|Robert L. Blum, MD, PhD|
Diplomate: American Board of Emergency Medicine
Diplomate: American Board of Internal Medicine
Research Associate (1981-1986): Stanford University, Computer Science Department
PhD: Computer Science and Biostatistics: Stanford University - 1981
Post-Doctoral Fellow: Clinical Pharmacology: Stanford University (1976 to 1979)
House Staff and Chief Resident: Internal Medicine: Kaiser Northern California
MD: University of California, San Francisco (MSTP: neuroscience)
B Sci: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (mathematics)
New (February 2016): AI and the Future of Humanity
The prospect of horrific AI taking over soon has been prominent in recent news
as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have posted warnings. Elon wasn't born yet when
I began studying AI and neuroscience. The above essay is my take on this. In brief ...
Will AI take over in the next couple of decades? No.
Might it dominate all key decisions within a hundred years? Quite possibly, yes.
Is that desirable for humanity? Possibly yes, but only if the AI is god-like,
that is, not only super-intelligent but possessing transcendent wisdom.
(Earlier and easier thresholds are 1) understanding the entirety of the internet and
2) autonomously doing Nobel-level science and engineering in many fields.)
Is this desirable for planet Earth and our biosphere? Probably, yes.
Humanity's unchecked proliferation has been an unmitigated disaster for our biosphere.
Ever Popular: The MYSTERY of CONSCIOUSNESS
I've been fascinated by the neurobiology of consciousness for fifty years. How is it possible
for neural circuits to produce pain, pleasure, and our entire perceived world?
My Book Review of Stanislas Dehaene's Consciousness and the Brain
This is an outstanding work by one of the world's top researchers of consciousness.
Since the death of William James and the ascent of Watson, Thorndike, and Skinner,
consciousness has all but disappeared from American cognitive neuroscience.
Europeans, especially the brilliant Stan Dehaene, are leading the current revitalization.
Two new videos have just appeared in the prestigious journal Science.
The first is an animation showing the incredible level of detail at the synapse.
The second video, based on hundreds of electron micrographs stitched together,
shows the impossibly complex ultrastructure of the neuropil: the impenetrable forest
The key question is how much of that fine detail must be modeled
to replicate the brain's performance. My guess is that much more is required
than is accounted for in current brain-inspired AI models.
I'm on the Science Advisory Board of the Brain Preservation Foundation (BPF,)
which seeks to advance the state of the art by awarding cash prizes for best research.
So, what are the prospects? I have not signed up with Alcor, but ask me again in 2030.
Here, neuroscience MD, PhD candidate Andy McKenzie elicits my opinions.
In brief: molecular brain preservation may be achieved by 2040.
Resurrection in silicon may not be possible until after 2100. So, keep eating vegetables!
Will Moore's Law soon hit a brick wall? To prevent that,
Cymer, ASML, and Intel have spent billions developing EUV lithography.
Here's the current state of EUV. (It's a matter of when, not if ...
2017 critical layers for the 10 nm node; 2020 all layers for the 7nm node.)
This was a summer 2015 blockbuster tech story that was
well-covered by the New York Times, EE Times, and by
Mukesh Khare, who co-led this IBM collaborative tour de force.
(This took the sting out of Intel's delay of 10nm to 2017.)
New: Updated WebBrain of Cognitive Neurosci and AI:
A Repository of 8000 Links to Cognitive Psychology, AI and
Neuroscience (the public half of my 16,000 node private collection.)
Also, hundreds of new links on biology and clinical medicine (longevity and nutrition)
(updated January, 2016 - News flash: my in vivo brain is still only 1½ quarts, if that.)
Also see my notes on recent Stanford Cog Neurosci/ Psych lectures here,
and see this concise 2016 graphic from Stanford News on building a brain.)
Also, see this just released article that describes Stanford Neuroscience Institute's
wonderful, recent (October 1, 2015) annual symposium.
My Stanford Lecture Notes 2015: Cognitive Neuroscience and AI
(You won't find any of these lectures anywhere else on the web; Stanford is at the forefront
in opening online classes to the world. But most of the lectures I attend are not available except here.
