Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

The real ethical questions always sneak in through the back door

I'm working my way through my current backlog (about 4 days), and came across this article via dglenn's latest link sausage: Rat Neurons in a Dish Play Flight Simulator. The article is brief, but the upshot is that they've got a fairly simple "brain in a jar" working, with a few thousand neurons controlling a basic flight sim.

Assuming this article isn't hokum, the implications are profound. Pause for a moment, and reflect on the notion that it might be straightforward to deal with many pattern-matching tasks by building artificial brains around them. A flight sim is a very nice starting point: an easy problem that can be managed by a smallish "brain". There are lots of others, getting ever more complex, that might well prove tractable to this approach.

Ethics are all the rage right now -- the current election has many ethical issues floating around it, from the proper conduct of political parties to the constant hot-button question of abortion. But this little experiment could blow them all away in terms of depth and danger. Stem cells are simply a distraction by comparison: the ethics of building brains may well take the next hundred years to sort out. It's going to take some time to even understand what the right questions are...
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