What is the human brain and how does it function? What opportunities will emerge when novel technologies effectively interface brains with computers and machines and are future brain-computer-interfaces (BCIs) a threat to mankind? Will we soon be able to connect our brains directly to the internet and expand our intellect by merging our biological brains with non-biological intelligence? Is it possible to simulate a whole brain and could such simulation be sufficient to trigger all those properties that are instantiated in human brains, including phenomenally conscious properties of feeling, emotions, etc.? Are there potential threats by such simulations?
Discuss these questions from a science and philosophy perspective with fellow students of the Swiss Study Foundation and with Johannes Fankhauser and Oliver Bichsel during a two day workshop on August 19 and 20, 2017 in Zürich.
To find a common ground, we will first give a short introduction on what the human brain is and how it functions.
Next, we will evaluate signals and locations that can be exploited by novel technologies to interface the human brain with computers and machines. This rapidly emerging field of research and application is called Brain-Computer Interface (BCIs).
We will brainstorm potential applications of BCIs and discuss emerging benefits and harms thereof. Current and future applications of BCIs in modern medicine and communication technology, inter alia cochlear implants, adaptive Deep Brain Stimulation, neuroprosthesis, neurofeedback, and Elon Musk’s Neuralink, will be explained and promoted in order to provoke debates and raise important philosophical considerations and questions. Will we soon be able to connect our brains directly to the internet and expand our intellect by merging our biological brains with non-biological intelligence?
In the second part, we shall discuss some thought experiments and general considerations on the relationship between the mind, the brain, and the body in order to prepare for philosophical discussion. Specifically, we look at philosophical zombies and brain in vets, with a brief survey through the problem of consciousness. Moreover, we ask about the role of brain-computer interfaces in conscious experience. The format is supposed to be mainly discussions with short inputs.
The last part of the seminar focuses on the subject of whole-brain simulation/emulation. Current technology allows humans to virtually simulate a great number of natural events and processes. A major contemporary scientific challenge in this domain consists of simulating the functioning of the entire human brain, otherwise known as whole-brain emulation. This raises a number of technical and philosophical questions, which we shall develop in group discussions. Is it possible to simulate a whole brain? Why have major projects like the Human Brain Project not yet succeeded in doing so? What would be the practical utility of such a simulation? Could a brain simulation be sufficient to trigger all those properties that are instantiated in human brains, including phenomenally conscious properties of feeling, emotions, etc.? Are there potential threats by such simulations?
Verantwortliche Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin: Silvie Cuperus
Verantwortliche Administrative Mitarbeiterin: Nathalie Ellington
Leiter: Oliver Bichsel und Johannes Fankhauser
Sprache: Dieses Seminar wird grösstenteils auf Deutsch durchgeführt.
Ort: ETH Zürich
Übernachtung: Hotel wird durch die Schweizerische Studienstiftung organisiert
Teilnehmer/innen: max. 20