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Biotech Businesses Input Devices Science

Tech Billionaires Invest In Linking Brains To Computers (technologyreview.com) 77

"To many in Silicon Valley, the brain looks like an unconquered frontier whose importance dwarfs any achievement made in computing or the Web," including Bryan Johnson, the founder of Braintree online payments, and Elon Musk. An anonymous reader quotes MIT Technology Review: Johnson is effectively jumping on an opportunity created by the Brain Initiative, an Obama-era project which plowed money into new schemes for recording neurons. That influx of cash has spurred the formation of several other startups, including Paradromics and Cortera, also developing novel hardware for collecting brain signals. As part of the government brain project, the defense R&D agency DARPA says it is close to announcing $60 million in contracts under a program to create a "high-fidelity" brain interface able to simultaneously record from one million neurons (the current record is about 200) and stimulate 100,000 at a time...

According to neuroscientists, several figures from the tech sector are currently scouring labs across the U.S. for technology that might fuse human and artificial intelligence. In addition to Johnson, Elon Musk has been teasing a project called "neural lace," which he said at a 2016 conference will lead to "symbiosis with machines." And Mark Zuckerberg declared in a 2015 Q&A that people will one day be able to share "full sensory and emotional experiences," not just photos. Facebook has been hiring neuroscientists for an undisclosed project at Building 8, its secretive hardware division.

Elon Musk complains that the current speeds for transferring signals from brains are "ridiculously slow".

Tech Billionaires Invest In Linking Brains To Computers

Comments Filter:
  • by messymerry ( 2172422 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @04:39PM (#54066747)
    I think Kurzweil is about right for 2029 assuming nothing big happens. If we just go rolling along with the research for the next 12 years, then MMIs will be amazingly advanced. My guess however is that we have at least a major depression and very possibly a world war to get through. I say somewhere around 2050...
    • Zager & Evans are as likely to be right as him.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      No world war, everyone, well at least the rich and greedy are to scared to have one because they would be targeted. Economic collapse, most certainly, the US being the focus of that collapse and dragging down a whole bunch of countries with them, well, at least those countries who do not work to sever themselves from US economic insanity, for Americans, learn to eat tanks, good luck with that.

      Connecting human minds to machine means, changing the human brain to make the connection possible. The bowl of jel

    • i can see my eyes bsod now because of a winKvm.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      I think we understand how much we know. I think we grossly underestimate the bits we don't know. Like fusion, in 1952 we could build an H-bomb. Now ~65 years later we still can't make a working fusion reactor. Like if you believe that within our lifetime we'll achieve immortality or the singularity transferring your consciousness to a machine, you're delusional. Now I realize how far technology has come in the last decades but I also realize how far it hasn't come. We get old, we die and that's how itÂ

    • Terence McKenna was certain it was going to be 2012.
  • Obligatory (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18, 2017 @04:39PM (#54066749)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    People are investing in this? We barely have any idea how the human brain works, let alone linking it to something.

    A time machine would be a better investment as far as magical fantasy pipe dreams go.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't it the point of research to learn more about how something works?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 18, 2017 @05:29PM (#54066883)

        Yes, and for that investment to pay off. I could invest in unlocking human's ability to shoot laser beams from their eyes, and it would be a poor investment, even though we'd probably learn more about the human eye works.

        This is a poor investment. The only reason tech billionaires are doing is because, like the rest of us, they must face their inevitable demise, and no amount of money will prevent it (unless they can upload their minds somewhere; this is their fantasy pipe dream, to be rich and powerful forever).

        • This. The vain cunts fancy themselves as gods.

          Can't see it ending well.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            A great number of advances are originally motivated by vanity and self-aggrandisement, but the rest of us still benefit. Who cares why they pay for the research; we too will get the results in time.

            And unlike time machines, brain interfaces are clearly possible, since we can do crude ones already. It's a very very hard problem to do well, so a lot of expensive research will need to be accumulated, but if the billionaires think it's close enough to throw their money at now, let them. They might even be right

          • This. The vain cunts fancy themselves as gods.

            Can't see it ending well.

