Biological Simultions Advancing Rapidly

Remember the molecular dynamics simulation of a virus I mentioned in the opening pages of the book? That were 1 Million atoms for 50 ns back in 2005. Now that we are well into the 2nd decade of the 3rd millennium researchers have stepped up their game and are tackling entire bacteria:

Using data supplied by researchers at the Max Planck Institute, University of Illinois postdoctoral researcher Elijah Roberts and chemistry professor Zaida Luthey-Schulten built a computer model of a bacterial cell that accurately simulates the behavior of actual cells.

Amazing! Now – whether you believe Wikipedia or or the Institute for Biomolecular Design, a E-Coli bacterium weights between 10^-12 and 10^-16 grams placing the number of atoms somewhere between half a Billion and 7 Trillion a pop. Taking the conservative approach by assuming half a Billion atoms we arrive at a factor 500 increase over 6 years.

Taking this armchair approach one step further there are about 100 Trillion cells in the human body that each have roughly 10’000 times more atoms than an E-Coli. So, how many years until we can reliably simulate a human being on the cellular level?

10^14*10^4 = 10^18 = ~500^7 ==> 7×6 = 43 years.

My prediction: if you are born post new year’s day 1975 – you will likely be around for the Singularity. Provided of course we will not descent into a post peak oil, fascist-theocratic dystopia before that. Take care of your lawn – you have been warned.


Jame5 2nd edition – call for testimonials

It has been a good two years now since I first published Jame5 in form of a dead tree and it was a great ride. Not only have I had the pleasure of founding the Beijing Futurist Society and Acceleration Aware Singapore but I also decided to quit my day job in order to focus on my research and entrepreneurial pursuits full time. And boy, oh boy did this rabbit hole turned out to go deep!

By now I managed to give away almost all of the 500 initial copies that I printed and am ready for a 2nd edition that will hopefully iron out the majority of the remaining spelling mistakes. So I thought it would add a nice touch if I got a few more testimonials and put them into the 2nd edition. So if you want to see your praise or constructive criticizm in print on Amazon do make sure to send me a 3-5 sentence blurp including name, URL, organization, title or whatever else you wish to add by the end of October 2009. I would really appreciate it!

For those of you willing to go beyond the call of duty, feel free to read over the final draft of the 2nd edition of Jame5 and let me know any errors my editor and me may have missed for the second time.

Last but not least: 2 years ago I thought self publishing Jame5 would be a good idea since what else could a big publisher do that I could not? Well – turns out that I do not have a marketing machine and while having ~1000 readers is nice, having 20’000 and someone else pay for distribution would be much nicer. So, since I still do not have a professional publisher, anyone with a good idea or connections on how to get Jame5 published properly, please do get in touch.


Distributed brain simulation effort taking shape

In a recent story on the Singularity Hub Aaron Saenz laid out the basic tenant behind Intelligence Realm‘s artificial intelligence project. In a nutshell IR is using the BIONC architecture to create neural brain simulations. What distinguishes them from IBM’s Blue Brain initiative, is the distributed nature of their approach. Where IBM is throwing big iron at the problem, IR is using idle processor cyclces of thousands of volunteers and is thus following in teh foot steps of such successful BOINC projects as SETI@Home as well as Foldong@Home.

From the article:

If someone considers the development of artificial intelligence impossible or too far into the future to care about, I can only tell him or her, “Embrace the inevitable”. The advances in the field of neuroscience are increasing rapidly. Scientists are thorough. Understanding its benefits and pitfalls is all that is needed.

Hear, hear – my thoughts exactly. There is just one tiny little detail that raised my eyebrows about the project:

Well…, we will not be able to provide full details about the entire project because we are pursuing a business model, so that we can support the project in the future, so there is little chance of a collaboration with a University or other research institution.

Of course this was bound to happen…


Will the Mind Figure Out How the Brain Works?

In an opt-ed piece on notable scholar of language and philosophy of mind Steven Pinker is presenting his view on the question if the brain can understand itself:

Will neurologists scan our brains down to the last synapse and duplicate the wiring in a silicon chip, giving our minds eternal life?

Personally I do not feel that 100% understanding is required actually. We do not fully understand the universe but never the less come up with all kinds of useful gadgets that fulfill their intended functions within the margin of error between the applied theories used in their design and actual reality.

As long as we understand the brain well enough to improve it even just a little we will have a runaway intelligence explosion aka technological singularity.


Cognitive computing update

Just a quick update with some news on IBM’s cognitive computing project which Wired describes in a nutshell as follows:

In what could be one of the most ambitious computing projects ever, neuroscientists, computer engineers and psychologists are coming together in a bid to create an entirely new computing architecture that can simulate the brain’s abilities for perception, interaction and cognition. All that, while being small enough to fit into a lunch box and consuming extremely small amounts of power.

Together with the Blue Brain project as well as advances in memristor based electronics this project’s stated goal of building what amounts to a ‘brain in a lunch box’ is moving a lot of the science fiction in Jame5 into the realm of engineering. The fact that barely 18 months passed since Jame5’s initial publication speaks volumes about what is to be expected in the not so distant future. For a more technical background there is some very good material online about IBM Research’s Almaden Institute Conference on Cognitive Computing.

These guys are not playing around.


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