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> Scientists grow Rat brain in dish, teach it to fly a jet in a simulator
Christopher
post Dec 16 2005, 02:35 PM
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Why this brain flies on rat cunning

QUOTE
The brain-in-a-dish is the idea of Thomas DeMarse, 37, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Florida. His work has been praised as a significant insight into the brain by leading US academics and scientific journals.


The article gives a simple overview which is very interesting in terms of what we seem to be within reach of accomplishing in the very near future.

Are we moving too fast with what we try to do in terms of both science and technology? Are we in danger of having our wings melt?

When you read articles such as this are you excited about the future or do you get uncomfortable?

Are you amazed at what we seem to be capable of doing, or do you expect such accomplishments?

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Kuni
post Dec 16 2005, 02:42 PM
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QUOTE
Are we moving too fast with what we try to do in terms of both science and technology? Are we in danger of having our wings melt?
We are moving too slow; call me when we can grow a new Human Brain, along with a new body, and transfer our consciousness to it.

QUOTE
When you read articles such as this are you excited about the future or do you get uncomfortable?
Excited.

QUOTE
Are you amazed at what we seem to be capable of doing, or do you expect such accomplishments?
Not only do I expect it, but I’m upset that we don’t have ‘bionic’ parts yet.



This post has been edited by Kuni: Dec 16 2005, 02:43 PM
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aevans176
post Dec 16 2005, 03:22 PM
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QUOTE(christopher @ Dec 16 2005, 08:35 AM)
The article gives a simple overview which is very interesting in terms of what we seem to be within reach of accomplishing in the very near future.

Are we moving too fast with what we try to do in terms of both science and technology? Are we in danger of having our wings melt?

When you read articles such as this are you excited about the future or do you get uncomfortable?

Are you amazed at what we seem to be capable of doing, or do you expect such accomplishments?

*



(I hate to be crass... but this is an interesting topic to come from someone that has a signature that eludes to the idea that creationism is ignorance!!! w00t.gif )

I believe as long as the research and funding have a legitimate medicinal or scientifically prudent purpose, it's just fine.

My apprehension is that tax-payer dollars are funding inane research that doesn't benefit either our society or future advances in practical science. When you consider that state institutions are largely funded by Tax dollars, it's tough to grasp how much of the research done by "working research universities" is going to useful outcomes. Consider that this is a $500K project funded by the NSF... a government organization. hmm.. hmmm.gif

Growing a rat brains in petri dishes for said purposes may be realistically useful. The interesting point that I'd like to make is that you ask whether people fear said accomplishments.

I don't believe that most Americans fear such action, but moreover wonder about the validity of the projects, and whether the information gathered is simply for "scientific purposes or for the betterment of US society.

I would love to see such research conducted by a private organization, as you can imagine that if the research was actually prudent, there would be companies everywhere that would like to jump on the patent train on this one... but when you ordinarily involve the government and university researchers, practicality often jumps right out the window.. and positive results take a different connotation than had they been funded by a for-profit organization.
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Kuni
post Dec 16 2005, 03:57 PM
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QUOTE
My apprehension is that tax-payer dollars are funding inane research that doesn't benefit either our society or future advances in practical science.
Many things come out of Government Funded Research, like the Internet, that Business would never undertake because the payoff is too far down the road.

This post has been edited by Kuni: Dec 16 2005, 03:57 PM
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Christopher
post Dec 16 2005, 03:57 PM
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Good points Aevans.
I myself find such work both fascinating and exciting. I am a HUGE believer in the potential of humanity and think that through such work we shall become something great someday.
I have generally found it interesting that for the first part of the last century in America we were so excited about what we could someday accomplish and then it became a sense of fear coupled with the Back to Nature almost Anti technological mindset. The simpler living people.

I ask the question more to gauge others than my own view. I am a Futurist if there ever was one. I would love to live for a thousand years to do nothing more than to simply to watch our progress.

QUOTE
I don't believe that most Americans fear such action, but moreover wonder about the validity of the projects, and whether the information gathered is simply for "scientific purposes or for the betterment of US society.

I agree about much research being questionable when funded by taxes, yet in this case the potential is amazing.
For the most part I agree about the private should supercede the government--but often the private usually bets on "sure" things--sometimes we need to push.
The controls should of course be strict. After a time limit--no results--you're out.
If it ever reaches OSPREY levels someone should be taken to task.

