OF COMPUTER CHIPS AND NEURONSApril 1, 2011
Well, while you're still pondering the implications of Oak Ridge's new supercomputer, ponder this as well:
This dovetails remarkably well with yesterday's blog about quantum computing and consciousness, for there is a school of thought out there currently among physicists and neurophysiologists that suggests that the structure of the neuron, so much more subtle and sophisticated than the binary logic gates of contemporary computers, is the key to why human minds are still much more efficient and subtle "difference engines" (to borrow Babbage's phrase greatly out of context), than any computer. Many scientists believe the neuron is designed to reflect directly the various particle states particularly of the electron, allowing the human mind and intelligence to see and sift subtleties and shades of meaning in a much more sophisticated architecture.
While the article is a long way from suggesting that neurons can actually be interfaced with computer circuits, it is clear the direction that scientists are heading, and why they're heading there.
And that raises the speculative possibilities I mentioned yesterday - coupling quantum computing architecture, the interface between consciousness and the physical medium, and the possibility of artificial intelligence - to a new level. This will pose new questions for philosophers, theologians, and scientists alike, as the very definitions of life and individuality as we know it will be challenged by these speculative possibilities, for suppose such a machine were to "turn on" and suddenly realize that it is a "living" thinking creature, ala "Mike" in Robert Heinlein's science fiction classic, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. And what if that computer were suddenly to realize it had extraordinary, indeed almost magical powers of manipulation of the physical medium...
...Sound fantastic? Rest assured, it is not so. These are the questions already being thought about in the corridors of power and their analytical think tanks. We in the alternative research community need, therefore, to start thinking and discussing them openly too.
See you on the flip side.