Randal A. Koene, Ph.D.


Carboncopies.org, Founder & Chairman
2045 Initiative, Science Director




Welcome to my personal website!

A few pages to introduce myself to all of you. Some of the things you’ll find here are my brief ‘bio’, my CV or resume, my publications, and some links to sites about my work and interests.

I’m a neuroscientist with a long-standing and deep passion for neural interfaces, neural prosthesis, and the functional reconstruction of neural tissue.

I’ve been exploring and advocating a brand-new multidisciplinary field, dubbed ‘whole brain emulation’, that our small group of early pioneers introduced under that name around the year 2000. Whole brain emulation is the natural end-point of progressively more and more precise neural prosthesis, but is also the scientific and technological route to a process for cognitive self-evolution that has been discussed in philosophical and sci-fi circles, sometimes sensationally called ‘mind uploading’.

Ever since the first published roadmap on whole brain emulation in 2007 that came out of our Oxford University working group, I have sought to maintain and update the most current science and technology roadmap for the fledgling field. I have given numerous public lectures and interviews to explain the meaning, the importance, and progress towards whole brain emulation and mind uploading. I have sought out expertise in an ever-expanding network of scientists and specialists, facilitated collaborations and aided in the founding and launching of academic and non-academic efforts.

I was born in the Netherlands to a Dutch particle physicist and a German artist. At 13, I discovered my personal mission to totally overcome our cognitive limitations by finding ways to gain complete access to their operations and to augment and improve them (a mission somewhat colorfully described in this PopSci article).

To find the right way for me to help make this dream a reality, I first followed in my father’s footsteps and began studying Physics at the University of Amsterdam. I then focused my studies more closely on the problem of cognition by studying artificial intelligence and information theory at Delft University of Technology, where I earned an M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering. From that zig I zagged specifically into human cognition with a computational neuroscience Ph.D. on human memory and learning at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. I was seeking to understand how something as fundamental to the human experience as the process of selectively acquiring episodic memory and transitioning it through stages from short- to intermediate- (LTP/LTD) to long-term memory (morphological synaptic changes) could be detected, analyzed, and synthesized by mathematical representation in realistic, neuroprosthetic models.

I continued that work at my first academic job at the the Laboratory of Computational Neurophysiology in the Center for Memory and Brain at Boston University, where I eventually rose to a research professorship and combined that work on hippocampal and prefrontal cortical networks with an academic project at the VU University of Amsterdam, developing algorithms to emulate the outgrowth process of neuronal growth cones during brain development (NETMORPH).

In 2008, I decided to try my luck outside of academia with the opportunity to direct the brand new department of neuroengineering at Tecnalia in Spain, and to hire talent internationally with the hope to develop revolutionary new neural interfaces. The financial crisis intervened and changed the nature of that opportunity. Exploring outside of academia already, Silicon Valley was an attractive target for yet another approach to the problem. So, in 2010, I joined the efforts of Halcyon Molecular, as their Director of Analysis, a startup with a mission to make it big in the next generation DNA sequencing space, as a funds generator for even more ambitious projects towards nanotechnology, robotics and brain emulation.

At the same time, I founded the non-profit foundation Carboncopies.org, a 501(c)(3), which I continue to lead as chairperson. For the past few years, Carboncopies has operated as the reliable hub with unwavering mission to bring about whole brain emulation. Carboncopies is independent, not beholden to the interests or fortunes of any one company or person, insuring at all times that whole brain emulation is brought to the attention of experts and public alike, and that anyone with the desire and ability to help the mission along is supported in any and all ways that the organization can provide.

Between early 2012 and late 2013, I lent my expertise to the efforts of the 2045 Initiative and its Global Futures 2045 Congress, which was an opportunity to bring together many of the leading scientists of the four critical domains of the whole brain emulation roadmap.

Many of the same scientists were subsequently re-involved when I worked with Bryan Johnson (former founder of Braintree) to come up with a feasible plan for a neurotechnology startup that could bring about true high bandwidth human neural interfacing, neural prosthesis and cognitive augmentation, with the ultimate goal of whole brain emulation. This work culminated in the launch of the company Kernel in 2016, which is today in the early phases of its efforts to realize the potential of cognitive augmentation. At the time, I also took the opportunity to learn about venture capital funds, by advising Johnson’s OS Fund on the development of a new model (The OSF Playbook) for due-diligence in sci-tech heavy funds. In 2015, I ran a neural interfaces project neuralink.org, the name of which appears to have made its reappearance in the Neuralink company that shares parts of its origin story with Kernel.