This post has been edited by christopher: Dec 16 2005, 03:58 PM
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Jaime
post Dec 16 2005, 04:35 PM
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QUOTE(Kuni @ Dec 16 2005, 10:57 AM)
QUOTE
My apprehension is that tax-payer dollars are funding inane research that doesn't benefit either our society or future advances in practical science.
Many things come out of Government Funded Research, like the Internet, that Business would never undertake because the payoff is too far down the road.
*



Please do not post one-liners. They are not constructive and therefore, against the Rules.

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Amlord
post Dec 16 2005, 06:43 PM
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Are we moving too fast with what we try to do in terms of both science and technology? Are we in danger of having our wings melt?

I don't think we are moving too fast. I think our focus is often on the wrong things, however.


When you read articles such as this are you excited about the future or do you get uncomfortable?

Did anyone else read that article and think of the movie adaptation of "I, Robot"? Soon we can have machines that not only think for us, but outperform us in every conceivable capacity.

Sure, this research is in its infancy. But allowing machines to go from the specialized (performing one task and performing it very well) to the generalized (performing functions outside of their intended purpose) leads me to think of what the outcome will be.

Let's say we have a new computer with a living component that can fly jets. Actually, we currently have them but they fare poorly when responding to unknown conditions and stimuli. Let's assume that now we can improve those computers to deal with any eventuality that a human could be giving them an organic brain that reacts and adapts faster than a human could.

What's next?

It leads to the philosophic question: what is the purpose of humans? If there is no purpose, if there is no end-game, then all of this is fine. Humans will eventually create a creature (a robot with a synthetic brain, perhaps?) superior to itself and humans will be eventually be eliminated by it--the "I, Robot" scenario.

If our purpose is self-preservation then we need to think these things through carefully.

Unfortunately, there isn't much we can do to curb the march of technology. Someone is going to do this research. However, it is the application of the research that determines whether it is useful or not.

Are you amazed at what we seem to be capable of doing, or do you expect such accomplishments?

It doesn't amaze me. As an engineer, I've seen some pretty remarkable things. I expect innovation from the human race. It's what we are good at. However, I cannot read the future, but I can imagine...and some scenarios are a bit frightening.
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Julian
post Dec 16 2005, 09:02 PM
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Are we moving too fast with what we try to do in terms of both science and technology? Are we in danger of having our wings melt?

We are not necessarily moving too fast, but I think that science is moving faster than the ability of non-scientists to see the point of some of the more arcane areas of research. Given that such non-scientists are the people who pay the bills - either governments, or corporations - scientists need to be careful to carry out research that has soem sort of point.

In this particular case, this research would be pretty easy to justify, if somewhat unsettling. If a cyborg computer (surely 'cyborg' is the right word to use for a machine with organic components?) can fly a plane, it will be possible to build planes that can manoevre more quickly, without worrying about the effects of high G-forces on human pilots, nightmare scenarios of pilot error or wilful dispobeying of orders, etc.

When you read articles such as this are you excited about the future or do you get uncomfortable?
A little of both - roller coaster rides are exciting because they are uncomfortable, after all. smile.gif
Part of me sees a bright future enabled by this kind of thing, while another part sees the dystopias of Brave New World or The Terminator take a step closer.

Are you amazed at what we seem to be capable of doing, or do you expect such accomplishments?

Again, a little of both. I expect that scientific advances will continue to amaze me.
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aevans176
post Dec 16 2005, 10:28 PM
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QUOTE(Kuni @ Dec 16 2005, 09:57 AM)
QUOTE
My apprehension is that tax-payer dollars are funding inane research that doesn't benefit either our society or future advances in practical science.
Many things come out of Government Funded Research, like the Internet, that Business would never undertake because the payoff is too far down the road.
*


I think the point of my post that you mentioned was that if the potential exists, much stands to be gained by private investment being made opposed to government intervention.

Here's an example. Take the DMV (dept of motor vehicles) as an example. Most people have 1/2 dozen horror stories themselves. Now compare that with the privatized inspection stations (in many states), who are generally much faster and easier to get to, and probably undoubtedly more profitable.

The fact is that the government rarely does anything more efficiently than privatized industry (as rarely does anyone hold them accountable to budgets, profitability, and time tables). Consider road construction... that's never done in a timely manner! smile.gif

In reference to the internet, it was mostly born out of necessity, the mother of invention. The military (one of the most efficient branches of the gov't at what they do) was the brainchild behind that for the most part... then it was adopted by capitalism and turned into what it is today. You shouldn't be surprised.. if the gov't still held the reigns who knows what would happen.

