|Robert L. Blum, MD, PhD|
As a teenager I became entranced by the notion of
accelerated learning and enhanced human capabilities.
What heights might humanity achieve
if we could enhance our capacities for
intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, learning, and action?
As an undergraduate at MIT I avidly pursued studies in
neurobiology, psychology, mathematical learning theory, electrical engineering,
computer science, and artificial intelligence.
I wanted to answer these questions:
How do we learn? How do we create new ideas?
What is the circuitry of pain and pleasure?
Does cognition require neurons
or might a machine be designed to think and feel?
To pursue this work I went to medical school.
I was in an MD, PhD program at the University of California in San Francisco.
At UCSF I continued my studies in neurobiology and cognitive science.
My 1971 paper, Towards a Theory of Information Storage in the Brain,
summarized those studies.
I then did a three year residency in Internal Medicine but
afterward returned full-time to cognitive science and artificial intelligence.
I came to Stanford University as both a grad student in computer science
and as a post-doc fellow in Clinical Pharmacology at the Medical School.
During my first two years at Stanford I worked on the MYCIN Project
- a widely-cited, pioneering effort in expert systems.
The next eight years I spent designing, programming, and testing the RX Project.
RX was designed as an automated discovery and statistical research engine.
It took as input a large clinical database of symptoms, treatments, and lab tests
gathered over several years on hundreds of patients.
Its output was a collection of "newly discovered" (new to it) medical knowledge.
Its design and medical discoveries are described here.
In 1986 I returned to medical practice - this time emergency medicine.
Clinical medicine provided a better livelihood than living on government grants.
Besides, the methods and tools of AI and cognitive science were still too weak
to provide a real basis for emulating human intelligence.
In 2007 I retired from clinical medicine after twenty years as an emergency physician.
While I have seen welcome advances in medical care - new drugs, improved imaging, better surgeries – medicine – like cognitive science – is still in its infancy. The biotech engineering that
will usher in a golden age of medicine is only now beginning. I cheer my fellow Californians for their support of stem cell research, which will provide real solutions to the age-old problems that
beset mankind: heart attack, stroke, cancer, dementia, diabetes, and age-related deterioration.
And now, what’s the purpose of this website? Reporting on research in cognitive neuroscience and AI gives me an opportunity to stay current and enables you to follow along. It is a thrill for me
to be able to share with you the discoveries and insights of the top researchers in these fields as
they try to uncover the design of the human brain and try to emulate it in silicon.
Humanity, as presently constituted, is not the ultimate pinnacle of evolution’s ascent toward global intelligence, consciousness, or wisdom. Reporting on the awesome developments that await us beyond our current horizon is my ultimate focus.