Brain-Inspired Computer Chip

Last week in class, we read Daniel Dennett’s article in which he imagined a hypothetical scenario in which his brain was removed from his body, placed in a vat, and a computer served as his second “brain.” But is this truly plausible? Most of us, including Dennett, would not think so. However, a recently created brain-inspired chip may pave the way for this to be possible in the future (to an extent). This chip, created by IBM, consists of a densely interconnected web of transistors that aim to mimic the brain’s neuronal networks. Thus, the chip is able to process information like the brain does and recognize human actions. In addition, the chip may even be able to control robots and direct them to perform tasks. Based on this, would it hypothetically be possible to remove a human’s brain, replace it with this chip, and have the human function normally (i.e. perform normal tasks a human can?). Theoretically, if the chip is able to control robots, it should also be able to serve as a “brain” in humans and allow them to perform basic tasks. However, would this chip necessarily give rise to consciousness in these humans? I do not believe so, because as a proponent of the idea that the mind is separate from the brain, I am not sure that the chip carries any component that would allow the human to exercise free will or have a true sense of consciousness. Therefore, I feel that such technology would give rise to philosophical zombies that are able to perform normal functions a human can by command, but do not have consciousness or higher cognitive abilities.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/08/science/new-computer-chip-is-designed-to-work-like-the-brain.html

105 thoughts on “Brain-Inspired Computer Chip

  1. Thank you for this interesting post! If, anatomically, this chip could replace the brain, then I definitely would agree that the person who received this would be a philosophical zombie. In class, someone brought up the point that the chip would not have its own mind, but rather be a reflection of the mind that thought of the idea in the first place. Essentially, the functional consciousness of the brain may be able to be replicated in this situation, but the phenomenal consciousness, or the mind, are far too complex to be created artificially.

  2. I agree with your post Kevin! It is really a reflection of the mind and not the actual mind. If this chip could replace human’s brain, what would make a human a human? Secondly when I think of the idea of this chip, I think back to science fiction. Whenever we have such a scenario, something always goes bad and a small group of individuals have to fix the situation. While robots may be able to perform the same tasks as us, what would that leave us to do if we had them do everything? The thought that such a chip could exist is actually quite scary in that sense.

  3. I also agree with Mansi and Kevin that once a chip replaces the brain, they would become a philosophical zombie. This post reminds me of the movie “Transcendence”. It’s about a woman who’s desperate to save her spouse that she uploads his brain to a computer in order to have more time with him. Her friends tell her to run and that the computer isn’t really him but she believes it is him because he has the same memories and personality. In the end, the computer becomes so powerful he creates a body for himself. This is a perfect example of a philosophical zombie. Although the computer had the same memories, it’s just a copy of the real thing. I believe that once the body dies, the soul also dies. The brain may be able to be saved but the soul cannot be saved.

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