My vote?? Make the NSF privatized and funded by donor dollars. I'm sure they'd have a different take on many of their projects...

But a brain that could do my paperwork here at the office would be nice... get 'em workin' on that!! mrsparkle.gif
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Devils Advocate
post Dec 16 2005, 10:29 PM
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Are we moving too fast with what we try to do in terms of both science and technology? Are we in danger of having our wings melt?

I think we're moving incredibly fast, but I don't know if it's too fast. Can it be slowed down? Research is going to move as fast as it's allowed to, only determined by what is discovered by others, the money pledged, and the interest in the research. I think there is a chance of our "wings melting." If we move too fast, and things can't be completely thought through and outlawed before the experiments are performed. Just like with stem cell research it seems like there's a point when morality, however it's defined, can become blurred.

When you read articles such as this are you excited about the future or do you get uncomfortable?

I get a little scared when I read about stuff like this. What we're able to do, bridging the gap between biology and technology seems incredible, awesome, and dangerous. It's tampering with nature in our quest to dominate and control it. I think there's great potential for both bad and good in this, and I'm more worried about the former being developed. I guess I'm the only one here more worried than excited.

QUOTE(Julian)
A little of both - roller coaster rides are exciting because they are uncomfortable, after all. smile.gif


The thing about roller coaster rides is you know you're gonna be ok at the end, and if you're not, you can sue (or at least that's what I tell myself).

Are you amazed at what we seem to be capable of doing, or do you expect such accomplishments?

I expect people to be curious and always researching and experimenting. If you as a researcher thought this would be possible why would you pass it up? It would be exciting to have it work and have your name on it.
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KivrotHaTaavah
post Dec 16 2005, 10:46 PM
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Christopher:

Don't get me wrong, since to get as far as our man got is truly extraordinary, but I still cannot help but think that flying that jet is no different than learning to walk [and whatever else it is that rats do by way of locomotion]. Animals have always been able to accomplish some rather extraordinary movements, taking into account any number of what I call external variables. To borrow from Kuni, but to make it a lesser case, wake me up when the brain becomes self-aware [though for all I know, such may already be so, recalling again Sir John's words in the Dec. 1999 edition of Scientific American]. As someone alluded to, there's the rub. What do we do with the sentient petri-dish brain? Make him our slave?

Reminds me of Jeff Goldblum's line in Jurassic Park to the effect that we were so caught up in "can we" that we never bothered ask, "should we." Also reminds me of that Star Trek Next Generation episode entitled "The Measure of a Man" [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Measure_o...n_(TNG_episode) ]. Further reminds me of Rod Serling's The Brain Center At Whipple's, with the closing monologue: There are many bromides applicable here---too much of a good thing, tiger by the tail, as you sow so shall you reap. The point is that too often man becomes clever instead of becoming wise, he becomes inventive but not thoughtful, and sometimes [and this addresses Amlord's concern], as in the case of Mr. Whipple, he can create himself right out of existence. That's tonight's tale of oddness and obsolescence from the Twilight Zone [see http://tzone.the-croc.com/tzeplist/whipple.html ]. But I suppose that the contrary would be: http://tzone.the-croc.com/tzeplist/electric.html ; http://tzone.the-croc.com/tzeplist/lonely.html But I suppose that the counter to that would be Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. Do androids dream of electric sheep [or in this case, do petri dish rats dream of electric wheels]? Or should I say, I think, Sebastian, therefore I am. And I've done questionable things...nothing the god of biomechanics wouldn't let you in heaven for...And, Commerce is our goal here at Tyrell. 'More human than human' is our motto.

So I believe that "uncomforable" would be the applicable word. And given the "miracle" of the human brain and the sentience that underlies all existence, no, I am not surprised.

Edited to add:

See also: http://trumpeter.athabascau.ca/content/v14.4/jenkins.html

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Victoria Silverw...
post Dec 17 2005, 08:21 AM
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1. First of all, it is not possible for science to advance too quickly. (Contrary to the old B-movie cliche, "There are things that Man [sic] was not meant to know.") Science is just the name we give to an increasingly accurate model of the universe. A more accurate model is always better.

