Commentary on the Blue Brain Project

Definitely read Christof Koch and Michael Buice’s commentary on the Blue Brain Project paper in Cell. They nicely summarize all the important points of the paper and propose a Turing Test for models. The performance of a model can be assessed by how long it would take an experimenter to figure out if the data from proposed neurophysiological experiments was coming from a model or the real thing. I think that this is a nice idea but there is one big difference between the Turing Test for artificial intelligence and brain simulations and that is that everyone has an innate sense of what it means to be human but no one knows what a real brain should be doing. In that sense, it is not really a Turing Test per se but rather the replication of experiments in a more systematic way than is done now. You do an experiment on a real brain then repeat it on the model and see if they get comparable results.

4 thoughts on “Commentary on the Blue Brain Project

  1. not exactly on topic but i think there are parallels with the issue discussed here:

    . as i barely understand it, this paper is trying to tell whether MWI (many worlds interpretation of QM) can be tested (what they called type 1 theories) using a thermodynamic argument. how would one tell if there are different universes created by observation? (seems similar to asking whether a rock you find has a mind—-see hilary putnam’s blog — harvard, philosophy—all these debates with chomsky about the ‘language organ’ or instinct—-one argument along this line is that since humans arent rocks, which cant speak english, then they must have a language organ and this is what seperates humans from rocks, and maybe even isis. ).

    so it seems similar to the issue of an experimenter seeing how much time it takes to distinguish a machine from a real mind. this physics paper seems to conclude the cost is too high so one has to go with ‘type 2’ models (more along the copenhagen/bohr side of things—apparently bohr was a thesis advisor, along with wheeler, for Everett of the MWI and didnt want him to publish it). i am not a fan of MWI (though i actually read the thesis since i found it in a library when i was supposed to be doing something else; its seemed trivial).
    MWI proponents of course will not be swayed (deutsch.. sean carrol, maybe even s hawking). there is no consensus on QM, any more than the ‘mind’. scott aronson is more along my line.

    (the physicists i knew had no interest in foundational issues–epr, etc.) I also dought one is ever really going to be able to do a turing test. (people like john searle seem to think so; one day scientists will dissect a brain more and find a ‘qualia’ maybe hiding out in a microtubule ( a la roger penrose ’emporer’s new mind’). i did like the last chapter of ‘what is life ‘ by schrodinger on ‘mind and matter’. it considers whether things like electrons might have consiousness. (i think he thought they were not complex enough to, so its ok to use them to transmit electricity). my computer does have a mind and says it wants to move.


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