Of course, not every moment in life is work and mission. I also enjoy kayaking, trekking into nature and camping, composing electronic music, writing, fire spinning at Burning Man, dancing to industrial and eclectic music, as well as community activity around societal, political, economic and biotechnological experimentation.

I am generally happy to talk about my experiences and insights on this adventurous journey. If you would like to get in touch, or if you would like to interview me or would like me to speak at an event, please use my contact information above.

I would be honored if you take a moment to visit the links provided on this page, to see some of my work and some of my interests.

- Randal A. Koene

Below, a collection of older links (not yet vetted and up-dated), and images of NETMORPH modeling the outgrowth of neurons.

NETMORPH (see for example the animation below)

TEDx Tallinn (2012), "Machines in minds to reverse engineer the machine that is mind"

GF2045 ‎(2013)‎, Lincoln Center NYC, "Whole Brain Emulation: Reverse Engineering A Mind"

This article on carboncopies.org: Substrate-Independent Minds.

This article on KurzweilAI.net: Pattern survival versus Gene survival (local copy).

These scientific journal articles in the 2012 Special Issue of IJMC: Fundamentals of Whole Brain Emulation: State, Transition and Update Representationsand Experimental Research in Whole Brain Emulation: The Need for Innovative In-Vivo Measurement Techniques

Visit carboncopies.org, posts on randalkoene.wordpress.com, my web site MindUploading.org or watch me present and discuss in the following conference videos:

"The engineering challenge to make minds substrate-independent via whole brain emulation within our lifetimes", GF2045 Moscow, 2012.

"Substrate-Independent Minds", H+ Hong Kong, 2011.

"Why and how to transition from wet-ware to SIM: substrate-independent minds" [video to be posted soon] (also presented as: "SIM 101"), Leonardo Art/Science Evening Rendezvous (LASER), University of San Francisco, 2011. Abstract and Slides available.

"AGI and Neuroscience: Open Sourcing the Brain", The Fourth Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AGI-11), Google campus, Mountain View, CA, 2011. Abstract and Slidesavailable.

"Substrate-Independent Minds: Pattern Survival Agrees with Universal Darwinism", Future of Humanity Institute Winter Intelligence Conference, Oxford, UK, 2011.  Abstract and Slides available.

The 25 Watt bio-computer: Lessons for Artificial Human Intelligence and Substrate-Independent Minds” (alternative edit), H+ @ Caltech 2010.

"I am a 25 Watt bio-computer. What are the hacks that make us who we are?" (from about 1h42m into the video), TransVision 2010, Milan, Italy.

"Fundamental Issues - Resolution & Scale, “Me” Programs, etc.", ASIM 2010.

"Introduction to Advancing Substrate-Independent Minds",  ASIM 2010.

"dil2al", Quantified Self Meeting 2010.

Randal Koene - "dil2al" from Gary Wolf on Vimeo.

"Realistic Routes to Substrate-Independent Minds", ASIM Expert Series 2010.

"Realistic Routes to Substrate-Independent Minds:  Building Brains", Singularity Studies: The Future of Humanity in the Age of Superhuman Artificial Intelligence at Rutgers University Summer Course 2010.

"Whole Brain Emulation: Issues of scope and resolution, and the need for new methods of in-vivo recording", Keynote at AGI 2010. Slides available.

"Neural Mechanisms of Reinforcement Learning", Tutorial at AGI 2010.

Scope and Resolution in Neural Prosthetics and Special Concerns for Emulation of a Whole Brain”, Geoethical Nanotechnology Workshop, Terasem 2006.

A few interviews (several years ago):

Critical Thought TV interview in four parts with Stuart Dambrot: Substrate-Independent Minds (all 4 videos).

A series of interviews for Singularity 1-on-1 with Nikola Danaylov: Mind Uploading is not Science Fiction and The Ethics of Mind Uploading.

A highly entertaining series of interviews for The Rational Future with Adam Ford, including these: H+ Hong Kong Extended Interview, Philosophical Aspects, Roadmaps and the Connectome, Thoughts on Technology and the Future, Discussions on Metacognition, Uploading and AI.

The first public conference, Advancing Substrate Independent Minds 2010 (ASIM-2010), of the carboncopies.org organization, was held as a mixed physical and virtual event on August 16-17 as a satellite to the Singularity Summit in San Francisco.

Personal FAQ (HTML)

NETMORPH model of developing 3 layer neuronal network

Pyramidal cell "grown" with NETMORPH (Koene et al., 2009).

Randal Koene,
Jan 7, 2018, 12:19 PM
Randal Koene,
Jan 6, 2018, 11:37 PM