Technology is a different kettle of fish, and I suspect that most people really mean "technology" when they have questions about the wisdom of "science." Like anything else created by human beings, technology can serve good or evil. It's easy to find examples of both. On the whole, I think that the advance of technology has done far more good than harm. (Of course, one must not rule out the possibility of a technological disaster of cosmic proportions. If such a threat occurs with some warning, however, it seems clear to me that the only possible way to prevent it will be with more technology.)

This article sounds very "way out" -- jet plane controlled by rat brain! -- but I don't think it's quite as wild as it sounds. What really happened, as far as I can tell, is that some neurons were used in ways similar to the connections within a computer. For some reason, "jet plane controlled by computer chip" doesn't sound as freaky. I suppose it's because we are living things, and anything done with living cells seems strange to us. However, what has been done here really doesn't seem any weirder to me than organ transplants. In both cases, living tissue is being used to perform its basic function. This is not in any way to deny that this is a remarkable discovery. It is still very, very, very far away from anything like the creation of a new sentient being. At that point, the ethical questions will need to be addressed. (For the record, it seems to me that any entity -- natural or artificial -- which is capable of suffering must be treated as a being worthy of ethical consideration.) (I also dismiss the premise, popular in science fiction, that a sentient being can be capable of rational thought but not capable of suffering.)

2. I am cautiously optimistic about the future. No doubt there will be horrors I cannot even imagine. However, over the centuries, the general trend seems to have been for humanity to make life a little better, and to behave a little more decently. (There have been times and places when the exact opposite has been the truth, of course.) If I am pessimistic, it is not about technology, but about human behavior.

3. Not quite amazed, but impressed, I think. This new discovery doesn't shock me, but it's worthy of note.

I have to digress a bit here to address the issues raised by aevans176. I certainly have no objection to encouraging privately funded research. Go for it! However, the same reason that has been advanced against public funding of research is the reason why I think it needs to continue. I'm talking about the fact that it does not have to always be aimed at a practical goal. The greatest scientific breakthroughs occur from basic research, with the only goal being to increase human knowledge about the universe. It is possible for this to be privately funded, of course; I believe that a few companies like IBM and Bell Laboratories were famous for hiring great scientific minds and letting them study whatever they wanted to study. (Wise folks; they reaped enormous profits from these "impractical" studies.) Overall, however, private businesses don't usually go in for this sort of thing, and one can't really expect them to see too far beyond the bottom line. In particular, large-scale basic research often requires public funding.

For one example, let's look at NASA's planetary science projects. (I'm talking about things like Voyager and Mars probes.) Overall, this part of NASA's effort has been a history of one success after another. I would love to see privately funded projects of this sort, but there don't seem to be any billionaires out there willing to spend the amount of money these projects require.

A similar example which didn't work out so well was the Superconducting Supercollider, which was killed by Congress. No doubt the typical Congressperson thought that it was madness to spend billions just so a lot of nerds in white coats could study subatomic physics. For myself, I can only wonder how much more we might know about the universe if the SCSC had continued.

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AuthorMusician
post Dec 17 2005, 01:05 PM
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Are we moving too fast with what we try to do in terms of both science and technology? Are we in danger of having our wings melt?

Interesting allusion to Icarus in Greek mythology. Of course, with modern science, we know that flying toward the sun has the greater dangers of low oxygen and temperatures. It doesn't get hotter the higher you fly. Just the opposite.

Many of our ancient beliefs have been proven wrong with science. Many of our fears of advancing science have been proven to be baseless. For example, the study of the human body was once considered evil.

From a recent strange but true news story about a brown rat let loose on a New Zealand island to test animal trapping techniques: The rat eluded the traps for months and was finally found on a nearby island. The rat had swum the sea to less dangerous ground. Pretty smart for a sewer rat!

Anyway, I don't think science moves too quickly. Some things aren't smart to do, such as building nuclear bombs. We'll either figure out how far to go with things or die trying.

When you read articles such as this are you excited about the future or do you get uncomfortable?

The last time I felt uncomfortable about science was the genetic manipulation of plants that reproduce through pollination. How do you control the wind and bugs to keep the genetic alterations contained? Why mess with our food supply? That sort of thing. Yep, some scientific attempts scare me, not because of science but because of those who implement the findings.

One of the chilling things in history is when the first A-bomb was set off. The physicists were not sure if the chain-reaction would just keep going, incinerating the Earth. Personally, I could never push that button.

Are you amazed at what we seem to be capable of doing, or do you expect such accomplishments?

