Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dr. Frankenstein and Agent Smith build you a vacuum cleaner

Artificial intelligence is interesting, and important in the sense that we need to be ready when the robots try to take over.  This is assuming we humans haven't already fallen to a zombie apocalypse.

I've been reading Michio Kaku's new book PHYSICS OF THE FUTURE and Chapter 2 covers the future of AI.  Kaku writes about a trip he took to see the Dawn computer at Lawrence Livermore.  Dawn is used to simulate brains.  In 2009, Dawn simulated .01 of a human's cerebral cortex, which has about 1.6 billion neurons making 9 trillion connections.  For comparison, our whole brain has 100 billion neurons and a lot more connections.

This is cool, except for the problem that Dawn needs 1 million watts of power.  To model a whole brain, it would need the total output of a nuclear power plant.  For one computer to simulate one human brain.

In contrast, the brain in your head uses 20 watts of power.  And it's faster than Dawn.

So when I look at the future of AI, I don't know if hardware will be the answer.  Current robots that are truly independent can't do much.  People get confused because they see the Predator drones flying around, but those are piloted by a person with a joystick and a fast, 20 watt brain.  Modern independent robots are about as smart as a roach. 

To reach the level of something like a cat, or a monkey, I think it's possible scientists may try to use real brains.  After all, it's cheaper to use a cat brain to pilot your robot vacuum cleaner, and the energy cost is far lower.

It's possible some whacko will grow a human brain and then stick it in a robot as a cheap wetware alternative to hardware.  I don't want to be anywhere near that robot when it gets loose.

I'm kidding about some of this, of course, but take a minute and think about the wonderful device at the top of your spine.  The human brain is an amazing thing.

Now let's go shoot some zombies!

(brain pic from brainhealthandpuzzles.com.  Actual facts from http://www.physicsofthefuture.com/.  Ideas from my twisted imagination.)

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