Saturday, February 23, 2013

Maybe He Didn't See the Part Where the Monkey Controlled a Robot on the Other Side of the World With Its Little Monkey Brain

On Thursday I put up a link to a post from MIT's Tech Review titled "A leading neuroscientist says Kurzweil’s Singularity isn’t going to happen....". I also dug up a TEDMED talk by the same neuroscientist, Miguel Nicholelis.

FT Alphaville linked to our post (thanks Izabella) and got in response this comment:
vlade | February 22 8:51am | Permalink Re singularity - he has no arguments, just opinion (for the matter, the same is more or less true for the other side).

There was an interesting experiment done by Thompson in evolving electrical circuits. He decided to do it in silicon (as opposed just on computer), and the final solution was using only 32 cells (vs. 100 he started with). But the interesting bit came that when you removed some of the UNUSED cells, the whole solution suffered. So when Nicolelis says " most important features are the result of unpredictable, non-linear interactions amongst billions of cells", it's clear he hasn't even seen Thompsons experiment which shows just that in silicon. 
Yikes! That's harsh.

The thing is, no one who saw the TEDMED talk would ever have had such thoughts and the fact vlade did may be my fault.
I intro'd the vid with "If you're into mind controlled robotic avatars here's the M.D. PhD showoff at TEDMED 2012:", technically accurate but perhaps too understated.

What Dr. Nicholelis did in one of his experiments was have a monkey, implanted with electrodes, at his laboratory in Durham North Carolina control a humanoid robot in Kyoto Japan using a video feedback to show the monkey the robot was moving based on the monkey's intentions.

Say what?

I've got to think Nicholelis knows more about brain machine interfaces than most folks and saying something like "Re singularity - he has no arguments, just opinion..." is just silly.

It gets even worse. Although I may not have communicated the import of the experiment, in the same Further Reading post Ms. Kaminska went out of her way to find and link to another story on Nicholelis titled "Monkey mentally controls robot 7,000 miles away".
That's putting it about as plainly as it can be put.

Anybody who can do that brain-machine interface is more than qualified, at least in my book, to comment on the merger of machines and humans, the singularity (or The Rapture of the Nerds).

This should teach us a lesson but I'm not sure what lesson it would be.
I do know I'd like to play Vlade in some sort of zero-sum or winner take all game.

This is just mind blowing:

This monkey controls a robot on the other side of the world — just by thinking

Or, as one VentureBeat commenter put it: