Jesse Mazer wrote:
[quoting Stathis Papaioannou]
Nevertheless, I still think it would be *extremely* difficult to emulate a
whole brain. Just about every physical parameter for each neuron would be
relevant, down to the atomic level. If any of these parameters are
slightly off, or if the mathematical model is slightly off, the behaviour
of a single neuron may seem to be unaffected, but the error will be
amplified enormously by the cascade as one neuron triggers another.
I don't think that follows. After all, we maintain the same personality
despite the fact that these detailed parameters are constantly varying in
our own neurons (and the neurons themselves are being completely replaced
every few months or so); neural networks are not that "brittle", they tend
to be able to function in broadly the same way even when damaged in various
ways, and slight imperfections in the simulated behavior of individual
neurons could be seen as a type of damage. As long as the behavior of each
simulated neuron is "close enough" to how the original neuron would have
behaved in the same circumstances, I don't think occasional slight
deviations would be fatal to the upload...
Perhaps, perhaps not. For one thing, in the brain's case we are relying on
the laws of chemistry and physics, which in the real world are invariable;
we don't know what would happen if these laws were slightly off in a
simulation. For another, we do know that tiny chemical changes, such as a
few molecules of LSD, can make huge behavioural changes, suggesting that the
brain is exquisitely sensitive to at least some parameters. It is likely
that multiple error correction and negative feedback systems are in place to
ensure that small changes are not chaotically amplified to cause gross
mental changes after a few seconds, and all these systems would have to be
simulated as well. The end result may be that none of the cellular machinery
can be safely ignored in an emulation, which is very far from modelling the
brain as a neural net. I may be wrong, and it may be simpler than I suggest,
but as a general rule, if there were a simpler and more economical way to do
things, evolution would have found it.
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