Must-Read: MathBabe’s Guest: Dirty Rant About The Human Brain Project

Must-Read: MathBabe’s Guest: Dirty Rant About The Human Brain Project: “Some simple observations must be made, which are true now…

…and will still be true in ten years’ time…. (1) We have no f—ing clue how to simulate a brain: We can’t simulate the brain of C. Elegans, a very well studied roundworm (first animal to have its genome sequenced) in which every animal has exactly the same 302-neuron brain…. Pretty much whatever data you want, we can generate it. And yet we don’t know how this brain works. Simply put, data does not equal understanding…. (2) We have no f—ing clue how to wire up a brain: Ok, we do have a macroscopic clue… with a resolution of one cubic millimeter per voxel… [but] any map with cubic-millimeter voxels is a very coarse map indeed. And microscopically, we have no clue…. Imagine taking statistics on the connectivity of transistors in a Pentium chip and then trying to make your own chip based on those statistics. There’s just no way it’s gonna work.

(3) We have no f—ing clue what makes human brains work so well:… There’s a guy whose brain is mostly not there, and he was probably one of the dumber kids in class, but still he functions fine in human society (has a job, family, etc.). Is this surprising? Not surprising? How would we know…. So, the next time you see a pretty 3D picture of many neurons being simulated, think ‘cargo cult brain’. That simulation isn’t gonna think any more than the cargo cult planes are gonna fly. The reason is the same in both cases: We have no clue about what principles allow the real machine to operate. We can only create pretty things that are superficially similar…

October 20, 2015


Brad DeLong
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