
Sitting still, lost in reminisce
Sometimes giggling, sometimes chuckling
Suddenly shifting to despondence
Of changing notions and cogitations
I was in deep ambivalence
Rummaging through these plethora of thoughts
The one that stayed in my mind was
How capricious the brain is
A panorama of transient emotions
Stimulating different sensations
A nexus of neurons,
Highly intellectual, highly inquisitive.
It created a civilized orb
Which a decade ago
Was a mere thought, difficult to absorb
At times I genuinely envisage
Can the quest of this giant bryn
Lead the mankind to a passage
Where we can meet our neuro twin?