Scientists See Promise in Deep-Learning Programs

Hao Zhang/The New York Times
 
 
 

A voice recognition program translated a speech given by Richard F. Rashid, Microsoft’s top scientist, into Mandarin Chinese.

Using an artificial intelligence technique inspired by theories about how the brain recognizes patterns, technology companies are reporting startling gains in fields as diverse as computer vision, speech recognition and the identification of promising new molecules for designing drugs.

A student team led by the computer scientist Geoffrey E. Hinton used deep-learning technology to design software.

The advances have led to widespread enthusiasm among researchers who design software to perform human activities like seeing, listening and thinking. They offer the promise of machines that converse with humans and perform tasks like driving cars and working in factories, raising the specter of automated robots that could replace human workers.

The technology, called deep learning, has already been put to use in services like Apple’s Siri virtual personal assistant, which is based on Nuance Communications’ speech recognition service, and in Google’s Street View, which uses machine vision to identify specific addresses.

But what is new in recent months is the growing speed and accuracy of deep-learning programs, often called artificial neural networks or just “neural nets” for their resemblance to the neural connections in the brain.

559348_10150932181771951_789331573_n

“There has been a number of stunning new results with deep-learning methods,” said Yann LeCun, a computer scientist at New York University who did pioneering research in handwriting recognition at Bell Laboratories. “The kind of jump we are seeing in the accuracy of these systems is very rare indeed.”

Artificial intelligence researchers are acutely aware of the dangers of being overly optimistic. Their field has long been plagued by outbursts of misplaced enthusiasm followed by equally striking declines.

In the 1960s, some computer scientists believed that a workable artificial intelligence system was just 10 years away. In the 1980s, a wave of commercial start-ups collapsed, leading to what some people called the “A.I. winter.”

But recent achievements have impressed a wide spectrum of computer experts. In October, for example, a team of graduate students studying with the University of Toronto computer scientist Geoffrey E. Hinton won the top prize in a contest sponsored by Merck to design software to help find molecules that might lead to new drugs.

imagesCA8AQ301

From a data set describing the chemical structure of thousands of different molecules, they used deep-learning software to determine which molecule was most likely to be an effective drug agent.

The achievement was particularly impressive because the team decided to enter the contest at the last minute and designed its software with no specific knowledge about how the molecules bind to their targets. The students were also working with a relatively small set of data; neural nets typically perform well only with very large ones.

“This is a really breathtaking result because it is the first time that deep learning won, and more significantly it won on a data set that it wouldn’t have been expected to win at,” said Anthony Goldbloom, chief executive and founder of Kaggle, a company that organizes data science competitions, including the Merck contest.

Advances in pattern recognition hold implications not just for drug development but for an array of applications, including marketing and law enforcement. With greater accuracy, for example, marketers can comb large databases of consumer behavior to get more precise information on buying habits. And improvements in facial recognition are likely to make surveillance technology cheaper and more commonplace.

Artificial neural networks, an idea going back to the 1950s, seek to mimic the way the brain absorbs information and learns from it. In recent decades, Dr. Hinton, 64 (a great-great-grandson of the 19th-century mathematician George Boole, whose work in logic is the foundation for modern digital computers), has pioneered powerful new techniques for helping the artificial networks recognize patterns.

Modern artificial neural networks are composed of an array of software components, divided into inputs, hidden layers and outputs. The arrays can be “trained” by repeated exposures to recognize patterns like images or sounds.

These techniques, aided by the growing speed and power of modern computers, have led to rapid improvements in speech recognition, drug discovery and computer vision.

Deep-learning systems have recently outperformed humans in certain limited recognition tests.

Last year, for example, a program created by scientists at the Swiss A. I. Lab at the University of Lugano won a pattern recognition contest by outperforming both competing software systems and a human expert in identifying images in a database of German traffic signs.

The winning program accurately identified 99.46 percent of the images in a set of 50,000; the top score in a group of 32 human participants was 99.22 percent, and the average for the humans was 98.84 percent.

Creating a computer with a human brain?

Are we on the brink of creating a computer with a human brain?

By Michael Hanlon

Brain
 
Professor Markram claims he plans to build an electronic human brain ‘within the next ten years’

There are only a handful of scientific revolutions that would really change the world. An immortality pill would be one. A time machine would be another.

Faster-than-light travel, allowing the stars to be explored in a human lifetime, would be on the shortlist, too.

To my mind, however, the creation of an artificial mind would probably trump all of these – a development that would throw up an array of bewildering and complex moral and philosophical quandaries. Amazingly, it might also be within reach.

For while time machines, eternal life potions and Star Trek-style warp drives are as far away as ever, a team of scientists in Switzerland is claiming that a fully-functioning replica of a human brain could be built by 2020.

This isn’t just pie-in-the-sky. The Blue Brain project, led by computer genius Henry Markram – who is also the director of the Centre for Neuroscience & Technology and the Brain Mind Institute – has for the past five years been engineering the mammalian brain, the most complex object known in the Universe, using some of the most powerful supercomputers in the world.

And last month, Professor Markram claimed, at a conference in Oxford, that he plans to build an electronic human brain ‘within ten years’.

If he is right, nothing will be the same again. But can such an extraordinary claim be credible? When we think of artificial minds, we inevitably think of the sort of machines that have starred in dozens of sci-fi movies.

Indeed, most scientists – and science fiction writers – have tended to concentrate on the nuts and bolts of robotics: how you make artificial muscles; how you make a machine see and hear; how you give it realistic skin and enough tendons and ligaments underneath that skin to allow it to smile convincingly.

But what tends to be glossed over is by far the most complex problem of all: how you make a machine think.

This problem is one of the central questions of modern philosophy and goes to the very heart of what we know, or rather do not know, about the human mind.

Most of us imagine that the brain is rather like a computer. And in many ways, it is. It processes data and can store quite prodigious amounts of information.

‘They are copying a brain without understanding it’

But in other ways, a brain is quite unlike a computer. For while our computers are brilliant at calculating the weather forecast and modelling the effects of nuclear explosions – tasks most often assigned to the most powerful machines – they still cannot ‘think’.

We cannot be sure this is the case. But no one thinks that the laptop on your desk or even the powerful mainframes used by the Met Office can, in any meaningful sense, have a mind.

So what is it, in that three pounds of grey jelly, that gives rise to the feeling of conscious self-awareness, the thoughts and emotions, the agonies and ecstasies that comprise being a human being?

This is a question that has troubled scientists and philosophers for centuries. The traditional answer was to assume that some sort of ‘soul’ pervades the brain, a mysterious ‘ghost in the machine’ which gives rise to the feeling of self and consciousness.

