Biological computation using real brains (was: answers I'd like, part 2)

From: Mike Dougherty (
Date: Thu Nov 15 2007 - 08:23:19 MST

On Nov 15, 2007 5:53 AM, Stathis Papaioannou <> wrote:
> To emulate the behaviour of neurons in a brain would involve
> calculating all the outputs from a volume of neural tissue given all
> the inputs from the surrounding tissue. If we could do that, we would
> be able to calculate what signals the brain would send to the vocal
> apparatus after receiving any given input from the auditory nerve. The
> only obstacles to doing this, given an adequate neural model, would be
> having sufficiently fine-grained information about brain state and
> sufficient computational resources to run the model. It would require
> resolution and simulation down to at least the molecular level, and it
> is hard to imagine that we would be able to pull off such a feat
> without understanding and copying higher level cognitive functions
> first; rather like building a flying machine by emulating a bird's
> wings, muscles, cardiovascular and nervous system before being able to
> build a rubber band-powered ornithopter.

Despite the leaps in bringing the cost of computer hardware down,
isn't it still more expensive than a few grams of organic rat brain?
Would we even hear about it if research were being done on using (for
example) the optic nerve as an input and the spinal column as an
output on a real brain? Is it completely immoral to even consider
this? It is possible to regrow brain tissue in songbirds [1] - surely
with promising results in directly using this tissue for computation
we could 'grow' a computing platform? I agree that biology is messy
and that a brain emulated in silicon should scale better than a lump
of meat. Even without perfect understanding we have acess to
functional wetware. Is there some reason we aren't exploiting it?


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:01:00 MDT