Biotechnology: Cybernetic Organisms

This page is based on a reading of the Following text:

H. Moravec, Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988). ISBN: 0-674-57618-7.

CYBERNETICS n. 1. The theoretical study of communication and control processes in biological, mechanical, and electronic systems, especially the comparison of these processes in biological and artificial systems.

Read the Novel that started it all: William Gibson's Neuromancer.

ORGANISM n. 1. An individual form of life, such as a plant, an animal, a bacterium, a protist, or a fungus; a body made up of organs, organelles, or other parts that work together to carry on the various processes of life. 2. A system regarded as analogous in its structure or functions to a living body: the social organism.

BIOTECHNOLOGY n. 1. The use of microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeasts, or biological substances, such as enzymes, to perform specific industrial or manufacturing processes. Applications include the production of certain drugs, synthetic hormones, and bulk foodstuffs as well as the bioconversion of organic waste and the use of genetically altered bacteria in the cleanup of oil spills. 2. a. The application of the principles of engineering and technology to the life sciences; bioengineering.

Essay by: Muhammad Hozien


Why brain copying is not possible? At least for now!

Purpose of copying the brain is to preserve the original, or immortality as in the case of the assigned reading, Moravec’s Mind Children. Moravec’s argument, in the chapter entitled: "grandfather clause", is that you can scan –namely a low level scan with enough detail to have a complete picture- the brain pattern into a computer that will simulate the brain. This is what makes an individual, the brain pattern.

Copying is not the original, but a representation of certain aspects of the original:

A copy in a different type of media is no guarantee of saving the original:

Copying only preserves one or more aspects of the original:

Pictures preserve the image of an object. It is preserving an image of the original. Photocopies of original paper based documents are closer to the original, they are using the same media.

Copying a human brain in a computer program is changing the material into which the copy is made. It is like taking a picture of a person. Therefore this will not get you any closer to immortality.

Making multiple copies of a program and running is similar to cloning in humans. The looks and the operations are the same. The data (what ever is in the brain, memories, experiences ,etc.) is different. Human brains work the same from one human to the next. At least we think?

We need to get the Data:

The experiences and the surroundings have a lot to do with the way we are. They not only shape what we become by allowing us to experience (learn.) Also by interacting with others we learn and experience many things that not only affect our personality but what we know. If a person were suddenly transported to another planet and spent 30 years there would be a different sort of person. We do not even need to go to another planet, how about prison, war, earthquake-natural disaster. All these experiences change us permanently. Even if we copy the brain, what about the surroundings? What is the level we are trying to preserve?

Further there are research proof that this is not as easily as once thought. The workings of the human brain are still in the stages of being understood. We do not know enough information if brain copying can ever be possible. The author is drawing conclusions too early and without enough information. He is committing a fallacy –post hoc.

Let’s Understand what we are trying to do:

In the February 1997 issue of Scientific American an article based on the published article in Nature (Jan. 1997) by Christof Koch of Caltech he states: "Individual neurons… can actually perform surprisingly complex calculations and register fine discriminations…. Computer simulations show that active elements probably multiply the influence of adjacent synapses rather than merely adding them together as the traditional neurologist had supposed. This finding adds a layer of complication to the picture of how the brain works."

Further the author states: "Koch notes that the conventional idea that the timing of individual spikes is unimportant turns out to be quite wrong…the brain appears to care a great deal about timing…" Further the operation of the brain is further complicated by the fact that spikes "do not propagate only in the "forward" direction … also move backwards up the neuron’s input branches." (Source:

Even if we have a complete model of the entire workings of the human brain we may not be able to get to the mind. Why? Some scientists believe that we are "conducting an investigation with the very instrument being investigated." We are not even sure that the mind exists in the brain, but we know it is tied to the body.

For some detailed observation of living matter, the brain, does not lead to the mind. "Anyone’s body and rain are observable to third parties; the mind, though is only observable only to its owner." Some also see that there is a conflict between the observer and the observed makes the human intellect unfit to study itself.

Scientists doing research on the brain looking for the mind believe that the private, personal mind is biological –read material- and can be described in these terms. (Scientific American: 12/99, p.114-115)

Are there any differences between brains and computers:

Philosophers are not altogether in on the idea that the brain is a calculating machine, namely a program to be replicated. Professor John Searle of Berkeley is one such philosopher that has other ideas. Searle argues that behavior is not sufficient for having mental states or consciousness. He states that computers running programs are syntactical, namely manipulating symbols. Whereas the human brain is not only capable of manipulating symbols but the actual meanings behind the symbols, namely the semantics that the symbols represent. In his view passing the turning test is an illusion of consciousness.


From the above arguments, the view of Moravec, that brain copying will preserve the original is highly unlikely for the following reasons: It is copying into a different medium, we do not as of yet have enough information about the mind to conclude that

The brain is more than a calculating machine that one can copy its function. Moravec does not answer the question how the mind moves from one medium to the other.

Essay by: Muhammad Hozien


Biotechnology and Cybernetics here is meant in the sense of the creation of not only artifical life but intelligence as well and going beyond biology to divinity and beyond...


Essay by: Muhammad Hozien


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