This page of frequently asked questions about me began in Oct. 2012 and is based on a set of questions by Anne Brice, who was writing an article for the East Bay Express.
I know you are working in the Mission District right now... What exactly are you working on now?
I spend most of my time working on two things:
Do you consider yourself working independently or with a group?
I have always worked with groups, because there is no way to either do everything that needs to be done to get whole brain emulation done by yourself, or even to make a contribution that integrates well with the work of others without very frequent communication and synchronization. Actually, a very large part of my activities revolves around networking.
That said, carboncopies.org was originally a two-person project, launched by Dr. Suzanne Gildert and myself, and has been a one-person operation for a while now (though with occasional volunteer help). This is all slated to change quite a bit in the coming months due to teaming up with Foundation 2045 (Dmitry Itskov's organization).
Who is funding your work?
I used to be sponsored by Halcyon Molecular, the founders of which (William and Michael Andregg) saw value in my work. Before that, I was self-sponsoring by doing it on the side next to my work as head of the department of neural engineering at Tecnalia in Spain. Now, I have improved financial sponsorship for both the non-profit and for-profit activities through Foundation 2045. This is because the roadmap developed at carboncopies.org and the network of projects that are building the tools for whole brain emulation can be dropped in to form the "Avatar C" part of 2045's Avatar project: http://2045.com/
Who do you consider to be your biggest supporters? In what ways do they back you?
The biggest supporters are the *Experts* who are well-aligned with SIM and WBE. Experts have this special knack that they can understand problems that are within their field of expertise better than anyone and quickly come up with effective and often outside-the-box solutions that would take others a long time to figure out. This is why pulling together miscellaneous expertise in the relevant fields is so important, in addition to having a solid foundation and ground-swell of support by enthusiasts.
Now, when I say experts, I'm not just talking about scientific experts, even though they are important. Some of our best scientific expert supporters are: Prof. Ed Boyden, Prof. Ted Berger, Prof. George Church and Prof. Miguel Nicolelis.
Another kind of expertise is, for example, the ability to find/make money for projects - in other words, good investors or financial supporters are also a kind of expert. They are just as important to the success of a project as the scientific/engineering experts. Obviously, at the moment the most important expert in that area is Dmitry Itskov, our very Zen-like and dedicated supporter from Foundation 2045, who has decided to turn all of his attention towards achieving new body and new brain solutions, especially substrate-independent minds.
Through that extension with Foundation 2045, and in particular during the GF2045 Congress in NYC June 15-16, we are also receiving support from entrepreneur Dr. Martine Rothblatt.
What are some of your mind uploading accomplishments that you're most proud of? Have you published research papers on mind uploading?
I think my proudest accomplishment so far is that I got the various labs and scientists like Ed Boyden, George Church, Ted Berger, Miguel Nicolelis and others to all a.) take whole brain emulation seriously and be willing to do so publicly, and b.) start working more closely together around a plan, a plan that actually takes into account the technical details such as System Identification in Neural Circuitry.
I recently published two academic papers on mind uploading:
There is another one to be published in late 2012 or early 2013:
If you dig through my publications at http://randalkoene.com/publications you will probably notice that there are also quite a few publications throughout my academic career that were clearly aimed at neurophysiologically detailed circuit modeling that would be relevant within the field of whole brain emulation, even though I did not at the time include mention of this goal in the publications.
If you described your work -- what it actually looked like on a day to day basis -- what would you describe for them? (I'm trying to paint a picture of what your work looks like for the general public...)
There are some features that pop up over and over again in my work:
I know Dr. Ted Berger's accomplishments with recreating a functioning part of the hippocampus doesn't prove that mind uploading is possible, but what does it prove? What might its implications be? Does it help your cause in any way?
It proves that it is possible to make circuitry in ANOTHER substrate (here silicon) that can carry out the function and produce the behavior of a piece of neural tissue. From a fundamental stand-point, that is a huge step towards proving that mind uploading is possible, or at least whole brain emulation (though it does not yet address the matter of transitioning a mind from one platform to that other emulating one).
One of its implications is that it has taught Ted Berger's lab, and thereby all of us, some of the important things to do and to look for when carrying out what is called System Identification in Neural Circuitry. (He recently spoke about that: http://www.bionet.ee.columbia.edu/workshops/cns/methods12/identification12.html - he was on at 5:10pm.)
It certainly helps our cause, because it builds the case for mind as a machine that manipulates information - something that is not unique to biological machinery, and thereby could be carried out in another type of machine that emulates the same function. Getting over that conceptual hurdle is a big deal for professionals in the field and even more so for people everywhere.
About how much money (that you know of) is being invested in mind uploading?
Money that is currently pegged to be put directly into "mind uploading" and uses a term like that or very close to it is probably very little. I think we could say it is the amount that Foundation 2045 is spending on it, plus a little bit by Martine Rothblatt and some by Peter Thiel who is supporting David Dalrymple's "Nemaload" project to the tune of $200K. All together, I would be surprised if it was more than $1million annually.
Taking a broader look and including the funding that goes into laboratory work aimed at building the tools that are directly applicable to whole brain emulation (e.g. the molecular ticker tape being developed by MIT, Harvard and Northwestern, Anthony Zador's biological tagging method for the connectome, Janelia Farm's investment in Ken Hayworth's FIBSEM developments, 3Scan's funding for their work on the KESM, etc.) then I think it might be a sum of around $15-20million annually.
Whatever the actual amount, it is clearly of a magnitude that is a mere drop in the bucket compared with other things that humanity spends money on, e.g. iPhone development, FIFA Soccer world championship - or even a single stadium!, Gangnam style dance music... And I'm not even mentioning comparisons with military budgets.