The names of various startup companies in which Sinovation Ventures have invested are displayed on a chalk board at the venture's headquarters in Beijing, China, on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. Sinovation Ventures' latest growing endeavor, an in-house AI Institute, has about 30 full-time employees with plans to grow headcount to about a hundred within the year. Photographer: Giulia Marchi/Bloomberg
Nectome is hoping to use human brains to create a map that will enable the reconstruction of its computational abilities. Giulia Marchi/Bloomberg

Can 'used' brains be made to act like supercomputers?



Nectome promises to preserve the brains of terminally ill people in order to turn them into computer simulations - at some point in the future when such a thing is possible.

It's a start-up that's easy to mock. Just beyond the mockery, however, lies an important reminder to remain sceptical of modern artificial intelligence technology.

The idea behind Nectome is known to mind uploading enthusiasts (yes, there's an entire culture around the idea, with a number of wealthy foundations backing the research) as "destructive uploading": a brain must be killed to map it. That macabre proposition has resulted in lots of publicity for Nectome, which predictably got lumped together with earlier efforts to deep-freeze millionaires' bodies so they could be revived when technology allows it. Nectome's biggest problem, however, isn't primarily ethical.

The company has developed a way to embalm the brain that keeps all its synapses visible with an electronic microscope. That makes it possible to create a map of all of the brain's neuron connections, a "connectome." Nectome's founders believe that map is the most important element of the reconstructed human brain and that preserving it should keep all of a person's memories intact. But even these mind uploading optimists only expect the first 10,000-neuron network to be reconstructed sometime between 2021 and 2024.

So far, however, not much progress has been achieved in such reconstructions. "Didn't anyone tell them that we've known the C Elegans connectome for over a decade but haven't figured out how to reconstruct all of their memories?" Sam Gershman, a Harvard brain scientist, tweeted in response to a new story about Nectome. "And that's only 7,000 synapses compared to the trillions of synapses in the human brain!"

Caenorhabditis Elegans is a tiny worm. It's not particularly smart, and its memories aren't complex, but it's not "uploadable" yet.

According to Anders Sandberg of Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute, the human connectome could take up about 10 petabytes of storage. It would take some 283,000 such connectomes to match the total volume of information available on the internet today. But, contrary to the confident predictions on the Nectome site, the map probably wouldn't allow the complete reconstruction of the human brain. Experts are still arguing about how memories are stored, and many don't believe a connectome describes all, or even most, of the ways in which the human brain operates. It's not just that the technology to produce a human connectome doesn't exist yet - there is plenty of uncertainty over what else might be needed for a "mind upload".

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Building a connectome is not the only approach to the task of mind uploading. Scientists are trying, for example, to map neurons' firing activity over time; they are decades away from getting anywhere with a human brain.

And that's even before scientists begin to contemplate philosophical issues, such as whether an uploaded mind will be the same personality as the original "owner" of the brain.

The human brain may not be the most efficient form of intelligence; it needs a lot of biological back-up machinery to make up for cells that die all the time, and its ability to store data is not as reliable as that of computers. Someday, many years from now, technology will probably exist that will be able to reconstruct the brain while cutting some corners for improved efficiency. But it's unlikely to be able to replicate every nuance of perception, memory, emotion, intuition.

We often talk about today's artificial intelligence - based on algorithms that essentially use the brute force of computers to crunch problems such as image recognition - as if it'll soon replace humans at complex creative and communicative tasks. That kind of AI, however, will never do it. Progress along the same lines can produce smarter digital assistants than today's Siri or Alexa. But a human, equipped with a computer, will still run circles around them because of the sheer, currently irreproducible complexity of the human brain.

I'd argue that a truly intelligent artificial entity - intelligent like a person, with all the versatility it implies - would need to run a relatively faithful reconstruction of the brain. Different kinds of intelligence than ours are possible, and they can be better than humans at some tasks, like playing chess or even safely driving a vehicle. But the human experience isn't limited to the mechanical performance of tasks. It depends on flashes of brilliance, and often on failures, to advance mankind.

Recreating the human brain is the ultimate goal of artificial intelligence. So far, even the most extreme optimists of mind uploading see it only in the distant future.

With all the AI hype, we tend to underestimate the supercomputers we carry around in our skulls.

Bloomberg

SPECS

Engine: 6-cylinder 3-litre, with petrol and diesel variants
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Power: 286hp (petrol), 249hp (diesel)
Torque: 450Nm (petrol), 550Nm (diesel)
Price: Starting at $69,800
On sale: Now

Switching sides

Mahika Gaur is the latest Dubai-raised athlete to attain top honours with another country.

