Kurzweil: Brains will extend to the cloud

October 3, 2012

Human brains will someday extend into the cloud, futurist and computer pioneer Ray Kurzweil predicted at the DEMO conference here on Tuesday.

Moreover, he said, it will become possible to selectively erase pieces of our memories, while retaining some portions of them, to be able to learn new things no matter how old the person is.

“The brain doesn’t grow much from a very young age,” he said. Humans have, more or less, 300 million pattern-recognizing modules in the neocortex, the portion of the brain where thought occurs. “One of the reasons kids can learn new languages, or pretty much anything, so quickly is because they haven’t filled up those pattern recognizers,” he said. “It’s virgin territory.”

“You can learn new material at any age, but there is a limited capacity. That’s one of the things we will overcome by basically expanding the brain into the cloud,” he said. “We need to be able to repurpose our neocortex to learn something new. People who have a rigid process and hold onto old information; they will have a hard time doing that. You need to be able to move on.”

To really work like a human brain, artificial intelligence (AI) tools need to be built hierarchically, like a brain. “And then you have to educate the synthetic neocortex” as we do with newborn babies, he explained. That’s what Watson’s achievement was — an educated brain extender, up to a point.