Last meeting we talked about connectomics--a research program that aims to map the neural structure of the human brain. There seemed to be widespread skepticism within the group about the ability of connectomics to contribute to goal of uploading a human mind onto a computer. Three key complaints were:
1. It is not clear that it would be feasible to handle the vast amount of data required to describe the complete neural structure of the human brain.
2. It is not clear that describing the complete neural structure of the human brain is sufficient to describe the complete functional structure of the human brain (i.e., it leaves out glia, leaves out other important components of the organism of which the brain is a part, ignores plasticity and development over time, etc.).
3. It is not clear that describing the complete functional structure of the human brain is sufficient to describe the human mind.
Apart from (but sometimes connected to) these worries were the following issues:
-A neural map of the brain does not by itself describe the different interactions between the different areas of the brain, the rules that govern these interactions, nor the purposes served by these interactions.
-A neural map of a given brain at a given time does not describe the ways that brain has changed over time in the past nor the ways it is disposed to change in the future (i.e., it is a time-slice snapshot of an entity that is in flux).
-The human brain is connected to many other parts of the human organism, and these connections are important to understanding the brain's functioning and development.
-A map of the neural structure of the brain does not describe the ways that individual neurons that are a part of the map function or change over time (e.g., whether they are "on" or "off," what changes they may be subject to over time, etc.).
-Connectomics is modeled on genomics, and one lesson from the latter is that we do not know much at all about the related issues. While there is a sense in which we are our genes, it is not clear what lessons to draw from this. Similarly, even while there may be a sense in which we are our connectomes, it remains unclear what lessons to draw from this. In particular, it remains unclear how the truth of this claim might underwrite mind-uploading of the sort that might allow for continued human life.
-It is unclear whether we should aim at artificially modelling the human mind by trying to copy actual human minds (as connectomics suggests) or trying to develop increasingly more sophisticated artificial intelligences that resemble human intelligence.
If there are points I have missed, please feel free to add them in the comments. Also, if there is something more you would like to say, please do so in the comments here.