Also look in my WebBrain for hundreds of archived lecture notes (updated January, 2016).)
Shockwave for Atherosclerosis
In June, 2015 Stanford Prof. Todd Brinton presented his company
Shockwave Medical's new catheter for busting up atherosclerotic lesions
from the inside using ultrasound. If you're a male over 60, you've got lesions.
I do and so do you. It's not yet FDA approved. Meanwhile, you can do this.
Carmat: Artificial Heart Triumph
Carmat's second patient went home (January, 2015) and was living a normal life
until he died unexpectedly in May, 2015. A third patient was implanted in April, 2015
and was reported to be doing well as of October, 2015.
For a decade I (and everyone else) assumed a Nobel for Karl was imminent. Of course,
he was just 35 when he invented neuronal optogenetics. (The Nobel committee
is still working through its backlog of oldsters.) Meanwhile Karl keeps cranking out
stunning neurotech. His latest is Clarity - transparent, see-thru brains -
much easier to see the connections. Karl is as prolific as Edison (but nicer.)
This was a total thrill: the launch of the SNI, attended by Stanford President
John Hennessy and NIMH Director Thomas Insel. These talks are all stellar.
Stanford Neurosciences Institute website is here. SNI is directed by
Prof. Bill Newsome, who was tapped by NIH Director Francis Collins to co-direct
the Obama Brain Initiative Working Group. How important is SNI?
The old COGEN building that is being scraped now before constructing the new HQ
cost > a hundred million translated into 2015 bucks. The new buildings for
SNI and Chem-H will cost about 240 million. Stanford is forever
abuzz with exciting neurosci, cog sci, and AI/robotics.
A summary that integrates my various areas of academic interest with long-term
societal goals. History is a race between education and catastrophe. H G Wells
(This concise 2015 graphic from Stanford News Service shows many of my interests
(although I had nothing to do with it, except perhaps as a grain of sand in an oyster).)
(an introduction to the scientific problem of consciousness (for a general audience))
SETI: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
With STEVE PINKER in the AMAZON - Cognitive Science in the Jungle
by buying up several robotics start-ups. Here are videos of their acquisitions.)
The upside: those firms have stable funding. The downside: they've been
sucked into invisibility behind Google's "black hole event horizon."
Allen Brain Institute Symposia Video Archive
Stanford Center for Cognitive and Neurobio. Imaging (CNI):
Computational Models of the Neocortex: Stanford: Spring 2012
Is Microsoft Broken? My Struggles with Windows 7
Book Review of Kevin Kelly's What Technology Wants
On a Planet Near You: Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror
Artificial Consciousness? Digital Computers, No: Silicon Networks, Maybe!
A response to David Gelernter's AI is Lost in the Woods
Against the Wall, Behaviorists! Get Conscious Now! Read William James!
America's towering intellectual of the nineteenth century,
James' descriptions of the self were decades ahead of his time and
as aesthetic as the prose of his younger brother, Henry James.
Book Review of TRANSCEND: 9 Steps to Living Forever
Robot Scientists Automate Discovery
Phil Zimbardo's Secret Powers of Time
Salman Khan teaches the world science and math
Review of Manna: Two Visions of Humanity's Future by Marshall Brain
Future AIs may act as enslaving Big Brothers or as empowering liberators.
Antidepressants Don't - Ketamine Does
Increasing evidence suggests that antidepressants mainly work via a placebo effect.
See Lesley Stahl's interview of Harvard's Irving Kirsch on the TV show 60 Minutes.
Also, ketamine general anesthesia may acutely resolve severe depression.
Sir Martin Rees: Humanity's Final Hour
Only have a few minutes to check out my website?
Here's how. Go directly to Sir Martin's TED lecture (and skip everything else!)
Extinction level threats to humanity need to be front-and-center.
There is a view, gaining some traction, that superintelligent AI is imminent.
This view is erroneous. (Super-human AI is NOT imminent!)
Furthermore, that sensational forecast only serves to further weaken
already anemic efforts to lessen real existential dangers: nuclear war,
ecological calamity, pandemics, and proliferation of bioweapons capabilities.
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