How long until there is a significantly independent robot economy and how quickly could computer brain interfaces improve ?

Kyle Munkittrick wrote Why I’m Not Afraid of the Singularity.

Don’t start fretting about evil AGI until we live in an economy that is solely robot labor.

Heartland robotics could launch a far wider robotics revolution shortly. 100 million fairly advanced robots with precision arms and mobility could be in place by 2020. One advanced robot per person could be a reality by 2030.

So the precondition of not fretting about evil AGI could be met by 2030. This could become quite apparent before 2020 with a lot of advanced personal robots and small scale manufacturing robots and popularization of additive manufacturing.

Robotic cars could be widespread before 2025 with legal driverless cars in Nevada. Commercial cars could have semi-automated driving by 2016.

Kyle recently made the case for a Cybernetic Singularity

The Singularity should be re-imagined as a cybernetic process in which the human mind is progressively augmented with better and more complimentary artificial left-brain capacities. The Singularity will be the perfection of the mind-computer interface, such that where the mental processes of the human right-brain ends and the high-powered computer left-brain ends will be indistinguishable both externally by objective observation and internally by the subjective experience of the individual. I call this event the Cybernetic Singularity.

What I will be summarizing are projects that already underway for brain computer interfaces and brain emulation. Robotics, brain computer interfaces and artificial general intelligences will all get a boost in capability with molecular manufacturing in the 2030-2050 timeframe.

I prefer the idea of slow upload/transfers.

I described the slow consciousness transfer in November, 2010

We are making progress to prosthetics for the brain. I have been tracking this progress closely.

If we get enough memory and a high traffic wetbrain to computer brain connection so that there is a shared consciousness from the wetbrain with the added part. Then over days/months and years there is consciousness over both parts. Memory and visual stimuli spanning both systems and we can ensure thorough copying and duplication.

If the wetbrain is lost at some future point – it becomes like how a stroke is experienced by people now. There was more brain before and then part is lost. If the part that was lost is fully duplicated with other parts of the brain then it could be a minor stroke.

Consciousness and personality is preserved when someone loses 1% of their brain.

By being able to have consciousness span current brain and new brain for a sufficient period of time and having real time consciousness operating throughout the upload and eventual shutoff there would be less issue over is consciousness preserved. I personally would have more confidence in that process than the fast upload scenarios.

Consciousness transfer

We need to perfect mind machine interfaces and have brain prosthetics and integrated co-processors.

Brain computer interfaces could progress to the level of neurons and synapses.

Machine coprocessors for the brain would have devices that work along with the human mind and communicate directly with it.

Non-biological systems do not have to be digital.

One of the defining features of the connections between neurons is that they become stronger when neurons fire together; hence the phrase “neurons that fire together, wire together”, a phenomenon otherwise known as Hebbian learning. Various experiments have shown that this effect is most pronounced early in the learning process, when the increase in connection strength is greatest. Later learning merely reinforces the links

Using a single memristor to connect two neurons, the memristance decreases when a voltage is applied which increases the current which in turn causes the memristance to drop further, in a kind of positive feedback effect. Using two memristors in series solves the problem according to work by Farnood Merrikh-Bayat and Saeed Bagheri Shouraki. Choosing their memristance carefully allows them to reproduce Hebbian-type synapse strengthening more or less exactly.

There are funded projects for implantable neurochips to restore brain functions.

The Human Brain Project has been officially selected as one of the finalists for the EU’s FET Flagship Program. The goal of the project, proposed by a Consortium of European Universities, is to create a simulation of the human brain – an achievement that promises to revolutionize not only neuroscience, medicine and the social sciences – but also information technology and robotics. This project could receive $1.6 billion in funding.

IMEC is working on deep brain stimulation (DBS) probes

At imec, we’re working on improving DBS technology. We’ve created electrodes that are much smaller (down to 10µm) and that can stimulate small groups of nerve cells. And we’ve worked on the electronics to make the stimulus a directed beam, pointing towards the targeted cells, instead of stimulating the whole region around the probe. Last, we’re also working on a closed-loop stimulation, where signals from brain cells are measured and used to steer the applied stimuli.

In maybe 5 years, these techniques will lead to DBS probes in clinical use that are much smarter and more widely applicable than today’s crude appliances.

But when I look further out, say 10 to 20 years from now, I believe the technology that we are developing today will eventually be used in smart brain implants. Such implants could replace and repair damaged brain tissue. Or fill brain cavities caused by tumors, accidents, or brain infarcts.

With the help of imaging and 3D prototyping technology, it will be possible to create highly precise 3D implants, such as are already used today to replace damaged bone tissue. We would of course have to make these implants in flexible, stretchable, biocompatible materials, so that they fit in comfortable with the surrounding brain tissue. On the surface of these implants, there will be thousands of micro-electrodes that can individually stimulate and listen to the neurons in their neighborhood.

What will such implants be able to do?

First, they will passively fill a cavity with a biocompatible, quasi-living, signaling body. But we will eventually also learn to use the implant as an active body. An active body, first, that stimulates the growth of neurons. We could make sponge-like implants, for example, that allow nerve cells to populate the implant. And second, a body that bridges signals, that reconnects the neural pathways that were destroyed. Of course, we don’t know exactly which neurons were connected in the first place. But the brain is plastic and self-healing. We see with retinal implants, for example, that the brain is able to re-establish suitable connections if it is given the pathways to do so. So the implant will have to support this learning and healing phase, with the help of selective, directed closed-loop stimuli

Scientists have developed a way to turn memories on and off – literally with the flip of a switch. Using an electronic system that duplicates the neural signals associated with memory, they managed to replicate the brain function in rats associated with long-term learned behavior, even when the rats had been drugged to forget.

Researchers at North Carolina State University have demonstrated new “soft” electronic components, built from liquid metals and hydrogels. The scientists hope that such components—quasi-liquid diodes and memristors—will work better than traditional electronics to interface with wet squishy things, such as the human brain.

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