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Robotics Hardware Science Technology

A Mind Made From Memristors 320

Csiko writes "Researchers at Boston University's department of cognitive and neural systems are working on an artificial brain implemented with memristors. 'A memristor is a two-terminal device whose resistance changes depending on the amount, direction, and duration of voltage that's applied to it. But here's the really interesting thing about a memristor: Whatever its past state, or resistance, it freezes that state until another voltage is applied to change it. Maintaining that state requires no power.' Also theoretically described, solid state versions of memristors have not been implemented until recently. Now researchers in Boston claim that memristors are the new key technology to implement highly integrated, powerful artificial brains on cheap and widely available hardware within five years."
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A Mind Made From Memristors

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  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @04:06PM (#34436262) Journal

    This opens up a whole huge assload of debate again.

    Let us assume they map out the brain, create an FPGA of memristor devices like this that can mimic the brain's exact structure.

    First round it doesn't work.

    Because robots can't have a soul. You need a spirit to have that kind of consciousness. You'll hear this argument immediately; I'm not going to argue directly against the spirituality thing, but the question to me is more complex than that, of course. Still, that'll be the first argument.

    Then someone will make it work.

    Now the interesting shit happens.

    A lot of people have told me they're never going to die because, by the time they're old, technology will exist to copy their minds into machines. Think about that. Immortality through perpetuated consciousness.

    Stop for a moment.

    Realize you are alive, aware, and conscious.

    Now, why do you experience consciousness?

    You want to say, well, all that "soul" bullshit is weird and freaky. Scientifically unsound. I experience consciousness due to a series of electrochemical reactions in my brain. End of story.

    Now suppose I move your brain's data into another organic brain, electronic brain, or anything else of the source. Would you continue to "live"? Would YOU continue to live?

    To make the point more clear, what if I made an identical copy and booted both at the same time. Do you suddenly develop a psychic link with your other self, experiencing both existences at once, living in two different places? ... ridiculous.

    So you're bound to your brain. You cannot live forever unless your particular, specific, physical brain stays in tact. If I copy your brain to another cloned brain, yank yours out, and replace it with the clone, everyone else will interact with you as if you were you, no difference; but YOU would vanish into the blackness, you'd stop living, you'd die.

    Why are you conscious?

    Hmm that would be convenient for suicide cases. So much easier. Copy my brain into a biological clone brain, swap, and destroy mine. I get to die and nobody else has to worry about it because I don't die. The ultimate escape: you make your life someone else's problem!

  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @04:17PM (#34436414) Journal
    Yes, and this would work why? (in practice, would it?) My point is we don't understand consciousness (and have no way to verify things like this actually work) and that the question is very complex. Even if you don't accept the concept of a "soul," you have a very difficult problem in front of you. If you DO accept the concept of a "soul," you have something confusing and complex in front of you.
  • by FeepingCreature ( 1132265 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @04:37PM (#34436720)

    Now suppose I move your brain's data into another organic brain, electronic brain, or anything else of the source. Would you continue to "live"? Would YOU continue to live?

    Yes, and yes.

    To make the point more clear, what if I made an identical copy and booted both at the same time. Do you suddenly develop a psychic link with your other self, experiencing both existences at once, living in two different places? ... ridiculous.

    If you absolutely cannot dispense with the existence of a soul, just pretend it "finishes" up my life, then circles back around and lives the life of my copy. Since all informational attributes of the human mind can be biologically explained, this time-travelling "soul" does not violate causality (because it carries no information).

  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @05:16PM (#34437354) Journal

    They always say our forefathers would vomit up a lung if they saw what we did to their country. Times were better back then, even with the government handing bibles out in schools and children getting their asses beat by teachers.

    Japan had a much different society and instead of naturally degrading they've seen our 20th century garbage FORCED on them. It'd be like if we found something identical to post-revolution America and forced modern american democracy on it, with the sleezy politicians and disney megacorporations. 1804 would be the year of the frontier, 1805 the year of everyone wanting to die to avert this horrible future.

    Japan's bullshit largely revolved around the Shogun effectively owning the people in their domain as property. The Meiji restoration eliminated that, dropped in other political issues; however the culture was always the same.

    Look at America and you'll see a culture of people scraping by to survive; they may be rich, but they're always caught up in making more money, getting laid, watching TV, buying shiny things. Japanese culture always had a deep-seated focus on personal philosophy: even under oppression and famine, even facing certain death, people wanted to maintain their honor. A Japanese murder conflict would inflict an immensely painful fatal wound on himself at his execution, and then be beheaded; an American murder convict will escape at first chance, and of course we've argued hanging and electrocution are "Cruel" for child rapist-murderers and instead inject them with an unbelievable amount of ANESTHETICS so they die feeling GOOOOOOOD.

    Americans are shocked by the idea of seppuku: it seems barbaric to us. But think about it for a minute. They expected someone who committed treason or murder or any given capital crime to not just be executed, but to inflict a painful and fatal wound on themselves. If they didn't, they'd behead them anyway--quick, relatively painless, less fear involved (self-inflicted wounds are scary as HELL; you can dissociate yourself a lot more from your impending execution). They still executed them, but they'd consider the social debt paid and honor restored after seppuku. This was important.

    Imagine living through that. You get to see the social change where everyone stops meditating and thinking about life and honor and what it means to be a warrior and the nature of beauty... and instead starts screaming and clapping at anything shiny, buying their food from vending machines (fast food!), and dressing in unbelievably gaudy crap.

    How do you think that'd feel?

  • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @05:38PM (#34437684) Journal

    At least some are, just at a slow rate: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurogenesis#Adult_neurogenesis [wikipedia.org]
    http://preview.tinyurl.com/dxar9m [tinyurl.com]

    Also in mice at least, fetal cells can get into the mother's brain and grow neurons etc there: http://brainethics.wordpress.com/2006/07/20/on-a-mothers-mind/ [wordpress.com]

    Maybe that's why some couples start looking like each other over time :).

  • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @07:19PM (#34439026)

    See the twins that can understand and/or hear each others thoughts

    http://gizmodo.com/5682758/the-fascinating-story-of-the-twins-who-share-brains-thoughts-and-senses [gizmodo.com]

  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @07:44PM (#34439248)
    The summary really only promises enhanced speed and efficiency, but after reading the article, I agree with your complaint: "Researchers have suspected for decades that real artificial intelligence can't be done on traditional hardware, with its rigid adherence to Boolean logic and vast separation between memory and processing." Huh?

    Now, I have some sympathy for the pragmatic argument that getting good tools into enough hands is the best way to raise the odds of cracking hard problems. Some people will point out (for example) that a modern 3d game like Crysis might have been emulated (at a fraction of real-time speed) 20 years ago, but nobody figured out how, or bothered to do so, (and no, Castle Wolfenstein doesn't count) because hardware limitations made it too cumbersome and only a few parties had the resources to even try.

    Even so, claiming it "can't be done" is going too far. People are building conventional computers that simulate neurons on the order of a cat brain [forbes.com], but programming them is the problem.

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982