            For an entertaining 60's take on how it 'doesn't end well' for the 'gods', check out Norman Spinrad's novel Bug Jack Barron [wikipedia.org]. When it comes to fears about and attitudes toward the subject of immortality for the rich and powerful, not much has changed in the past 50 years.

            • I'm giving up mod to add to this. Bug Jack Barron is worth the read even today, as Spinrad is a true visionary. One of my favorite books. Sort of a Rush Limbaugh in reverse, or what Stern wishes that he was. And periodically, you hear snippets of med-tech that still leave open the possibility that Spinrad's take on immortality wasn't completely wrong...

              rgb

        • by mean pun ( 717227 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @06:37PM (#54067095)
          Why does everything have to be an efficient investment? US society decided to give them all that money to use at their discretion, and they decided to spend it on this. That's their right. Perhaps they're just curious about this?
        • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday March 18, 2017 @08:25PM (#54067411) Homepage Journal

          The only reason tech billionaires are doing is because, like the rest of us, they must face their inevitable demise, and no amount of money will prevent it (unless they can upload their minds somewhere; this is their fantasy pipe dream, to be rich and powerful forever).

          No amount of uploading your mind will produce an immortal "you". It will only produce a copy of you. This is irrespective of whether there is such thing as a soul. You can destroy the copy, but that's not literally "moving" your consciousness any more than copying the contents of a file and then unlinking it is literally "moving" the data. Maybe it's possible to do it by replacing your neurons "one at a time" (more or less) with nanites which have learned to behave like neurons. That would depend on whether there is or is not a soul. As far as I know, nobody has yet devised an experiment capable of determining whether consciousness actually lives in the brain, or whether the brain is a receiver for a consciousness which exists independently of the body. For what it's worth, I'd bet on it just being good old observable physics, but I'm also betting on the eventual answer being irrelevant to my existence in that it's not coming during my lifetime and "I'll find out" first.

          • by khchung ( 462899 )

            No amount of uploading your mind will produce an immortal "you". It will only produce a copy of you.

            Only if you needlessly insist on doing the "uploading" in a one-off transfer/copy style. No, you do it in a "Ship of Theseus" style.

            First you link up your brain with a computer directly to expand your brain's capabilities. After all, neurons transmits and receive electronic signals, there is no fundamental reason (so far known to man) that a computer cannot pretend to another bunch of neurons. Once linked you, your concept of "self" will slowly include the computer.

            Then as your brain slowly degenerates a

          • Well, in that case, that's okay, because I'm not really me. Sure I resemble the me from just a few moments ago, but the further out you go in time, the less I resemble me's gone by and so it goes for future me's as well. So say goodbye to any me you meet in the future, for you will never meet another me like him ever again.
          • As far as I know, nobody has yet devised an experiment capable of determining whether consciousness actually lives in the brain, or whether the brain is a receiver for a consciousness which exists independently of the body.

            You mean, aside from all of the usual ones? Like, giving people powerful drugs makes their (my!) consciousness go away? Like the fact that strokes, drugs, alcohol, accidents, and acts of violence that damage the brain tissue make consciousness go away incrementally? Like the fact that

          • ... This is irrespective of whether there is such thing as a soul. ... That would depend on whether there is or is not a soul. ...

            I don't quite think that is the case. Even where spirituality is abandoned for science, the base needs of the human condition that cause religions will still be there. I'm sure that there are ancient philosophers that have said "there are no gods." and made a good case, yet still, religion and spirituality survives and dominates because it is not just tied to belief in a god, but rather the need for a philosophy, community, and participation in something greater than ones self for the average person. Given

    • Mankind never invents a machine for going back in time. That's why you don't see people coming to visit from the future.
      • Mankind never invents a machine for going back in time. That's why you don't see people coming to visit from the future.

        Or it destroys itself (and possibly the universe) when it does, and we're locked in a loop.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    People will one day be able to share "full sensory and emotional experiences," not just photos.

