In June of 2012, The New York Times reported that inside Google's high-tech R&D "X" laboratory the search giant has been creating a simulation of the human brain. And rather than teaching it progra...
In June of 2012, The New York Times reported that inside Google's high-tech R&D "X" laboratory the search giant has been creating a simulation of the human brain. And rather than teaching it programs, Google's staff have been exposing it to information from the Net so that it learns organically, a little like the way we humans do. It's built by hooking together 16,000 processor cores with over one billion interconnections, in a model of the around 86 billion neurons in a typical adult human brain.
In the past decade, we’ve examined our Solar System’s orbit through the Milky Way to ask whether there may be clues to periodic mass extinctions on our planet. We've launched missions seeking out habitable "Alien Earths" and the existence of dark energy and have migrated from wondering if there's life on Mars to searching out and studying myriads of exo planets in the Milky Way and infinite galaxies beyond.
Our incredible advances have also underscored own, very human limitations — our eyes, notes astronomer James Kaler see wavelengths between 0.00004 and 0.00008 of a centimeter. Kaler calls our visual spectrum “…but one octave on an imaginary electromagnetic piano with a keyboard hundreds of kilometers long.”
In The Star Thrower evolutionary biologist, Loren Eiseley, writes that "We are rag dolls made out of many ages and skins, changelings, who have slept in wood nests or hissed in the uncouth guise of waddling amphibians. We have played such roles for infinitely longer ages than we have been men."
Physicist Stephen Hawking believes that we have entered a new phase of evolution. "At first, evolution proceeded by natural selection, from random mutations. This Darwinian phase, lasted about three and a half billion years, and produced us, beings who developed language, to exchange information."
But what distinguishes us from our cave man ancestors is the knowledge that we have accumulated over the last ten thousand years, and particularly, Hawking points out, over the last three hundred.
"I think it is legitimate to take a broader view, and include externally transmitted information, as well as DNA, in the evolution of the human race," Hawking said.
In the last ten thousand years the human species has been in what Hawking calls, "an external transmission phase," where the internal record of information, handed down to succeeding generations in DNA, has not changed significantly. "But the external record, in books, and other long lasting forms of storage," Hawking says, "has grown enormously. Some people would use the term, evolution, only for the internally transmitted genetic material, and would object to it being applied to information handed down externally. But I think that is too narrow a view. We are more than just our genes."
The time scale for evolution, in the external transmission period, has collapsed to about 50 years, or less.
Meanwhile, Hawking observes, our human brains "with which we process this information have evolved only on the Darwinian time scale, of hundreds of thousands of years. This is beginning to cause problems. In the 18th century, there was said to be a man who had read every book written. But nowadays, if you read one book a day, it would take you about 15,000 years to read through the books in a national Library. By which time, many more books would have been written."
But we are now entering a new phase, of what Hawking calls "self designed evolution," in which we will be able to change and improve our DNA. "At first," he continues "these changes will be confined to the repair of genetic defects, like cystic fibrosis, and muscular dystrophy. These are controlled by single genes, and so are fairly easy to identify, and correct. Other qualities, such as intelligence, are probably controlled by a large number of genes. It will be much more difficult to find them, and work out the relations between