I had some interesting conversations at AAAS on the topic of Artificial Intelligence. In particular around the question: “Can we replicate the functionality of the human brain?”
Everyone I ran into who does actual scientific research on the human brain just shook their heads at the idea of creating an artificial human brain. Their arguments were twofold: (1) We still, after all this time, have no idea whatsoever how to model the brain, and (2) From what we know, the hardware complexity required to replicate just the low level neural activity in a single brain is vastly beyond the combined power of all of the world’s CPUs, even if it turns out that what the brain does is Turing computable in any practical sense.
Furthermore, they don’t think what the brain does is Turing computable in any practical sense. And don’t even get them started on Ray Kurzweil.
On the other hand, pretty much everyone else I spoke with — people who don’t know much about the subject — seemed firmly convinced that we will have an artificial human brain within the next ten years (except for a skeptical few, who thought it might take as much as twenty years).
These non-neuroscientists, generally quite intelligent and informed people, responded to any suggestion that replicating the functionality of the human brain might be out of reach by simply rolling their eyes, while saying things like “Hey, they once thought human flight was impossible.”
Somewhere in here is an interesting story about the extreme disparity of opinion between (1) those who have spent years studying the brain and (2) everyone else.
I’m just not quite sure yet what that story is.