Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Real Frankenstein Experiment: One Man's Mission to Create a Living Mind Inside a Machine

By Michael Hanlon

His words staggered the erudite audience gathered at a technology conference in Oxford last summer.

Professor Henry Markram, a doctor-turned-computer engineer, announced that his team would create the world's first artificial conscious and intelligent mind by 2018.

And that is exactly what he is doing.

On the shore of Lake Geneva, this brilliant, eccentric scientist is building an artificial mind. A Swiss - it could only be Swiss - precision- engineered mind, made of silicon, gold and copper.

The end result will be a creature, if we can call it that, which its maker believes within a decade may be able to think, feel and even fall in love.

Professor Markram's 'Blue Brain' project, must rank as one of the most extraordinary endeavours in scientific history.

If this 47-year-old South-African Israeli is successful, then we are on the verge of realising an age-old fantasy, one first imagined when an adolescent Mary Shelley penned Frankenstein, her tale of an artificial monster brought to life - a story written, quite coincidentally, just a few miles from where this extraordinary experiment is now taking place.

Success will bring with it philosophical, moral and ethical conundrums of the highest order, and may force us to confront what it means to be human.

But Professor Markram thinks his artificial mind will render vivisection obsolete, conquer insanity and even improve our intelligence and ability to learn.

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