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A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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This Is Your Brain in the Cloud

February 10, 2013, 12:00 AM

What's the Big Idea?

In his new book, How To Create a Mind, Ray Kurzweil looks at the “pattern recognition” theory of the human mind, arguing that all higher-order thinking is based on a consistent pattern-recognition algorithm. 

"The neocortex is a metaphor machine," Kurzweil tells Big Think. "That's why humans are creative." The difference, for instance, between humans and other primates is we have a large neocortex. Our big forehead "was an enabling factor that permitted the evolution of language and technology and art and science."

So can computers replicate this high level of human intelligence? Can a computer make a joke? Recognize beauty? Write a poem? Fall in love? If high level brain activity can be replicated computers would not necessarily be replacing human agents, but would expand our own cognitive abilities further, Kurzweil says. 

"We are going to create synthetic neocortexes," Kurzweil assures us, and "we'll be able to extend that and think in the cloud."

Watch the video here:

What's the Significance?

Human evolution represented a "quantitative improvement," from primates with small neocortexes to humans with larger ones. Kurzweil asks us to consider "what kind of qualitative leap we can make with another quantitative increase." If we are to augment our brains with computing power we will be able to build on our natural cognitive abilities and access greater hierarchies of thinking. Kurzweil tells us:
We're going to put gateways to the cloud in our brains and have more than 300 million, just like the cloud can give you a thousand or a million computers for a tenth of a second.  You need another billion pattern recognizers, you'll be able to access that in the cloud. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


This Is Your Brain in the C...

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