Horizon Research
Materials on this website have been reviewed or prepared by physicians and/or scientists actively involved in research in relation to the subjects being covered.

Human, Mammal, Frankenstein?

Prof. Markram et al discuss how an “artificial brain” might be less than 10 years away.  The Blue Brain project states that it could advance neuroscience and philosophy; I see how it would challenge humankind as to what would we do with a brain created from “scratch?” I mean, where are we going to put this thing? I cannot but think of this endeavor as a new version of Frankenstein! But wait, what happens if they put a human brain into a mammal? Will the mammal suddenly have moral instincts and the ability to rationalize? What I’d like to know is: will the creation of the artificial brain include research and insights that are coming from other sections of scientific communities? The “new brain” (the neocortex) of animals includes complex cognitive functions but does it include the parts of the brain that account for the emotional life of animals? On July 8, an article ran in the NY Times, “Watching Whales Watching Us,” by Charles Siebert.  Besides a pretty convincing story that lays the groundwork for whales having an intellectual and emotional life, doesn’t this give pause to what sort of complete artificial brain is being created? I will refer to the emotional and intellectual aspect of “being” as “consciousness” for simplicity sake; however, I understand that even “consciousness” needs to be better defined as more information is revealed on its nature (AWARE Study). Is the artificial brain going to include what I call “consciousness”? I must admit to being a long time follower of Penny Patterson and Koko the lowland gorilla. She taught Koko how to communicate using American Sign Language.  Koko often is able to communicate feelings – remember her sadness and grief when her kitten died? I remember the 1996 book and documentary, “When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals.”  In it, I watched elephants mourn their dead. Besides the whales, elephants and gorillas, what about our own human consciousness?  Are artificial brains going to incorporate consciousness? How can we create an artificial brain when we don’t yet know what consciousness is? If “consciousness” continues past the period of death (past brain or heart activity), what is The Blue Brain project creating? Hugh Fisher

Copyright © 2007-2018 - Horizon Research Foundation. All right reserved.