My favorite magazine is SEED. The 25 year old editor thereof is Jonah Lehrer. I’m a big fan.
His latest article (just released online) Out Of The Blue was easily my one of my all-time favorites. In it Lehrer artfully recounts an interview with Henry Markram, the director of the Blue Brain project. Markram’s group seeks, in a joint venture with IBM, to “construct a thinking, remembering, decision-making, biologically accurate brain from a supercomputer.”
After weaving together the portrait of the dreamer with his fantastical dream Lehrer artfully concludes with the philosophical implications of their ambitious agenda:
Niels Bohr once declared that the opposite of a profound truth is also a profound truth. This is the charmed predicament of the Blue Brain project. If the simulation is successful, if it can turn a stack of silicon microchips into a sentient being, then the epic problem of consciousness will have been solved. The soul will be stripped of its secrets; the mind will lose its mystery. However, if the project fails—if the software never generates a sense of self, or manages to solve the paradox of experience—then neuroscience may be forced to confront its stark limitations. Knowing everything about the brain will not be enough. The supercomputer will still be a mere machine. Nothing will have emerged from all of the information. We will remain what can’t be known.
We’ll no doubt be hearing a lot about Markram as Blue Brain evolves. Read the article to be on the up-and-up or, if philosophy of mind isn’t inherently interesting to you, Lehrer’s riveting literary prowess.