General Question

_Whitetigress's avatar

Can the human brain be replicated artificially?

Asked by _Whitetigress (4349 points ) December 4th, 2012

Is there even a way to set up organic transmission (much like how our body sends signals to fro through out) or can we only do it through technology (like a computer chip, or like the design of an automobile engine) ?

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12 Answers

burntbonez's avatar

Not at the moment. I would not care to hazard a guess as to whether one day it will be possible. Oh, all right. I’m going with unlikely.

marinelife's avatar

Nanotechnology looks promising.

_Whitetigress's avatar

@burntbonez Why do you guess it to be unlikely?

burntbonez's avatar

I think our brains work the way they do because of the architecture. On a different architecture, they would run differently. The architecture matters down to the nano level. These are things that cannot be replicated because they are too specific. So even if you could clone a person and create a blank brain and download yourself into it, it wouldn’t work the same as the brain it copied. Not even close.

PhiNotPi's avatar

It is theoretically possible to simulate the human brain on a supercomputer, but the largest obstacle is that it is very difficult to simulate something if we don’t know how it works.

If I remember correctly, there is an initiative somewhere that is trying to simulate the entire nervous system of a small worm, on a neuron-by-neuron level. The disadvantage is that it is very hard to collect the extreme amount of data involved in this simulation, and it requires a lot of computational power. The advantage is that you don’t need to know how the entire system works, merely the individual neurons.

flutherother's avatar

You could do it if you could replicate the circuitry of the brain with electronic circuits but in practical terms I don’t think it will ever be possible. The human brain is too complicated to be copied and even if you could do it the properties of an electronic copy would be different. For example the speed of transmission of signals wouldn’t be the same.

Ron_C's avatar

Not yet because we are at the limits of silicon memory. Things will change, however, when DNA and biological computers come on line. There is also a race between them and quantum computers. With these computers real artificial intelligence will become common place.

laureth's avatar

“If our brains were simple enough for us to understand them, we’d be so simple that we couldn’t.” —Ian Stewart

DancingMind's avatar

“Artificial brain”
I’m not saying that it would be easy. But I imagine it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to artificially replicate a human brain. Aren’t we at this point able to, or near able to, grow organs outside the context of a body? They’re not terribly useful sitting on the table, but we can make them (or near-make them? Or we could except for a few kinks/ethical qualms/monetary costs) and get them to someone who needs a new ______. That’s incredibly useful.
I don’t think that the brain would be much different on the growing-side—the brain’s blueprint is just on a different part of the genetic code—but it wouldn’t be terribly useful for transplantation…. nor much of anything, I imagine. Isn’t much of what we’re curious about with brains and their structure dependent on our interactions with the world making forming and shaping them? Without any other part of the body… how can the brain be anything but some gray lump of flesh? There’d be no awareness, no mind… and so if that’s part of what being a brain means, I’m not sure it qualifies as an artificial brain. More a wax one.

Synthetically simulating something like a mind, I believe easily. It’s just a matter of time. Computers can do brute alogorithmic pattern matching… once they reach a certain size and complexity, and once we’ve coded in enough reactions, they will probably seem to be thinking enough for us to think of them as thinking. Watson is a good example of how rapidly we’re approaching that. However, I don’t believe that a mind will suddenly emerge there. It will still be a complex and nano-scale machine, cousin of clocks and cars.

Creating an actual mind? ...I can imagine how there may be a way, of computers approaching the science fiction robots… It probably depends on us finding ways to give them learning capabilities (aren’t there groups of people working on creating intelligent—as in, learning—robots? The one they’re trying to teach emotions? And another, language?), or ways to give them initiative. But I guess it depends on how we’re able to achieve this. If it’s honest, or mere appearance. And I don’t know enough to know what’s already being done, or in what way it’s successful. I don’t know enough of the machinery of computers (only vaguely) to know if this is possible.

“Organic transmission”
We’re already making prosthetics that we wire up to different muscle groups/locations so that the person can manipulate the arm, the leg, etc. Yes, the prosthetic is still plastic and metal and computer chip…. Again, though, aren’t we at least near the capabilities of growing organs in labs? And we do already have the ability to re-attach entire limbs. I’m not sure how much closer you can get to organic transmission as either of these options, or the place exactly between them—seems to me: being able to translate our own signals into and out of (they’ve got artificial ears, and at least rudimentary artificial eyes, I believe) our mechanics; being able to grow our organs outside ourselves; being able to medicate—and so communicating in the chemical language of the body; etc… this all seems like some sort of organic transmission, or some sort of approaching-organic-transmission, at least.

So I think we’re already using and utilizing our knowledge of biology and chemistry and physics and… etc, in technologies. Aren’t we?
Aren’t we already, haven’t we somewhat/in some way always looked towards our natural world for inspiration in our creations and constructions?
Anyway, a computer chip and a car engine—aren’t they in fact utlizing organic transmission? Electrons zipping along conductors, gasoline and oxygen reacting in what we call burning… aren’t these processes both natural (universal) and signals (causational)?

“Organic replication and artifical transmission”
The human brain—all brains, all life—is clearly replicable. That’s much of how our world works. But I’m pretty sure that life’s success has as much to do with how the formation occurs as it does what occurs—creatures all are able to share such similar DNA because much of the difference isn’t in what, but in the timing of what, when—that is to say, it’s the choreography of the molecular assembly of the body.
When a body is growing in a womb, it grows as a concert. Everything is connected and interwoven—any one piece, organ, system, network, is meaningless without the larger context (why veins without arteries, why either without lungs and heart, why circulatory system without stomach and muscles and brain and bones…)
I guess what I mean is, we don’t really want an artificial human brain. Do we? What would it do? Do that we can’t already, having human brains in human bodies? We don’t want to artificially replicate one, either… else need necessarily the rest of an artificially-replicated human form (we could have just reproduced; we’ve already got that mastered.) We want aspects of it. And those aspects are already being incorporated into technology. I don’t mean just shiny-metal gadgets when I say technology, either… I mean our collective technologic advancement.

I imagine that if we want to be able to create technology that’s more of a fusion between biology’s inspiration and our machinery’s utility, we’re going to have to do so through writing our own genetics. I believe that falls under the realm of nanotechnology, working technology at the molecular scale. Sometimes, probably too much, and without expertise in the requisite areas, I imagine a futuristic world like this: where we design technology and then have it grow… I wonder how alive that technology would be; we would have to better understand life and what being alive means. I wonder if the investment of time (technologic gestation) would be worth the lack of needing to build, of only needing to supply the materials? Would be worth the new forms of technology to emerge? And then I wonder if it’s even possible. Genetic language—part of me wonders if it isn’t reliant on time, or even the whispers of cells, coordinating, we haven’t yet heard… mostly time. Sorry. I’m musing…. This last idea, I don’t know. Depends entirely what life is.

I do know, or at least it’s apparent to me, that you shouldn’t try to replicate from me. Or you’ll get always either not enough or, like here, much too much from that artificial brain… typos and elaboration. Perhaps, however, that is life?

tedd's avatar

We have the technology (separated into different machines) that can operate pretty much all of our biological functions, in one way or another.

We do not have any technology that can mimic thought or consciousness though.

flutherother's avatar

It may not be possible but that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to try

graynett's avatar

I find that,as of now, we are all fully evolved over the last 100,000 years. Seems to be a little short-sighted. Given that other critters have taken millions of years to get where they are now. The next million years of development for man and machine will surely be joined. and the outcome will be a thing to behold. love and logic will become one. Doubt and pain will not remain, Rust and wear will be the despair

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