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On the Search for the Neural Correlate of Consciousness

June 26, 2002 by David Chalmers

There’s a variety of proposed neural systems associated with conscious experience, but no way to directly observe or measure consciousness. Chalmers suggests though that there may be a “consciousness module” — a functional area responsible for the integration of information in the brain, with high-bandwidth communication between its parts.… read more

A Simple Model of Unbounded Evolutionary Versatility as a Largest-Scale Trend in Organismal Evolution

June 25, 2002 by Peter D. Turney

The idea that there are large-scale trends in the evolution of biological organisms, such as increasing complexity, is highly controversial. But Peter Turney presents a simple computational model showing that local adaptation to a dynamic, randomly changing environment results in a global trend towards increasing evolutionary versatility, which implies an accelerating evolutionary pace, and that this trend can continue without bound if there is sufficient ongoing change in the environment.… read more

Richard Feynman and The Connection Machine

June 24, 2002 by W. Daniel Hillis

Nobel prize winner physicist Richard Feynman played a critical role in developing the first parallel-processing computer and finding innovative uses for it in numerical computing and building neural networks as well as physical simulation with cellular-automata (such as turbulent fluid flow), working with Stephen Wolfram.… read more

A New Kind of Science: Analysis

June 24, 2002 by Scott Aaronson

This review of Stephen Wolfram’s new book addresses weaknesses in Wolfram’s notions of computational complexity, general relativity, quantum mechanics, and the Bell inequality violation.… read more

Singularity Chat with Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil

June 13, 2002 by Vernor Vinge, Ray Kurzweil

Vernor Vinge (screen name “vv”) and Ray Kurzweil (screen name “RayKurzweil”) recently discussed The Singularity — their idea that superhuman machine intelligence will soon exceed human intelligence — in an online chat room co-produced by Analog Science Fiction and Fact and Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine on SCIFI.COM. Vinge, a noted science fiction writer, is the author of the seminal paper, “The Technological Singularity.” Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near book is due out in early 2003 and is previewed in “The Law of Accelerating Returns.” (Note: typos corrected and comments aggregated for readability.)… read more

Beyond Computation: A Talk with Rodney Brooks

June 7, 2002 by John Brockman

Rodney Brooks is trying to build robots with properties of living systems. These include self-reproducing and self-assembling robots and one inspired by Bill Joy that wanders around the corridors, finds electrical outlets, and plugs itself in. His students’ edgy projects include real-time MRI imagery, virtual colonoscopies, programs that create DNA for E. coli molecules that act as computers, and eventually, self-organizing smart biomaterials that grow into objects, such as a table.… read more

Consciousness in Human and Robot Minds

June 6, 2002 by Daniel Dennett

AI skeptics offer several reasons why robots could never become conscious. MITs’ humanoid Cog robot project may give them pause.… read more

The Last Human

June 5, 2002 by Gregory Stock

We are on the cusp of profound biological change, poised to transcend our current form and character on a journey to destinations of new imagination. The arrival of safe, reliable germline technology will signal the beginning of human self-design. Progressive self-transformation could change our descendants into something sufficiently different from our present selves to not be human in the sense we use the term now. But the ultimate question of our era is whether the cutting edge of life is destined to shift from its present biological substrate — the carbon and other organic materials of our flesh — to that of silicon and its ilk, as proposed by leading artificial-intelligence theorists such as Hans Moravec and Ray Kurzweil.… read more

A Computational Foundation for the Study of Cognition

June 4, 2002 by David Chalmers

Computation is central to the foundations of modern cognitive science, but its role is controversial. Questions about computation abound: What is it for a physical system to implement a computation? Is computation sufficient for thought? What is the role of computation in a theory of cognition? What is the relation between different sorts of computational theory, such as connectionism and symbolic computation? This article develops a systematic framework that addresses all of these questions. A careful analysis of computation and its relation to cognition suggests that the ambitions of artificial intelligence and the centrality of computation in cognitive science are justified.… read more

AI and Sci-Fi: My, Oh, My!

June 3, 2002 by Robert J. Sawyer

A lot of science fiction has been exploring lately the concept of uploading consciousness as the next, and final, step in our evolution, says SF writer Robert Sawyer, who reveals the real meaning of the film 2001: the ultimate fate of biological life forms is to be replaced by their AIs. Paging Bill Joy…… read more

Predictive Human Genomics Is Here

May 29, 2002 by Terry Grossman

Thanks to breakthroughs in genomics testing, physicians now have tools for true preventive medicine. Gene chips and genomics test panels can predict one’s predisposition towards many serious — and often preventable — genetic diseases and allow doctors to modify gene expression through precise, targeted, individualized interventions.… read more

Technotopia and the Death of Nature

May 22, 2002 by James John Bell

There is something missing from the discussion of the technological singularity, says James Bell: the true cost of progress will mean the unprecedented decline of the planet’s inhabitants — an ever-increasing rate of global extinction, some warn.… read more

Respirocytes

May 20, 2002 by Robert A. Freitas Jr.

An artificial nanomedical erythrocyte, or “respirocyte” — intended to duplicate all of the important functions of the red blood cell — could serve as a universal blood substitute, preserve living tissue, eliminate “the bends,” allow for new sports records, and provide treatment for anemia, choking, lung diseases, asphyxia, and other respiratory problems.… read more

The New Humanist

May 14, 2002 by John Brockman

“Something radically new is in the air: new ways of understanding physical systems, new ways of thinking about thinking that call into question many of our basic assumptions. A realistic biology of the mind, advances in physics, electricity, genetics, neurobiology, engineering, the chemistry of materials—all are challenging basic assumptions of who and what we are, of what it means to be human. The arts and the sciences are again joining together as one culture, the third culture. Those involved in this effort—scientists, science-based humanities scholars, writers—are at the center of today’s intellectual action. They are the new humanists.”… read more

Technology in the 21st Century: an Imminent Intimate Merger

May 14, 2002 by Ray Kurzweil

At the Foresight Institute “Exploring the Edges” Senior Associate Gathering, April 27, 2002, Ray Kurzweil presented the case of the emergence of biological and machine intelligence, answering the three major challenges: limited resources, inadequate software, and ethical concerns. Here are the presentation slides and audio.… read more

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