And the Riken Lab press release
This is a link to the poster presentation. There does not seem to be a full paper associated with this research yet.
The NEST simulator (The researchers Morrison and Diesman are integral people on this project):
When I hear AI being discussed LISP comes up fairly often. In the book "Meta Maths: The Quest for Omega" by Greg Chaitin, he mentions that Kurt Godel's work had a notation that was uncannily similar to LISP code. On the other paw he compares Turing's idea of code as something more akin to machine code.
So... 1-2 orders of magnitude smaller than a human brain. From Wikipedia:
> One estimate puts the human brain at about 100 billion (10^11) neurons and 100 trillion (10^14) synapses
Assuming linear scaling, that would put an actual simulated second of human brain neural activity somewhere between 6 hours and 2 days.
Furthermore I'm pretty sure a human brain also maintains various bodily functions, which use some percentage of the brain's computational power.
I also suspect that strong AI is probably not as complicated as we think, it's just that no one has thought of the correct set of ideas required for strong AI to emerge.
It took K around 40 minutes to simulate just 1 single second of human brain activity, even with all of its performance prowess. The experiment on simulated human brain activity involved 1.73 billion virtual nerve cells that were connected to 10.4 trillion virtual synapses, with every virtual synapse containing 24 bytes of memory.
There's no way the brain in my head could simulate 1.73bn nerve cells in 40 minutes.
There's a wide-spread assumption that knowing the brain's connectivity will be sufficient to emulate its function, but there's so much about the underlying molecular and electrical properties of neurons that we know nothing about.
It's somewhat analogous to having a circuit diagram where the components are missing. Dropping in random components but preserving the wiring structure won't result in the same functionality.
In the long term, if and when these things become mass-produced and cheap, people may want to do terrible things to them, in the same vein as animal torture. That may be when laws get put in place to protect them.
Suppose you, at one stage, have a simulation of a brain that isn't quite there; it talks and sees, but it's audio system doesn't work right. What do you do?
Even live debugging to repair it can be controversial (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cochlear_implant#Criticism_and_...)
You're assuming that the machines will care about being shut off - we would probably design them so that they don't care about this, because this makes them easier to work with. And then it's no longer unethical.
Ethical? That's the question.
I find it terribly unconvincing that a specific arrangement of matter, or even an algorithm in software, just simply "spawns" a discrete consciousness from nothing. It might make sense if there was an underlying "consciousness field" or some such concept that the matter-arrangement tapped into in some manner.
It's not only unconvincing but unscientific, a pseudo explanation.
This is the kind of pseudo-science that gets so much attention nowadays. Incredible.
More detail is here in the original press release: http://www.riken.jp/en/pr/press/2013/20130802_1/
This is bad news - especially for the AI-robotics guys, as they need this knowledge to implement the next generation of smart robots. They hope to get some "self reprogrammable robots" as this is what your brain seems to do all the time.
So what do we technicians do? We're trying to build a machine to simulate a brain (and hope we're right in our assumption how the brain works). There is a huge project like this going on in the EU too . This is the bottom-up approach and it's far from all the press releases as there are too many assumptions in it - even if those guys hate to hear it. There is a nice documentary film with Jospeh Weizenbaum (former professor at MIT and close friend of Chromsky) about this very issue and its ethical aspects .
The up-down approach is researched by system biologists (and other related sciences). They aim at the bio-chemical and physical layers to figure out how a brain works and it seems like this is complicated as hell. We're some kind of programmable - even if nobody can tell how far this actually goes. Just being raised in different cultures can have significant influence in how a brain reacts in situations. Even siblings with the same DNA and are being raised within the very same family you can find differences in how their brain reacts...
So don't get too excited about all this - we're far away from being "downloadable". Which is maybe not the worst thing if you're thinking about it for a while. What would life mean if it's endless? And by the way: even if you were downloadable, what tells you that you're still alive if a copy of your brain is stored within an robot? There are hard philosophical questions behind such issues...
It also says "The synapses were randomly connected" among other more even handed discussion of what happened.