If this is the case, then computers, being machines not flesh and blood, will never think. We will never be able to build a robot that will feel pain or get angry, and the Blue Brain project will fail.

But very few scientists still subscribe to this traditional ‘dualist’ view – ‘dualist’ because it assumes ‘mind’ and ‘matter’ are two separate things.

Instead, most neuroscientists believe that our feelings of self-awareness, pain, love and so on are simply the result of the countless billions of electrical and chemical impulses that flit between its equally countless billions of neurons.

So if you build something that works exactly like a brain, consciousness, at least in theory, will follow.

In fact, several teams are working to prove this is the case by attempting to build an electronic brain. They are not attempting to build flesh and blood brains like modern-day Dr Frankensteins.

They are using powerful mainframe computers to ‘model’ a brain. But, they say, the result will be just the same.

Two years ago, a team at IBM’s Almaden research lab at Nevada University used a BlueGene/L Supercomputer to model half a mouse brain.

Half a mouse brain consists of about eight million neurons, each of which can form around 8,000 links with neighbouring cells.

Creating a virtual version of this pushes a computer to the limit, even machines which, like the BlueGene, can perform 20trillion calculations a second.

The ‘mouse’ simulation was run for about ten seconds at a speed a tenth as fast as an actual rodent brain operates. Nevertheless, the scientists said they detected tell-tale patterns believed to correspond with the ‘thoughts’ seen by scanners in real-life mouse brains.

It is just possible a fleeting, mousey, ‘consciousness’ emerged in the mind of this machine. But building a thinking, remembering human mind is more difficult. Many neuroscientists claim the human brain is too complicated to copy.

‘Turning it off might be seen as murder’

Markram’s team is undaunted. They are using one of the most powerful computers in the world to replicate the actions of the 100billion neurons in the human brain. It is this approach – essentially copying how a brain works without necessarily understanding all of its actions – that will lead to success, the team hopes. And if so, what then?

Well, a mind, however fleeting and however shorn of the inevitable complexities and nuances that come from being embedded in a body, is still a mind, a ‘person’. We would effectively have created a ‘brain in a vat’. Conscious, aware, capable of feeling, pain, desire. And probably terrified.

And if it were modelled on a human brain, we would then have real ethical dilemmas. If our ‘brain’ – effectively just a piece of extremely impressive computer software – could be said to know it exists, then do we assign it rights?

Would turning it off constitute murder? Would performing experiments upon it constitute torture?

And there are other questions, too, questions at the centre of the nurture versus nature debate. Would this human mind, for example, automatically feel guilt or would it need to be ‘taught’ a sense of morality first? And how would it respond to religion? Indeed, are these questions that a human mind asks of its own accord, or must it be taught to ask them first?

Thankfully, we are probably a long way from having to confront these issues. It is important to stress that not one scientist has provided anything like a convincing explanation for how the brain works, let alone shown for sure that it would be possible to replicate this in a machine.

Not one computer or robot has come near passing the famous ‘Turing Test’, devised by the brilliant Cambridge scientist Alan Turing in 1950, to prove whether a machine could think.

It is a simple test in which someone is asked to communicate, using a screen and keyboard, with a computer trying to mimic a human, and another, real human. If the judge cannot tell the machine from the other person, the computer has ‘passed’ the test. So far, every computer we have built has failed.

Yet, if the Blue Brain project succeeds, in a few decades – perhaps sooner – we will be looking at the creation of a new intelligent lifeform on Earth. And the ethical dilemmas we face when it comes to experimenting on animals in the name of science will pale into insignificance when faced with the potential torments of our new machine mind.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1205677/Are-brink-creating-human-brain.html#ixzz29l69zP3l

Transhumanism Will Merge Man With Machine

Neo-Humanity: Transhumanism Will Merge Man With Machine

August 10, 2012

Neo-Humanity: Transhumanism Will Merge Man With Machine

Susanne Posel, Contributor

Science and religion meet at the intersection of a $55 million grant gifted to UC Riverside in Pennsylvania by the John Templeton Foundation for further research into an afterlife and immortality.

John Martin Fischer, philosophy professor from UC Riverside, will host conferences and oversee post-doctoral students running a website that centers around immortality; along with international consensus where psychologists and neuroscientists from across the globe will convene.

The globalist Elite are obsessed with the merging man and machine, transhumanism and immortality. Basing advancements on scientific research, the 2045 Program will create “a new vision of human development that meets global challenges humanity faces today, realization of the possibility of a radical extension of human life by means of cybernetic technology, as well as the formation of a new culture associated with these technologies.”

 

Headed by Dimitry Itskov, the Avatar Project, an off-shoot of 2045, will house human brains in disembodied vehicles. They will initially be transplanted into robots, then humans by 2045 with the advancement of reverse-engineering; an effective “downloading” of human consciousness onto a computer chip.

DARPA is extremely interested in Avatar for the allocation of bi-pedal robots and essential super-soldiers and have devoted $7 million of its $2.8 billion 2012 budget to developing “interfaces and algorithms to enable a soldier to effectively partner with a semi-autonomous bi-pedal machine and allow it to act as the soldier’s surrogate.”

These human-controlled robots will be strong enough to “clear a room” and “facilitate sentry control and combat causality recovery.” Yet these “terminators” would easily be the most effective weapon against civil unrest or radical revolutionaries that did not subscribe to the globalist agenda.

 

The globalists at the 2045 Program assert that humanity “is in need of a new evolutionary strategy” consisting of a balance between the complexity of technological advances and the acceleration of informational processes to expand the “limited, primitive human” into a “highly self-organized” and technologically “higher intelligence”.

Technology can organize society and integrate unification of a super collective consciousness – a superbeing.

By doing away with individuality, the conclusion is the elimination of:

  • Lack of consumer provisions
  • Aging, illness and death
  • Crime and conflicts
  • Natural disasters and catastrophes

Superpeople are the epitome of communitarianism and collectivism as the new globalist vision of society marches toward immortal superpeople.

Because communitarianism is the ideology of the importance of community over the individual, the creation of a communalist society is the emphatic over-reaching value that if it does not provide for the whole, it is not worth pursuit.

The concept of the neo-human and neo-humanity is the replacement for a post-industrial capitalist and consumer-based society where a new form of civilization will emerge.

At the Global Future 2045 International Conference in 2013, scientists from all corners of the globe along with experts in nanotechnology, biotechnology, transbiology and other sciences will suggest a collaborative evolution of humanity into an transcendent era where the UN’s agenda of population transformation will be implemented.

A new model for society that adheres to the globalist ideologies of merging controllable humans with machines to facilitate a new race of human being that is led by artificial intelligence plunged into the global AI computer system and functions simply to be an autonomous workforce for the global Elite.

