This Is Your Brain in the Cloud

We are going to create synthetic neocortexes in order to extend our own neocortexes. 

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

Ideology drives us apart. Neuroscience can bring us back together.

A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.

  • How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
  • To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit

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Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
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Politics & Current Affairs
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