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @06:10PM (#54067031) Homepage

      I couldn't give a rat's arse about "sharing sensory and emotional experiences". However, if by the time I die the state of the art can get to the point of:

      1) Accurate ability to model of a full brain's worth of neurons;
      2) The ability to read, from a human brain, each neuron's activation levels and connections (e.g. injecting bioluminescent proteins that respond to chemical factors inside the neurons, with numerous CCD sensors scattered throughout in the brain, each monitoring many thousands to millions of neurons),
      3) The ability to trigger activation or apoptosis of neurons (aka photosensitive proteins for specific purposes, with said CCD devices also being able to project light signals to specific neurons) ... then going neuron by neuron, doing the following:

      1) Simulating it
      2) Replacing the signals it sends to its neighbors with the results of its simulation
      3) Causing the now simulated neuron to commit apoptosis

      * ....one by one until the whole brain is eliminated and all that exists is the simulation.... then I would be greatly appreciative ;)

      If we're lucky it won't be necessary to model neurons individually. If one could determine what's going on just by studying ganglia - their inputs, outputs, average activity in various regards, perhaps broken down into subregions when dealing with large ones, etc - then would greatly simplify the task. Because you have ~85 billion neurons in the brain, but ganglia have a couple dozen to hundreds of thousands of neurons each.

  • Certainly Mr. (Mrs.) tech billionaire, I share your enthusiasm for integrating the human mind with a machine and believe it is indeed within our reach now that innovators such as yourself are stepping up to the challenge. A one-time donation of $15,000,000 to my lab to pursue our groundbreaking research that we were already doing anyway will ensure that humanity will praise your name forever, parades will be held in your honor, and all other entrepreneurs will gaze at you longingly at tech events.
  • ... until we are seeing commercials for Lightspeed Brand Briefs in our dreams.

  • by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @06:24PM (#54067075)
    Just like Dick Cheney, we'll never be free from assholes like Peter Thiel.
    • Just like Dick Cheney, we'll never be free from assholes like Peter Thiel.

      Quick question: what makes Peter Thiel an asshole?

      AFAICT, the only controversial thing he's done is come out in favour of Trump.

      He's not personally known as an asshole (as Mark Zuckerberg), he doesn't do a lot of sketchy things with his charitable foundation (like Bill and Hillary Clinton), he doesn't finance riots and protests here in the US (like George Soros), and he certainly hasn't led us into war under false pretences or authorized torture like Dick Chaney has.

      I'm just wondering... what makes him comp

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Quick question: what makes Peter Thiel an asshole?

        How about things like " I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible [cato-unbound.org]?" The general gist of the argument being that the voters will never accept the degree of dominance by the free market required for libertarianism to work, and therefore (by implication) democracy is the thing that must go, since it stands in the way of libertarian freedom. You don't have to go much farther than that to get into NRX territory (where you need a dictator to

        • by iamacat ( 583406 )

          If you actually read the essay, the proposed alternatives to Democracy are not monarchy or aristocracy. It's moving into new niches which are free from centralized government control, such as cyberspace, outer space or seasteading.

          On the other hand, you have been drinking some cool aid. It's a straightforward fact that the more areas of your life are subject to democratic control, the less free you are to follow your individual wishes. Of course, this is sometimes necessary, and a better alternative than a

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @07:23PM (#54067241)

    ... if that guy is in a coma or just having a Windows update.

  • Investing in removing there heads from there arseholes I think that would be a more worthy cause.

  • Will they pay people to use their brains for computing power while they are idle (i.e. watching tv) ?
  • ... the computers how they feel about being tethered to some slow and stupid meat bag?

  • Look at what a bunch of non-AI enhanced, walk on two legs primates have done. Maybe this is the step we need to get over our evolutionary lag and consider the long time scale issues that affect human survival.

    I wonder what AI enhanced dogs, cats, chimps, gorillas, dolphins, whales will say, after all I doubt we will be going first.

  • Before they develop the technology to actually censor thought they disapprove of?
  • “Do you remember being born?” the armless girl asked.
    “We do.”
    She stood alone on the white moss floor in the center of the shed. Bors stood directly before her, flanked by Wyeth and Rebel, while Nee-C lounged in the doorway, tensely eyeing the girlchild’s back. Rebel couldn’t help staring at where the child’s arms should have been. The flesh was smooth there, and unblemished. Her shoulder blades jutted slightly to either side, like tiny wings. Rebel looked down, foun

  • Welcome to Life: the singularity, ruined by lawyers [youtube.com]

    Even then.. better than nothing.

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