The goal of transhumanism is to replace all existing laws with the purpose of destroying the essence of humanity for the sake of control. Hybrid humans with robotic implants are expected to be released into the general public by 2014.

Humanity+, “an international nonprofit membership organization which advocates the ethical use of technology to expand human capacities”.

In their Transhumanist Declaration they advocate old and new ideals of globalist transhumanism by promoting:

  • Using technology to “broaden human potential” by overcoming aging and “cognitive shortcomings”
  • Provide forums where globalist scientist and researchers can “deliberate how [to enhance humanity through science] to expedite beneficial applications”
  • Facilitate “social order, improve human foresight and wisdom” through genetic enhancement
  • Influence policymakers to include the transhumanist “responsible and moral vision”

The Transhumanist Agenda uses eugenics, reproductive controls, sterilization campaigns, genetic engineering, RFID chips and rewiring of the brain through pharmaceuticals to achieve their goals. Their quest for immortality with the merging of human and machine is just one part in their convoluted scheme to retain their global dominance over our society.

For now, the general public is guinea pigs to be used to prefect their experiments so that by 2050, they will have full implemented their control grid and there will be no one to dissent.

 

They Really Do Want To Implant Microchips Into Your Brain

They Really Do Want To Implant Microchips Into Your Brain

Michael Snyder
American Dream
Aug 2, 2012

Are you ready to have a microchip implanted into your brain? That might not sound very appealing to you at this point, but this is exactly what the big pharmaceutical companies and the big technology companies have planned for our future.

 

They are pumping millions of dollars into researching “cutting edge” technologies that will enable implantable microchips to greatly “enhance” our health and our lives. Of course nobody is going to force you to have a microchip implanted into your brain when they are first introduced. Initially, brain implants will be marketed as “revolutionary breakthroughs” that can cure chronic diseases and that can enable the disabled to live normal lives. When the “benefits” of such technology are demonstrated to the general public, soon most people will want to become “super-abled”.

Just imagine the hype that will surround these implants when people discover that you can get rid of your extra weight in a matter of days or that you can download an entire college course into your memory in just a matter of hours. The possibilities for this kind of technology are endless, and it is just a matter of time before having microchips implanted into your brain is considered to be quite common. What was once science fiction is rapidly becoming reality, and it is going to change the world forever.

But aren’t there some very serious potential downsides to having microchips implanted into our brains?

Of course there are.

Unfortunately, this technology is not as far off as you might think, and most people are not even talking about what the negative consequences might be.

According to a recent article in the Financial Times, the pharmaceutical company of the future will include a “bioelectronics” business that “treats disease through electrical signalling in the brain and elsewhere.”

Diseases such as diabetes and epilepsy and conditions such as obesity and depression will be will be treated “through electronic implants into the brain rather than pills or injections.”

These implants will send electrical signals to cells and organs that are “malfunctioning”. People will be totally “cured” without ever having to pop a pill or go under the knife.

It sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, the Financial Times says that British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline is working very hard to develop these kinds of technologies. Moncef Slaoui, the head of research and development at GlaxoSmithKline, says that the “challenge is to integrate the work – in brain-computer interfaces, materials science, nanotechnology, micro-power generation – to provide therapeutic benefit.”

If a brain implant could cure a disease that you have been suffering from your whole life would you take it?

A lot of people are going to be faced with that kind of a decision in future years.

And this kind of technology is advancing very rapidly. In fact, some researchers have already had success treating certain diseases by implanting microchips into the brains of rats. The following is from a recent Mashable article….

Stroke and Parkinson’s Disease patients may benefit from a controversial experiment that implanted microchips into lab rats. Scientists say the tests produced effective results in brain damage research.

Rats showed motor function in formerly damaged gray matter after a neural microchip was implanted under the rat’s skull and electrodes were transferred to the rat’s brain. Without the microchip, rats with damaged brain tissue did not have motor function. Both strokes and Parkinson’s can cause permanent neurological damage to brain tissue, so this scientific research brings hope.

In addition, the U.S. government has been working on implantable microchips that would monitor the health of our soldiers and enhance their abilities in the field.

So this technology is definitely coming.

But it must be very complicated to get a microchip implanted into your brain, right?

Actually it is fairly simple.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the typical procedure is very quick and it often only requires just an overnight stay in the hospital….

Neural implants, also called brain implants, are medical devices designed to be placed under the skull, on the surface of the brain. Often as small as an aspirin, implants use thin metal electrodes to “listen” to brain activity and in some cases to stimulate activity in the brain. Attuned to the activity between neurons, a neural implant can essentially “listen” to your brain activity and then “talk” directly to your brain.

If that prospect makes you queasy, you may be surprised to learn that the installation of a neural implant is relatively simple and fast. Under anesthesia, an incision is made in the scalp, a hole is drilled in the skull, and the device is placed on the surface of the brain. Diagnostic communication with the device can take place wirelessly. When it is not an outpatient procedure, patients typically require only an overnight stay at the hospital.

But is it really safe to have a device implanted into your head that can “talk” directly to your brain?

Many large corporations are banking on the fact that in a world that is always hungry for new technology that most people will not be bothered by such things.

For example, Intel is working on sensors that will be implanted in the brain that will be able to directly control computers and cell phones. The following is an excerpt from a Computer World UK article….

By the year 2020, you won’t need a keyboard and mouse to control your computer, say Intel researchers. Instead, users will open documents and surf the web using nothing more than their brain waves.

Scientists at Intel’s research lab in Pittsburgh are working to find ways to read and harness human brain waves so they can be used to operate computers, television sets and cell phones. The brain waves would be harnessed with Intel-developed sensors implanted in people’s brains.

The scientists say the plan is not a scene from a sci-fi movie, Big Brother won’t be planting chips in your brain against your will. Researchers expect that consumers will want the freedom they will gain by using the implant.

Once again, this is not something that will be forced on you against your will.

These big corporations are banking on the fact that a lot of people will want to get these brain implants.

Even now, some video game makers are developing headsets that allow users to play games using their brain waves rather than a joystick or a control pad.

Other companies want to make it possible to directly connect your brain to the Internet.

As I have written about previously, IBM is aggressively working to develop this kind of technology. The following is from arecent IBM press release….

IBM scientists are among those researching how to link your brain to your devices, such as a computer or a smartphone. If you just need to think about calling someone, it happens. Or you can control the cursor on a computer screen just by thinking about where you want to move it.

Scientists in the field of bioinformatics have designed headsets with advanced sensors to read electrical brain activity that can recognize facial expressions, excitement and concentration levels, and thoughts of a person without them physically taking any actions.

The potential “benefits” of such technology are almost beyond imagination. An article on the website of the Science Channel put it this way….

