Thursday, January 08, 2015

The Singularity and worms

I read SF pretty much exclusively as a kid and then as I grew up I read more widely. In recent years I've read more SF than in the previous twenty or thirty or so. One of the things that I heard for the first time when I came back to SF was the Singularity, the idea that one day we'd be able to upload our brains into a computer. I heard it first being talked about on Charlie Stross's blog, probably this entry Three arguments against the singularity in 2011 (this blog post has been brewing for a while). He also wrote a book called Singularity Sky. If you read the wikipedia article I've linked to then you'll see it's been around for a while, since 1958. Probably the reason that it's being talked about more recently is because as computing power increases it become more believable.

As neurons are more complicated than bits you can't measure the capacity of the human brain in terms of computer storage, but there are as many networked computers as neurons in the average brain [citation needed][no it isn't, this is just a blog post, the fact that I think I read it somewhere is sufficient], so it is possible that networked processors could contain a brain.

The thing that made this blog post graduate from the draft list is this blog post from Matt Webb (who is writing about really, really interesting things at the moment) who links to a project called OpenWorm.

"The nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) is tiny and only has 302 neurons. These have been completely mapped and the OpenWorm project is working to build a complete simulation of the worm in software."
That's a fascinating baby step to achieve the singularity. I suspect that the key thing to realistic life is getting the interfaces with the outside world working properly.

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