Thursday, September 10, 2015

Singularity appears not as near as originally presumed....

I've always been curious about the science behind the notion that we can achieve singularity - ie that we could devise intelligent devices on par with the human brain and mind....

This excellent article "The Brain vs Deep Learning Part I: Computational Complexity — Or Why the Singularity Is Nowhere Near" outlines a range of topics, although long and complex beyond my background in neuroscience... yet it makes me pause and question once again our culture's premises and assumptions - singularity while not impossible, is far more challenging than ever conceived, I trust, if we were to really attempt to mimic the miracle of our human form:

Here's an excerpt:

Factors which help to predict a singularity
Ray Kurzweil has made many very accurate predictions and his methods to reach these predictions are quite simple for computing devices: Look at the exponential growth of computing power, efficiency, and size, and then extrapolate. This way, you could easily predict the emergence of small computers which fit into your hands and with a bit of creativity, one could imagine that one day there would be tablets and smartphones. The trends were there, you just needed to imagine what could be done with computers which you can hold in your hand.

Similarly, Ray Kurzweil predicted the emergence of strong AI which is as intelligent or more intelligent than humans. For this prediction he also used data for the exponential growth of computing power and compared this to an estimate for the computational power of the brain.

He also acknowledges that the software will be as important as the hardware, and that the software development of strong AI will take longer because such software can only be developed once fast computer systems are available. This can be felt in the area of deep learning, where solid ideas of the 1990s were unfeasible due to the slow computers. Once graphic processing units (GPUs) were used, these computing limitations were quickly removed and rapid progress could be made.

However, Kurzweil also stresses that once the hardware level is reached, first “simple” strong AI systems will be developed quickly. He sets the date for brain-like computational power to 2020 and the emergence of strong AI (first human like intelligence or better) to 2030. Why these numbers? With persisting growth in computing power in 2019 we will reach the computing power which is equivalent to the human brain — or will we?

This estimate is based on two things: (1) The estimate for the complexity of the brain, (2) the estimate for the growth in computing power. As we will see, both these estimates are not up-to-date with current technology and knowledge about neuroscience and high performance computing.

Our knowledge of neuroscience doubles about every year. Using this doubling period, in the year of 2005 we would only have possessed about 0.098% of the neuroscience knowledge that we have today. This number is a bit off, because the doubling time was about 2 years in 2005 while it is less than a year now, but overall it is way below 1 %.

The thing is that Ray Kurzweil based his predictions on the neuroscience of 2005 and never updated them. An estimate for the brains computational power based on 1% of the neuroscience knowledge does not seem right. Here is small list of a few important discoveries made in the last two years which increase the computing power of the brain by many orders of magnitude:

It was shown that brain connections rather than being passive cables, can themselves process information and alter the behavior of neurons in meaningful ways, e.g. brain connections help you to see the objects in everyday life. This fact alone increases brain computational complexity by several orders of magnitude
Neurons which do not fire still learn: There is much more going on than electrical spikes in neurons and brain connections: Proteins, which are the little biological machines which make everything in your body work, combined with local electric potential do a lot of information processing on their own — no activation of the neuron required
Neurons change their genome dynamically to produce the right proteins to handle everyday information processing tasks. Brain: “Oh you are reading a blog. Wait a second, I just upregulate this reading-gene to help you understand the content of the blog better.” (This is an exaggeration — but it is not too far off)

Read more here.

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