If you could pump data directly into your gray matter at, say, 50 mbps — the top speed offered by one major U.S. internet service provider — you’d be able to read a 500-page book in just under two-tenths of a second.

How would the world change if you could download a lifetime of learning directly into your brain in a matter of weeks?

The possibilities are endless.

But so is the potential for abuse.

Implantable microchips that can “talk” directly to the brain would give a tyrannical government the ultimate form of control.

If you could download thoughts and feelings directly into the brains of your citizens, you could achieve total control and never have to worry that they would turn on you.

In fact, you could potentially program these chips to make your citizens feel good all the time. You could have these chips produce a “natural high” that never ends. That would make your citizens incredibly dependent on the chips and they would never want to give them up.

This kind of technology has the potential to be one of the greatest threats to liberty and freedom in the history of mankind.

At first these implantable microchips will be sold to us as one of the greatest “breakthroughs” ever, but in the end they could end up totally enslaving us.

So I will never be taking any kind of a brain implant, and I hope that you will not either.

 
Similar/Related Articles
 
  1. Humans ‘will be implanted with microchips’
  2. Scientists Successfully Implant Chip That Controls The Brain
  3. Brain Implant Allows Paralyzed Woman to Control a Robot with Her Thoughts
  4. After The Government Microchips Our Soldiers, How Long Will It Be Before They Want To Put A Microchip In YOU
  5. Microchip Implant to Link Your Health Records, Credit History, Social Security
  6. Animal microchips linked to causing cancer
  7. Are Populations Being Primed For Nano-Microchips Inside Vaccines?
  8. Edible Microchips, Biometric Identity Systems And Mind Reading Computers
  9. New Implantable Microchips to Medicate Patients
  10. Intel Wants Brain Implants in Its Customers’ Heads by 2020
  11. British Court Orders Singer Get “Medical Implant” for Drug Addiction
  12. Hacking The Human Brain

 

Scientists: Humans and machines will merge in the future,,,

Scientists: Humans and machines will merge in the future!

By Lara Farrar
For CNN

July 15, 2008 — Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
 

LONDON, England (CNN) — A group of experts from around the world will hold a first of its kind conference on global catastrophic risks.

Some experts say humans will merge with machines before the end of this century.

They will discuss what should be done to prevent these risks from becoming realities that could lead to the end of human life on Earth as we know it.

Speakers at the four-day event at Oxford University in Britain will talk about topics including nuclear terrorism and what to do if a large asteroid were to be on a collision course with our planet.

On the final day of the Global Catastrophic Risk Conference, experts will focus on what could be the unintended consequences of new technologies, such as superintelligent machines that, if ill-conceived, might cause the demise of Homo sapiens.

“Any entity which is radically smarter than human beings would also be very powerful,” said Dr. Nick Bostrom, director of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, host of the symposium. “If we get something wrong, you could imagine the consequences would involve the extinction of the human species.”

Bostrom is a philosopher and a leading thinker of transhumanism, a movement that advocates not only the study of the potential threats and promises that future technologies could pose to human life but also the ways in which emergent technologies could be used to make the very act of living better.

“We want to preserve the best of what it is to be human and maybe even amplify that,” Bostrom said.

Transhumanists, according to Bostrom, anticipate an era in which biotechnology, molecular nanotechnologies, artificial intelligence and other new types of cognitive tools will be used to amplify our intellectual capacity, improve our physical capabilities and even enhance our emotional well-being.

The end result would be a new form of “posthuman” life with beings that possess qualities and skills so exceedingly advanced they no longer can be classified simply as humans.

“We will begin to use science and technology not just to manage the world around us but to manage our own human biology as well,” Bostrom said. “The changes will be faster and more profound than the very, very slow changes that would occur over tens of thousands of years as a result of natural selection and biological evolution.”

Bostrom declined to predict an exact time frame when this revolutionary biotechnological metamorphosis might occur. “Maybe it will take eight years or 200 years,” he said. “It is very hard to predict.”

Other experts are already getting ready for what they say could be a radical transformation of the human race in as little as two decades.

“This will happen faster than people realize,” said Dr. Ray Kurzweil, an inventor and futurist who calculates technology trends using what he calls the law of accelerating returns, a mathematical concept that measures the exponential growth of technological evolution.

In the 1980s, Kurzweil predicted that a tiny handheld device would be invented early in the 21st century, allowing blind people to read documents from anywhere at anytime; this year, such a device was publicly unveiled. He also anticipated the explosive growth of the Internet in the 1990s.

Now, Kurzweil is predicting the arrival of something called the Singularity, which he defines in his book on the subject as “the culmination of the merger of our biological thinking and existence with our technology, resulting in a world that is still human but that transcends our biological roots.”

“There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between human and machine or between physical and virtual reality,” he writes.

Singularity will approach at an accelerating rate as human-created technologies become exponentially smaller and increasingly powerful and as fields such as biology and medicine are understood more and more in terms of information processes that can be simulated with computers.

By the 2030s, Kurzweil said, humans will become more non-biological than biological, capable of uploading our minds onto the Internet, living in various virtual worlds and even avoiding aging and evading death.

In the 2040s, Kurzweil predicts that non-biological intelligence will be billions of times better than the biological intelligence humans have today, possibly rendering our present brains obsolete.

“Our brains are a million times slower than electronics,” Kurzweil said. “We will increasingly become software entities if you go out enough decades.”

This movement towards the merger of man and machine, according to Kurzweil, is already starting to happen and is most visible in the field of biotechnology.

As scientists gain deeper insights into the genetic processes that underlie life, they are able to effectively reprogram human biology through the development of new forms of gene therapies and medications capable of turning on or off enzymes and RNA interference, or gene silencing.

“Biology and health and medicine used to be hit or miss,” Kurzweil sad. “It wasn’t based on any coherent theory about how it works.”

The emerging biotechnology revolution will lead to at least a thousand new drugs that could do anything from slow down the process of aging to reverse the onset of diseases, like heart disease and cancer, Kurzweil said.

By 2020, Kurzweil predicts a second revolution in the area of nanotechnology. According to his calculations, it is already showing signs of exponential growth as scientists begin to test first generation nanobots that can cure Type 1 diabetes in rats or heal spinal cord injuries in mice.

One scientist is developing something called a respirocyte, a robotic red blood cell that, if injected into the bloodstream, would allow humans to do an Olympic sprint for 15 minutes without taking a breath or sit at the bottom of a swimming pool for hours at a time.

Other researchers are developing nanoparticles that can locate tumors and one day even eradicate them.

And some Parkinson’s patients now have pea-sized computers implanted in their brains that replace neurons destroyed by the disease; new software can be downloaded to the mini computers from outside the human body.