Sometimes I expect us to self-destruct. Other times I'm more hopeful for the human species. It depends on whether we are being stupid or smart.
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post Dec 18 2005, 05:58 PM
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QUOTE(christopher @ Dec 16 2005, 09:35 AM)
Are we moving too fast with what we try to do in terms of both science and technology? Are we in danger of having our wings melt?

When you read articles such as this are you excited about the future or do you get uncomfortable?

Are you amazed at what we seem to be capable of doing, or do you expect such accomplishments?

*



1.) Whether now or in a year, progress will be made. I think pace is fine for the time frame in which we are discovering things via science.

2.) I am very excited. I love the prospect of future medicines or treatments in order to cause or slow a disease. We cannot really sit idle while we have the capacity to make such discoveries, in today's uncertain world who knows when the next chance may arise?

3.) I expect much more than what is currently happening.




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Amlord
post Dec 29 2005, 07:21 PM
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This topic recalls to mind the dystopian vision of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski.

From the Unabomber Manifesto:
QUOTE
First let us postulate that the computer scientists succeed in developing intelligent machines that can do all things better than human beings can do them. In that case presumably all work will be done by vast, highly organized systems of machines and no human effort will be necessary. Either of two cases might occur. The machines might be permitted to make all of their own decisions without human oversight, or else human control over the machines might be retained.

If the machines are permitted to make all their own decisions, we can't make any conjectures as to the results, because it is impossible to guess how such machines might behave. We only point out that the fate of the human race would be at the mercy of the machines. It might be argued that the human race would never be foolish enough to hand over all the power to the machines. But we are suggesting neither that the human race would voluntarily turn power over to the machines nor that the machines would willfully seize power. What we do suggest is that the human race might easily permit itself to drift into a position of such dependence on the machines that it would have no practical choice but to accept all of the machines' decisions. As society and the problems that face it become more and more complex and machines become more and more intelligent, people will let machines make more of their decisions for them, simply because machine-made decisions will bring better results than man-made ones. Eventually a stage may be reached at which the decisions necessary to keep the system running will be so complex that human beings will be incapable of making them intelligently. At that stage the machines will be in effective control. People won't be able to just turn the machines off, because they will be so dependent on them that turning them off would amount to suicide.

On the other hand it is possible that human control over the machines may be retained. In that case the average man may have control over certain private machines of his own, such as his car or his personal computer, but control over large systems of machines will be in the hands of a tiny elite - just as it is today, but with two differences. Due to improved techniques the elite will have greater control over the masses; and because human work will no longer be necessary the masses will be superfluous, a useless burden on the system. If the elite is ruthless they may simply decide to exterminate the mass of humanity. If they are humane they may use propaganda or other psychological or biological techniques to reduce the birth rate until the mass of humanity becomes extinct, leaving the world to the elite. Or, if the elite consists of soft-hearted liberals, they may decide to play the role of good shepherds to the rest of the human race. They will see to it that everyone's physical needs are satisfied, that all children are raised under psychologically hygienic conditions, that everyone has a wholesome hobby to keep him busy, and that anyone who may become dissatisfied undergoes "treatment" to cure his "problem." Of course, life will be so purposeless that people will have to be biologically or psychologically engineered either to remove their need for the power process or make them "sublimate" their drive for power into some harmless hobby. These engineered human beings may be happy in such a society, but they will most certainly not be free. They will have been reduced to the status of domestic animals.


And Hans Moravec's book Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind link

QUOTE
Biological species almost never survive encounters with superior competitors. Ten million years ago, South and North America were separated by a sunken Panama isthmus. South America, like Australia today, was populated by marsupial mammals, including pouched equivalents of rats, deers, and tigers. When the isthmus connecting North and South America rose, it took only a few thousand years for the northern placental species, with slightly more effective metabolisms and reproductive and nervous systems, to displace and eliminate almost all the southern marsupials.

In a completely free marketplace, superior robots would surely affect humans as North American placentals affected South American marsupials (and as humans have affected countless species). Robotic industries would compete vigorously among themselves for matter, energy, and space, incidentally driving their price beyond human reach. Unable to afford the necessities of life, biological humans would be squeezed out of existence.

There is probably some breathing room, because we do not live in a completely free marketplace. Government coerces nonmarket behavior, especially by collecting taxes. Judiciously applied, governmental coercion could support human populations in high style on the fruits of robot labor, perhaps for a long while.


