November 13, 2010

Carboncopies: "Realistic routes to substrate independent minds"

Check these guys out: Carboncopies. Operating under the tagline, "Realistic routes to substrate independent minds," they are a nonprofit organisation with the goal of creating a networking and outreach community around the central idea of Advancing Substrate Independent Minds (ASIM). This is a field of research which seeks to "understand the brain and nervous system of a wide range of organisms, including humans, in order to facilitate emulation of these organisms in an artificial substrate, for example a computer processor."

Why is such an organization required. According to their site:
In order for progress to be made in the field of ASIM, advancements in many key technologies and research areas are required. These include: 
Nanotechnology, biotechnology, brain imaging, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, computational hardware and architectures, cognitive psychology and philosophy.
ASIM sits at the confluence of many subjects, and cross-disciplinary research is a necessity. However, it can be difficult to manage and organise ideas from many different fields of expertise. ASIM offers tantalizing possibilities, but they need to be understood and pursued in a structured fashion.
Carboncopies will help by offering a networking platform and hub around which experts in the individual fields relevant to ASIM can gather and exchange ideas. It will also promote these ideas and explain the motivation behind ASIM to a wider audience. 
To this end, Carboncopies organises workshops and conferences where interested parties can exchange ideas, network with others, and keep updated on the latest developments in the field. They're also gather up-to-date literature and news relevant to the ASIM community.

1 comment:

Duncan said...

From the FAQ of Carboncopies:
"The strong neuroscientific consensus is that behavior and experience, phenomena correlated with what we consider the mind, emerge from biophysical functions that are adequately described in terms of classical physics. These processes (and in fact, even quantum physical processes) are computable. It follows that the mind is computable ..."

I remember, that several respected neuroscientists said, that "we" still do not really know, how the brain works (sorry, I don't remember more than that). Because of this (neuroscience not being my profession) I would say, the conclusion above -- "the mind is computable" -- is rather premature, and that the statement about the strong consensus is rather questionable.

As a mathematician I know something about computability (there is a ripe mathematical subdiscipline). Certain parts of mathematics being very interesting and relevant for applications in physics, engineering, and computer science, are not based on computable things alone. Gödel's incompleteness theorems, the halting problem and its variants, come to mind and are most relevant here. A popular example is the fact, that the decision, whether a program contains a virus, is not decidable generally.

Human beings are able to invent original mathematical proves for hypotheses, that are not logically implied by what is previously known -- the decision about true versus false cannot be computed. Examples are Gödel's incompleteness theorems and the halting problem themselves, and there are many, many other. How do human beings do this with their supposedly computable minds? An open question!