“Nanotechnology will not just be used to reprogram but to transcend biology and go beyond its limitations by merging with non-biological systems,” Kurzweil said. “If we rebuild biological systems with nanotechnology, we can go beyond its limits.”

The final revolution leading to the advent of Singularity will be the creation of artificial intelligence, or superintelligence, which, according to Kurzweil, could be capable of solving many of our biggest threats, like environmental destruction, poverty and disease.

“A more intelligent process will inherently outcompete one that is less intelligent, making intelligence the most powerful force in the universe,” Kurzweil writes.

Yet the invention of so many high-powered technologies and the possibility of merging these new technologies with humans may pose both peril and promise for the future of mankind.

“I think there are grave dangers,” Kurzweil said. “Technology has always been a double-edged sword.”

…………………………………………………………………………

Scientists to build ‘human brain’: Supercomputer will simulate the entire mind and will help fight against brain diseases

mind control

Scientists to build ‘human brain’: Supercomputer will simulate the entire mind and will help fight against brain diseases

  • The ‘brain’ will take 12 years to build
  • It will feature thousands of three-dimensional images built around a semi-circular ‘cockpit’

PUBLISHED: 18:27 GMT, 15 April 2012 | UPDATED: 19:14 GMT, 15 April 2012 

The human brain’s power could rival any machine. And now scientists are trying to build one using the world’s most powerful computer.

It is intended to combine all the information so far uncovered about its mysterious workings – and replicate them on a screen, right down to the level of individual cells and molecules.

If it works it could be revolutionary for understanding devastating neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and even shedding light into how we think, and make decisions.

 
Ambitious: Scientists are hoping to build a computer that will simulate the entire human brain
 
Ambitious: Scientists are hoping to build a computer that will simulate the entire human brain

Leading the project is Professor Henry Markram based in Switzerland, who will be working with scientists from across Europe including the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute at Cambridge.

They hope to complete it within 12 years. He said: ‘The complexity of the brain, with its billions of interconnected neurons, makes it hard for neuroscientists to truly understand how it works.

‘Simulating it will make it much easier – allowing them to manipulate and measure any aspect of the brain.’

Housed at a facility in Dusseldorf in Germany, the ‘brain’ will feature thousands of three-dimensional images built around a semi-circular ‘cockpit’ so scientists can virtually ‘fly’ around different areas and watch how they communicate with each other.

It aims to integrate all the neuroscience research being carried out all over the world – an estimated 60,000 scientific papers every year – into one platform.

The project has received some funding from the EU and has been shortlisted for a 1 billion euro (£825million) EU grant which will be decided next month.

When complete it could be used to test new drugs, which could dramatically shorten the time required for licencing them than human trials, and pave the way for more intelligent robots and computers. 

There are inevitably concerns about the consequences of this ‘manipulation’ and creating computers which can think for themselves. In Germany the media have dubbed the researchers ‘Team Frankenstein’.

 
The various areas of the human brain
Graphic: Corbis

But Prof Markram said: ‘This will, when successful, help two billion people annually who suffer from some type of brain impairment.

‘This is one of the three grand challenges for humanity. We need to understand earth, space and the brain. We need to understand what makes us human.’

Over the past 15 years his team have painstakingly studied and managed to produce a computer simulation of a cortical column – one of the small building blocks of a mammal’s brain.

They have also simulated part of a rat’s brain using a computer. But the human brain is a totally different proposition.

High energy consumption: The computer will require the output of a nuclear power station
 
High energy consumption: The computer will require the output of a nuclear power station like Sellafield, pictured here

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2130124/Scientists-build-human-brain-Supercomputer-simulate-mind-exactly-help-fight-brain-diseases.html#ixzz1yiRQqhoy

Mind-boggling! Science creates computer that can decode your thoughts and put them into words

Mind-boggling! Science creates computer that can decode your thoughts and put them into words

  • Technology could offer lifeline for stroke victims and people hit by degenerative diseases
  • In the study, a computer analyzed brain activity and reproduced words that people were hearing 

By Tamara Cohen
05:49 GMT, 1 February 2012

It sounds like the stuff of science fiction dreams – or nightmares.

Scientists believe they have found a way to read our minds, using a computer program that can decode brain activity in our brains and put it into words.

They say it could offer a lifeline to those whose speech has been affected by stroke or degenerative disease, but many will be concerned about the implications of a technique that can eavesdrop on thoughts and reproduce them.

Scroll down for video

 

Scientific breakthrough: An X-ray CT scan of the head of one of the volunteers, showing electrodes distributed over the brain's temporal lobe, where sounds are processed

Scientific breakthrough: An X-ray CT scan of the head of one of the volunteers, showing electrodes distributed over the brain’s temporal lobe, where sounds are processed

 
 
 
 

Weird science: Scientists believe the technique, shown here, could also be used to read and report what they were thinking of saying next

Weird science: Scientists believe the technique, shown here, could also be used to read and report what they were thinking of saying next

Neuroscientists at the University of California Berkeley put electrodes inside the skulls of brain surgery patients to monitor information from their temporal lobe, which is involved in the processing of speech and images.

As the patient listened to someone speaking, a computer program analysed how the brain processed and reproduced the words they had heard.

 

 

The scientists believe the technique could also be used to read and report what they were thinking of saying next.

In the journal PLoS Biology, they write that it takes attempts at mind reading to ‘a whole new level’.

 

Brain workings: Researchers tested 15 people who were already undergoing brain surgery to treat epilepsy or brain tumours

Brain workings: Researchers tested 15 people who were already undergoing brain surgery to treat epilepsy or brain tumours

 

Words with scientists: The top graphic shows a spectrogram of six isolated words (deep, jazz, cause) and pseudo-words (fook, ors, nim). At bottom, the speech segments how the words were reconstructed based on findings from the electrodes

Words with scientists: The top graphic shows a spectrogram of six isolated words (deep, jazz, cause) and pseudo-words (fook, ors, nim). At bottom, the speech segments how the words were reconstructed based on findings from the electrodes

Robert Knight, professor of psychology and neuroscience, added: ‘This is huge for patients who have damage to their speech mechanisms because of a stroke or Lou Gehrig’s [motor neurone] disease and can’t speak.

‘If you could eventually reconstruct imagined conversations from brain activity, thousands could benefit.’

 

The researchers tested 15 people who were already undergoing brain surgery to treat epilepsy or brain tumours.

They agreed to have up to 256 electrodes put on to the brain surface, as they listened to men and women saying individual words including nouns, verbs and names.