These chilling passages are summed up in Bill Joy's essay Why the future doesn't need us.

QUOTE(Joy Pg. 4)
By 2030, we are likely to be able to build machines, in quantity, a million times as powerful as the personal computers of today - sufficient to implement the dreams of Kurzweil and Moravec.

As this enormous computing power is combined with the manipulative advances of the physical sciences and the new, deep understandings in genetics, enormous transformative power is being unleashed. These combinations open up the opportunity to completely redesign the world, for better or worse: The replicating and evolving processes that have been confined to the natural world are about to become realms of human endeavor.

In designing software and microprocessors, I have never had the feeling that I was designing an intelligent machine. The software and hardware is so fragile and the capabilities of the machine to "think" so clearly absent that, even as a possibility, this has always seemed very far in the future.

But now, with the prospect of human-level computing power in about 30 years, a new idea suggests itself: that I may be working to create tools which will enable the construction of the technology that may replace our species.



Most futurists think that we will one day become part-robot or become extinct. That future may be well ahead of us, but it is more than a little scary to think about.
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Paladin Elspeth
post Dec 29 2005, 07:47 PM
Post #16


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Are we moving too fast with what we try to do in terms of both science and technology? Are we in danger of having our wings melt?

In the sense that ethics cannot keep up with scientific advancements and their implications, yes, we are moving too fast.

When you read articles such as this are you excited about the future or do you get uncomfortable?

It is hard to maintain a healthy perspective sometimes, and the consequence especially of machines continuing to replace humans in their traditional livelihoods is disturbing. I certainly don't want to see rats doing our jobs down the line, either...

The GM assembly line commercial where robotic arms are putting car doors on vehicles and performing other operations bugs me. So does the music ("All you want to do is use me..."). I wonder how many robotic arms will be buying and driving GM vehicles as the workforce continues to dwindle and jobs are shipped to countries where things are made at a pittance and the deteriorating quality of the products reflects this.

Are you amazed at what we seem to be capable of doing, or do you expect such accomplishments?

So we can grow a rat's brain in a dish...Is everybody able to have affordable health care and gainful employment in this country yet? That will truly amaze me.

But the rat's brain article, interestingly, could be applied to the thread where the judge ruled that Intelligent Design does not belong in science class. If human beings are capable of taking the materials on hand and causing a rat's brain to grow, is that not "intelligent design" of a sort?

Edit: I'm glad it is not "natural-born" and at least 35 years old. "Flies" a jet simulator, eh? Sounds somehow like Presidential material to me...tongue.gif whistling.gif

This post has been edited by Paladin Elspeth: Dec 29 2005, 08:14 PM
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inventor
post Feb 22 2006, 07:53 AM
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I smell a rat? Can this rat brain be trained to seek out OBL? In the F-22? The mental pictures in my brain are just to funny, seeing mickey mouse take OBL out…

Are we moving to fast…. No………… here is an example.

Anyway not all research has to make money, to be good for society. Here is another government backed project close to the rat one. Making use of "brain plasticity" this person has devised a way to teach/give people balance, limited sight and are working on hearing by using the tongue as a the interface to the brain. I am hearing impaired from birth and do not have good balance so this may help me someday. So you can guess I am excited

http://www.wicab.com/about/principals.html

As a great example of government taking the risk in an experiment when I was a student I worked as an intern at DOE. One of the projects I was involved in was unconventional gas extraction in advance of mining. I was responsible for the computer data and economic charts. This experiment was actually going to turn a profit till Reagan was elected and dismantled a significant amount of the DOE under the theory let private business solve the energy problem. Yaaa right like Exxon wants us not addicted to gasoline or energy independent. Look where we are today because we are not energy independent. This experiment was never published so who knows if anyone made use of it.

I believe the entire electronic telegraph- forerunner to the phone system was because of a grant by congress to Samuel Morse. In fact the last telegram was sent just a few weeks ago. not a bad investment...

gov funding telegraph
QUOTE
The following year, the device was modified to emboss the paper with dots and dashes. He gave a public demonstration in 1838, but it was not until five years later that Congress (reflecting public apathy) funded $30,000 to construct an experimental telegraph line from Washington to Baltimore, a distance of 40 miles.


end of telegrams after 145 years
QUOTE
Wed Feb 1, 10:00 AM ET
After 145 years, Western Union has quietly stopped sending telegrams.
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