Future of Cognitive Science and Conscious Machines

Reid Friedson, PhD
4 min readApr 11, 2021

Futurist Ray Kurzweil correctly predicted it would be possible to scan brains using neural nanobots. Obtaining physical structure and connectivity information provides researchers with functional models of sub-cellular components and synapses as well as whole regions of the brain. In 2019, the Clarity program provided 3D perspectives on the brain circuitry of a mouse from inside its brain. Now Neuralink announced in 2021 chimpanzees can play video games using brain chip bandwidth. We are developing technologies to peer directly into the brain. We can even fingerprint brains using electroencaphology (EEGs).

Reverse engineering the brain to understand and emulate it will allow us the possibility of uploading a brain with intact mental processes suitable for creating a powerful computational substrate. Kurzweil feels most humans will not experience instantaneous scan and conversion to digital form. He believes in the future most biological humans will experience gradual digital conversion including increases in non-biological intelligence thru neural implant augmentation and mind uploading.

Transhumanist Dr. Martine Rothblatt calls Kurzweil’s How to Create a Mind (2012) “the Rosetta Stone of the mystery of thought.” Identity we know is not simply about genetics but also neurology. Neurons are the brains networked signal processing units. Neural networks maintain the connections between brain cells and neurons. Kurzweil is himself currently at work developing a synthetic silicone-based model of the neocortex for Google to prove code will ultimately transcend code.

Marvin Minsky in his trailblazing prelude to Kurzweil’s theory of singularity writes in his Society of Minds (1957): “Minds are simply what brains do.” [Even] the non-mammalian neocortex functions on patterns of inputs and outputs. The [human] neocortex is responsible for language, art, science, music, and technology. Edelman calculates we have 100 billion neurons and research scientists will need to dig even deeper than simply into the design and function principles of the neocortex.

Neocortical connections are crossbar stitched grids like integrated circuits and circuit boards. Learning strengthens neural columns and synapses through hierarchical patterns. Electrical signals excite or inhibit us. The sounds of words used in chants or mantras excite our chakras and circuits. The Neural Acoustic Processing Lab at Columbia University has already devised an artificial intelligence (AI) model which turns brain scans into intelligible speech.

Scientists will create a model for Beme Neural Architecture (BNA) of individual consciousness in human brains or in software and hardware environments. Development of the BNA is an experiment in pattern recognition. One step beyond the Human Genome Project, the Brain Activity Map could hold the key to unlocking the doors of intelligent design. The DNA blueprint found in brain and genome mapping may be able to control mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and mania. The Human Brain Project in Europe and the Brain Initiative in the United States are mapping neurons and cells to construct a sort of cartographic brain atlas.

Brain circuitry research will activate what Minsky called panalogical realms of thought. ENeuro magazine reported in May 14, 2018 a(n) UCLA experiment demonstrated using cellular RNA, memories could be transplanted from the brain of one snail to another. Netcome, a Silicon Valley start-up, believes it will be able to copy and reproduce the human brain.

Elon Musk’s OpenAI, established in 2015, seeks to match and surpass the cognitive capabilities of humans. OpenAI’s goal is to develop artificial general intelligence (AGI) that can learn and master several disciplines rather than the narrow abilities of most modern artificial intelligence systems.

Microsoft has invested $1 billion in the OpenAI venture that plans to mimic the human brain using computers. The two firms will jointly build AI supercomputing technologies, which OpenAI plans to commercialize through Microsoft and its Azure cloud computing business.

In 2017, the SpaceX and Tesla CEOs joined Microsoft researchers in signing an open letter outlining principles to ensure development of AI beneficial to humanity. “We cannot predict what we might achieve when this intelligence is magnified by the tools AI may provide, but the eradication of disease and poverty are not unfathomable” the letter stated. AGI will strive to work with people to solve currently intractable multi-disciplinary problems including global challenges like climate change, affordable and high-quality healthcare, and individualized education.

Elon Musk’s Neuralink is focusing research on creating interfaces between the human biological mind and machines or brain computer interface (BCI) to enhance and improve on the use of neuromorphic chip implants on the brain connected to a computer. Neuralink depends on evolving Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory guidelines related to BCI technology.

Neuralink focused initially on implantable devices to create a hybrid connection to treat specific brain and nervous system disorders. Enhancements of normally functioning brains should follow using physical, chemical, and electromagnetic methodologies that expand our understanding of consciousness.

In a July 21, 2019, an Abundance Insider email from Peter Diamandis explains one breakthrough enabling Neuralink’s technology’s development of flexible electrode “threads” with a diameter measuring one-tenth the width of a human hair (4–6 μm in width or the approximate width of a neuron). These threads can be inserted into the uppermost levels of the human cortex and interface, or read and write, with neurons.1,024 of these threads attach to a single small Neuralink chip (“N1”) embedded into the skull just below the scalp. Each of the N1 chips collects and transmits 200Mbps of neural data, and up to 10 such chips (implanted into a patient) allow for the grand total of a 2Gbps wireless connection. The wireless connection is then made via Bluetooth to an ear-mounted device connecting brain data to the cloud.

Nuno et al (2019) tell us “human brain/cloud interface” (“B/CI”), would be based on technologies called “neuralnanorobotics.” Neuralnanorobotics technologies would facilitate accurate diagnoses and cures for the over 400 conditions affecting the human brain.



Reid Friedson, PhD

Multi-media essays on arts and sciences, culture and society, strategic law and politics, justice and spirituality, and metaphysics and converging technologies.