 
1
2
 

Testing: As a subject listened to someone speaking, a computer program analysed how the brain processed and reproduced the words they had heard

Breakthrough: The ability to scan the brain and read thoughts could offer a lifeline to those whose speech has been affected by a stroke or degenerative disease

Breakthrough: The ability to scan the brain and read thoughts could offer a lifeline to those whose speech has been affected by a stroke or degenerative disease

A computer programme analysed the activity from the electrodes, and reproduced the word they had heard or something very similar to it at the first attempt.

 
 

Co-author Brian Pasley said there is already mounting evidence that ‘perception and imagery may be pretty similar in the brain’.

Therefore with more work, brain recordings could allow scientists to ‘synthesise the actual sound a person is thinking, or just write out the words with a type of interface device.’

Their study also shows in sharp relief how the auditory system breaks down sound into its individual frequencies – a range of around 1 to 8,000 Hertz for human speech.

Pasley told ABC News: ‘This study mainly focused on lower-level acoustic characteristics of speech. But I think there’s a lot more happening in these brain areas than acoustic analysis’.

He added: ‘We sort of take it for granted, the ability to understand speech. But your brain is doing amazing computations to accomplish this feat.’

 
 

Analyzing words: This graphic breaks down the three ways the brain hears spoken words and processes sounds

Analyzing words: This graphic breaks down the three ways the brain hears spoken words and processes sounds

This information does not change inside the brain but can be accurately mapped and the original sound decoded by a computer. British expert Professor Jan Schnupp, from Oxford University who was not involved in the study said it was ‘quite remarkable’.

‘Neuroscientists have of course long believed that the brain essentially works by translating aspects of the external world, such as spoken words, into patterns of electrical activity’, he said.

‘But proving that this is true by showing that it is possible to translate these activity patterns back into the original sound (or at least a fair approximation of it) is nevertheless a great step forward, and it paves the way to rapid progress toward biomedical applications.’

He played down fears it could lead to range of ‘mind reading’ devices as the technique can only, at the moment, be done on patients willing to have surgery.

Non-invasive brain scans are not powerful enough to read this level of information so it will remain limited to ‘small numbers of willing patients’.

He added: ‘Perhaps luckily for all those of us who value the privacy of their own thoughts, we can rest assured that our skulls will remain an impenetrable barrier for any would-be technological mind hacker for any foreseeable future.’

Watch

http://cdnapi.kaltura.com/index.php/kwidget/wid/1_x2ou92gb/uiconf_id/5590821

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2094671/Mind-boggling-Science-creates-decode-thoughts-words.html#ixzz1wjAdr1ov

2050 – and immortality is within our grasp

2050 – and immortality is within our grasp

 

 David Smith, technology correspondent

Britain’s leading thinker on the future offers an extraordinary vision of life in the next 45 years

Cross section of the human brain

Supercomputers could render the wetware of the human brain redundant. Photograph: Gregor Schuster/Getty Images

Aeroplanes will be too afraid to crash, yoghurts will wish you good morning before being eaten and human consciousness will be stored on supercomputers, promising immortality for all – though it will help to be rich.

These fantastic claims are not made by a science fiction writer or a crystal ball-gazing lunatic. They are the deadly earnest predictions of Ian Pearson, head of the futurology unit at BT.

‘If you draw the timelines, realistically by 2050 we would expect to be able to download your mind into a machine, so when you die it’s not a major career problem,’ Pearson told The Observer. ‘If you’re rich enough then by 2050 it’s feasible. If you’re poor you’ll probably have to wait until 2075 or 2080 when it’s routine. We are very serious about it. That’s how fast this technology is moving: 45 years is a hell of a long time in IT.’

Pearson, 44, has formed his mind-boggling vision of the future after graduating in applied mathematics and theoretical physics, spending four years working in missile design and the past 20 years working in optical networks, broadband network evolution and cybernetics in BT’s laboratories. He admits his prophecies are both ‘very exciting’ and ‘very scary’.

He believes that today’s youngsters may never have to die, and points to the rapid advances in computing power demonstrated last week, when Sony released the first details of its PlayStation 3. It is 35 times more powerful than previous games consoles. ‘The new PlayStation is 1 per cent as powerful as a human brain,’ he said. ‘It is into supercomputer status compared to 10 years ago. PlayStation 5 will probably be as powerful as the human brain.’

The world’s fastest computer, IBM’s BlueGene, can perform 70.72 trillion calculations per second (teraflops) and is accelerating all the time. But anyone who believes in the uniqueness of consciousness or the soul will find Pearson’s next suggestion hard to swallow. ‘We’re already looking at how you might structure a computer that could possibly become conscious. There are quite a lot of us now who believe it’s entirely feasible.

‘We don’t know how to do it yet but we’ve begun looking in the same directions, for example at the techniques we think that consciousness is based on: information comes in from the outside world but also from other parts of your brain and each part processes it on an internal sensing basis. Consciousness is just another sense, effectively, and that’s what we’re trying to design in a computer. Not everyone agrees, but it’s my conclusion that it is possible to make a conscious computer with superhuman levels of intelligence before 2020.’

He continued: ‘It would definitely have emotions – that’s one of the primary reasons for doing it. If I’m on an aeroplane I want the computer to be more terrified of crashing than I am so it does everything to stay in the air until it’s supposed to be on the ground.

‘You can also start automating an awful lots of jobs. Instead of phoning up a call centre and getting a machine that says, “Type 1 for this and 2 for that and 3 for the other,” if you had machine personalities you could have any number of call staff, so you can be dealt with without ever waiting in a queue at a call centre again.’

Pearson, from Whitehaven in Cumbria, collaborates on technology with some developers and keeps a watching brief on advances around the world. He concedes the need to debate the implications of progress. ‘You need a completely global debate. Whether we should be building machines as smart as people is a really big one. Whether we should be allowed to modify bacteria to assemble electronic circuitry and make themselves smart is already being researched.

‘We can already use DNA, for example, to make electronic circuits so it’s possible to think of a smart yoghurt some time after 2020 or 2025, where the yoghurt has got a whole stack of electronics in every single bacterium. You could have a conversation with your strawberry yogurt before you eat it.’

In the shorter term, Pearson identifies the next phase of progress as ‘ambient intelligence’: chips with everything. He explained: ‘For example, if you have a pollen count sensor in your car you take some antihistamine before you get out. Chips will come small enough that you can start impregnating them into the skin. We’re talking about video tattoos as very, very thin sheets of polymer that you just literally stick on to the skin and they stay there for several days. You could even build in cellphones and connect it to the network, use it as a video phone and download videos or receive emails.’

Philips, the electronics giant, is developing the world’s first rollable display which is just a millimetre thick and has a 12.5cm screen which can be wrapped around the arm. It expects to start production within two years.

The next age, he predicts, will be that of ‘simplicity’ in around 2013-2015. ‘This is where the IT has actually become mature enough that people will be able to drive it without having to go on a training course.

