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Gillian Starkey's picture

This is a huge problem that

This is a huge problem that I see with the direction this project is heading. One of the reasons the Blue Brain team started this project, and an argument they use to justify it, is that science needs to move past animal research not only because it's oftentimes inefficient, but also because there are so many ethical dilemmas that accompany it. This is, of course, implying that there would be no more (or far fewer) ethical dilemmas around using their idea of an alternative -- a perfect computer model of the brain -- for research. I think this reasoning is seriously flawed, because if we were to create an exact model of the brain there is a chance that it could be considered conscious. Markram, the project director, (and Professor Grobstein, in class) both seem to think that if we do make a perfect model, there would be no reason for it not to be conscious. In any case, the computer model would then be a conscious entity, and as Jessica alluded to, could we really use it for research? It seems that all the arguments we have against using humans in research would also apply to a conscious computer model. In short, this kind of reveals a problem in the justification behind the Blue Brain project -- it's supposed to create a perfect alternative to a human brain, to circumvent ethical dilemmas associated with human subjects research, but if it's truly a perfect model, it'll have all the same properties as human brains that are the bases of these ethical dilemmas.

As some people have mentioned, there's also a pretty significant methodological issue with this "consciousness" that the Blue Brain team is hoping for, which is, how do we define consciousness in a way that is concrete enough to determine whether or not a computer model has it? Any ideas?

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