‘Forget this notion that you have to have one single chip in the computer which does everything. Why not just get a stack of little self-organising chips in a box and they’ll hook up and do it themselves. It won’t be able to get any viruses because most of the operating system will be stored in hardware which the hackers can’t write to. If your machine starts going wrong, you just push a button and it’s reset to the factory setting.’

Pearson’s third age is ‘virtual worlds’ in around 2020. ‘We will spend a lot of time in virtual space, using high quality, 3D, immersive, computer generated environments to socialise and do business in. When technology gives you a life-size 3D image and the links to your nervous system allow you to shake hands, it’s like being in the other person’s office. It’s impossible to believe that won’t be the normal way of communicating.

Thought Reading and Control

Thought Reading and Control

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence-Nano Implants provides a new medical imaging technique for the brain and the possibility of “reverse engineering the brain”

future of humanity

The government lacks a regulator who can ensure that the laws for ethical review and informed consent for research on humans with brain implants followed. The shortage means that the Government neither can satisfy the requirements of the conventions on human rights and bioethics incumbent government, a precarious situation for European citizens.Graduate Abuse can happen completely without insight with brain-machine interface and e-science.

When science produces results that are changing the neurobiological description of human consciousness, what is left of the notions that humans have free will and personal responsibility for their actions? New knowledge about the neural basis of morality is blowing also renewed debate about the existence of a universal morality. These questions are discussed within the field of neuroethics, a subject that deals with the philosophical and ethical issues raised by neuroscience and cognitive research. (Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics )

Magnus Olsson

Scientists have the knowledge of the fMRI and PET cameras, among other things learned where in the brain electrodes (implants) must be placed to the E-science visualization of human perception.

In recent decades meetings between nanotechnology, information technology, biotechnology and neuroscience have produced a new research area, which is developing new, unknown products and services. We are facing a new revolution, which is already running with the launch of mind characterized universal computer. A unique perceptual tool, not only raise awareness for our minds but also imitate them: sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.

CNN UN stands for Cellular Neural / Non-linear Network – Universal Machine. And there are three innovators Tamás Rosk, Leon Chua, and Angel Rodriguez Vazques, who are the pioneers behind the “revolution of the senses”. They have introduced a new computer policy, which differs from the digital model magazine sparkling, lower standards.

We’ve said ‘yes’ without any major protests to the electronic age “first wave”. When we are referring to the cheap chip that made the PC to every man’s tools. “The second wave” came creeping – also without objection. A series of inexpensive electronic means such as lasers, the Internet was built for broadband and mobile phone, which is now self-evident part of our everyday lives. In the “third wave”, it also applies connections to the brain, called brain-computer integration (brain-Macine interface) and related network-based human-machine language. This means both huge benefits but also disadvantages to humans. The disadvantages include complex legal implications, concerning the identity and integrity.

brain control

 

Info-Bionic challenging society. In the biological field, we first familiarize ourselves with “smart” devices and tools, which stimulates and motivates the human central nervous system. But it also outlines smart prostheses implanted in the living organism. The direct contact between these “smart” nano-implants and our central nervous system, pointing towards a symbiosis (living together), between brain and computer. This new realm, which is named for info-bionic, challenge course, the traditional values of society and its ethical standards.

Computer scientists also predicts that within the next few years neural interfaces will be designed so that it will not only increase the dynamic range of the senses, but will also enhance memory and enable “cyberthink” that invisible communication built on ideas.

Direct connection to the brain: It is without doubt the most complicated task. Here are dangers as great as the opportunities. This is also bioethics responsibility far greater than in those areas, which so far we have touched. But really, all mined areas and the limitation of the commercial profit hunger is therefore highly desirable.

Future Technologies, Future and Emerging Technologies – FET. The basis for this strategy is the focus on the future of Information and Communication Technology – ICT

brain wheels 

Here are some quotes from the EU’s 7th Framework Programme. “Can one example understand and exploit the ways in which social and biological systems organize themselves and evolve, will pave the way for the development of new opportunities for next-generation software and network technologies. “ “The understanding of how the human brain works not only leads to innovations in medicine, but it also creates new models for energy, fault-tolerant and adaptive computer technology.” “FET support example, been crucial for research in quantum information technology in Europe. This technique promises an enormous computing power far beyond the capacity of ordinary computers, and also completely secure communications. By early investments have FET program made a decisive contribution to Europe now is a world leader in the field. “ “In the FET area carries, in addition, pioneering work on new ideas as artificial living cells, synthetic biology, chemical communication, collective intelligence and two-way interface between brain and machine.”

Research Council has published a booklet packed facts pocket “where gold glitters blue” on the new nanoscience. This new technology opens up tremendous opportunities, but also contains a number of ethical issues. Sweden Europe and the rest of the world currently lacks clear ethical guidelines.

 Building the Mind

Here are quotes from the book written by Ulf Görman, professor of ethics and religious studies at Lund University. Nanoelectronics! A number of ethical declarations have been introduced to prevent abuse of people, including the Declaration of Helsinki. In 1997, also signed the EU Member States’ Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine “in the Spanish city of Oviedo. -These declarations have been added in response to the abuse of people who were in World War II. Oviedo Convention and other European rules have resulted in new legislation in Sweden. For example, the Privacy Act, which came into force in 1998, and the Act on Ethical Review of Research Involving Humans, which came into force in 2004. Ulf Görman believe that when we do a retrospective, it is easy for us to distinguish between unethical and ethical good research.

Now we open the doors to an unknown area where we do not know how to apply ethics.What should it be and what should not be allowed when you can make the electrode implant that can both influence and learn of the brain? He takes up the example of studying learning and memory. ”Micro Implants can provide unprecedented opportunities to understand how we learn and remember things, and hence why we forget and find it difficult to learn. While it may be perceived as a form of abuse that like that look in our most private mental world “.

Thought Control – a new ethical problem. Being able to connect the human brain to a computer via electrodes open, of course, frightening possibilities. Will it be feasible to control a person’s thoughts? There are important ethical aspects of this. One could of course theoretically able to control brain functions and modify people’s personality. For example, making them more or less prone to aggression or to increase learning ability by adding the chronic stimulation. It’s like with everything else, in that the knowledge is there, you can use it in many ways. Ulf Görman

Swedish and EU researchers possess, in secret, a privilege of the commercial profit hunger to develop these advanced technologies. Researchers may, without obtaining the informed consent and without the approval of an ethics board inject nanotechnology and research on humans, completely “Top Secret”. This is the way to the products, software and network technology is approaching patent application and a commercial launch of the research results, is on its way.

mind brain 

Research where informed consent could not be obtained and an approval of an ethics board would not be due to the physical and psychological risks for the individual is totally unknown, will not stop Swedish an EU researchers.

Withholding research reports on the development of new technologies means that the existing diagnosis in psychiatry and the judicial system disposes of the victims of abuse research, which makes these instances of “missing traders” for the illegal research. In this way, researchers will escape detection, and no responsibility. In nanotechnology and human-machine integration is the market and the power that controls, not ethics.

Because of that situation, people are slaughtered with impunity as research objects with the new technologies. When the legislative and diagnostics are missing, the computer-brain integration, it follows that attempts objects during research time exposed to serious torture.Graduate abuses have naturally resulted in the subjects in pure frustration committed ensanity acts and ended up in prison or in psychiatric care. Had the law existed and functioned, this research instead to point out that scientists are forced to drive people “across the border” and charged to the judiciary and mental health.

Although concrete evidence because of evaded research reports are currently lacking, so will future research and patents, of course, be able to uncover this hidden aggravated criminal research.

When the government knowingly or unknowingly withholds itself from scientific information will result in a right wrecked Sweden (EU). People can during the long development of the computer brains of the Internet-based human-machine language is not heard. This leads to pure execution is under development to cover up the criminal teknologys rampage.

How much longer must people illegally be injected at hospitals? How much longer must people’s brains are allowed to “cut” for the enslavement of the scientists’ services without compensation? How much longer must people assaulted, death and / or misdiagnosed before the government makes sure to meet the conventions on human rights and bioethics? Who takes responsibility for the children that are left homeless when the researchers injected and linked up attempts of people who have family, social welfare and labor? How many people have died earlier in scientific experiments because of lack of transparency in the Swedish neuroscience hunt for power and money? How many ensanity acts, traffic accidents, deaths in maternity hospitals, and even political murder has been diagnosed, but no account is taken of nanotechnology and the many years of development of technologies for computer-brain integration and the study of human behavior?

Five years of direct connectivity of the brain, the pattern recognition of brain neurons to cognitive behavior (perception), designed with artificial intelligence in a multimedia connection between brain implant and computers.

By Magnus Olsson (Mindtech) Sweden

“Humanity is about going beyond biological limitations”

Image: Drawing of The Vitruvian Man

Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of The Vitruvian man.

NEW YORK Dreams of immortality inspired the fantastical tales of Greek historian Herodotus and Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon’s legendary search for the fountain of youth. Nowadays, visionaries push for the technologies to transplant human brains into new bodies and download human consciousness into hologram-like avatars.

The latest science and schemes for achieving long life and the “singularity” moment of smarter-than-human intelligence came together at the Singularity Summit held here October 15-16. Some researchers explored cutting-edge, serious work about regenerating human body parts and defining the boundaries of consciousness in brain studies. Other speakers pushed visions of extending human existence in “Avatar”- style bodies — one initiative previously backed by action film star Steven Seagal — with fuzzier ideas about how to create such a world.

Above all, the summit buzzed with optimism about technology’s ability to reshape the world to exceed humanity’s wildest dreams, as well as a desire to share that vision with everyone. True believers were even offered the chance to apply for a credit card that transfers purchase rewards to the Singularity Institute.

“Humanity is about going beyond biological limitations,” said Ray Kurzweil, the inventor and futurist whose vision drives the Singularity Institute.

Rebuilding a healthy body The most immediate advances related to living longer and better may come from regenerative medicine. Pioneering physicians have already regrown the tips of people’s fingers and replaced cancer-ridden parts of human bodies with healthy new cells.

“What we’re talking about here is not necessarily increasing the quantity of life but the quality of life,” said Stephen Badylak, deputy director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.

Success so far has come from using a special connective tissue — called the extracellular matrix (ECM) — to act as a biological scaffold for healthy cells to build upon. Badylak showed a video where his team of surgeons stripped out the cancerous lining of a patient’s esophagus like pulling out a sock, and relined the esophagus with an ECM taken from pigs. The patient remains cancer-free several years after the experimental trial.

The connective tissue of other animals doesn’t provoke a negative response in human bodies, because it lacks the foreign animal cells that would typically provoke the immune system to attack. It has served the same role as a biological foundation for so long that it represents a “medical device that’s gone through hundreds of millions of years of R&D,” Badylak said.

If work goes well, Badylak envisions someday treating stroke patients by regenerating pieces of the functioning human brain.

Live long and prosper The work of such researchers could do more than just keep humans happy and healthy. By tackling end-of-life chronic diseases such as cancer, medical advances could nearly double human life expectancy beyond almost 80 years in the U.S. to 150 years, said Sonia Arrison, a futurist at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco, Calif.

Long-lived humans could lead to problems such as anger over a “longevity gap” between haves and have-nots and perhaps add to stress on food, water and energy sources. But Arrison took a more positive view of how “health begets wealth” in a talk based on her new book, “100 Plus” (Basic Books, 2011).

Having healthier people around for longer means that they can remain productive far later in life, Arrison pointed out. Many past innovators accomplished some of their greatest or most creative work relatively late in life — Leonardo da Vinci began painting the Mona Lisa at 51, and Benjamin Franklin conducted his kite experiment at 46.

“Innovation is a late-peak field,” Arrison told the audience gathered at the Singularity Summit.

Even religion might find a renewed role in a world where death increasingly looks far off, Arrison said. Religion remains as popular as ever despite a doubling of human life expectancy up until now, and so Arrison suggested that religions focused on providing purpose or guidance in life could do well. But religions focused on the afterlife may want to rethink their strategy.

Making ‘Avatar’ real (or not) The boldest scheme for immortality came from media mogul Dmitry Itskov, who introduced his “Project Immortality 2045: Russian Experience.” He claimed support from the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Education and Science, as well as actor Seagal, to create a research center capable of giving humans life-extending bodies.

Itskov’s wildly ambitious plans include creating a humanoid avatar body within five to seven years, transplanting a human brain into a new “body B” in 10 to 15 years, digitally uploading a human brain’s consciousness in 20 to 25 years, and moving human consciousness to hologram-like bodies in 30 to 35 years.

That vision may have exceeded even the optimism of many Singularity Summit attendees, given the apparent restlessness of the crowd during Itskov’s presentation. But it did little to dampen the conference’s overall sense that humanity has a positive future within its collective grasp — even if some people still need to be convinced.

“We are storming the fricking barricades of death, both physically and intellectually, so we have to make it sexy,” said Jason Silva, a filmmaker and founding producer/host for Current TV.

By Jeremy Hsu

    10/17/2011 7:39:40 PM ET2011-10-17T23:39:40

You can follow InnovationNewsDaily Senior Writer Jeremy Hsu on Twitter @ScienceHsu. Follow InnovationNewsDaily on Twitter @News_Innovation, or on Facebook.