Velimir Stjepanovic (Serbia, swimming)
Born in Abu Dhabi and raised in Dubai, he finished sixth in the final of the 2012 Olympic Games in London in the 200m butterfly final.

Jonny Macdonald (Scotland, rugby union)
Brought up in Abu Dhabi and represented the region in international rugby. When the Arabian Gulf team was broken up into its constituent nations, he opted to play for Scotland instead, and went to the Hong Kong Sevens.

Sophie Shams (England, rugby union)
The daughter of an English mother and Emirati father, Shams excelled at rugby in Dubai, then after attending university in the UK played for England at sevens.

The specs: 2019 Infiniti QX50

Price, base: Dh138,000 (estimate)
Engine: 2.0L, turbocharged, in-line four-cylinder
Transmission: Continuously variable transmission
Power: 268hp @ 5,600rpm
Torque: 380Nm @ 4,400rpm
Fuel economy: 6.7L / 100km (estimate)

The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl

Power: 153hp at 6,000rpm

Torque: 200Nm at 4,000rpm

Transmission: 6-speed auto

Price: Dh99,000

On sale: now

MATCH INFO

Red Star Belgrade v Tottenham Hotspur, midnight (Thursday), UAE

Essentials

The flights
Emirates, Etihad and Malaysia Airlines all fly direct from the UAE to Kuala Lumpur and on to Penang from about Dh2,300 return, including taxes. 
 

Where to stay
In Kuala Lumpur, Element is a recently opened, futuristic hotel high up in a Norman Foster-designed skyscraper. Rooms cost from Dh400 per night, including taxes. Hotel Stripes, also in KL, is a great value design hotel, with an infinity rooftop pool. Rooms cost from Dh310, including taxes. 


In Penang, Ren i Tang is a boutique b&b in what was once an ancient Chinese Medicine Hall in the centre of Little India. Rooms cost from Dh220, including taxes.
23 Love Lane in Penang is a luxury boutique heritage hotel in a converted mansion, with private tropical gardens. Rooms cost from Dh400, including taxes. 
In Langkawi, Temple Tree is a unique architectural villa hotel consisting of antique houses from all across Malaysia. Rooms cost from Dh350, including taxes.

Company profile

Name: Yabi by Souqalmal 

Started: May 2022, launched June 2023

Founder: Ambareen Musa

Based: Dubai 

Sector: FinTech 

Initial investment: undisclosed but soon to be announced 

Number of staff: 12 

Investment stage: seed  

Investors: Shuaa Capital

Explainer: Tanween Design Programme

Non-profit arts studio Tashkeel launched this annual initiative with the intention of supporting budding designers in the UAE. This year, three talents were chosen from hundreds of applicants to be a part of the sixth creative development programme. These are architect Abdulla Al Mulla, interior designer Lana El Samman and graphic designer Yara Habib.

The trio have been guided by experts from the industry over the course of nine months, as they developed their own products that merge their unique styles with traditional elements of Emirati design. This includes laboratory sessions, experimental and collaborative practice, investigation of new business models and evaluation.

It is led by British contemporary design project specialist Helen Voce and mentor Kevin Badni, and offers participants access to experts from across the world, including the likes of UK designer Gareth Neal and multidisciplinary designer and entrepreneur, Sheikh Salem Al Qassimi.

The final pieces are being revealed in a worldwide limited-edition release on the first day of Downtown Designs at Dubai Design Week 2019. Tashkeel will be at stand E31 at the exhibition.

Lisa Ball-Lechgar, deputy director of Tashkeel, said: “The diversity and calibre of the applicants this year … is reflective of the dynamic change that the UAE art and design industry is witnessing, with young creators resolute in making their bold design ideas a reality.”

The specs

Engine: 5.0-litre supercharged V8

Transmission: Eight-speed auto

Power: 575bhp

Torque: 700Nm

Price: Dh554,000

On sale: now

The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylturbo

Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic

Power: 242bhp

Torque: 370Nm

Price: Dh136,814

The specs

Engine: 4.0-litre V8

Power: 503hp at 6,000rpm

Torque: 685Nm at 2,000rpm

Transmission: 8-speed auto

Price: from Dh850,000

On sale: now

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

TO ALL THE BOYS: ALWAYS AND FOREVER

Directed by: Michael Fimognari

Starring: Lana Condor and Noah Centineo

Two stars

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

If you go…

Emirates launched a new daily service to Mexico City this week, flying via Barcelona from Dh3,995.

Emirati citizens are among 67 nationalities who do not require a visa to Mexico. Entry is granted on arrival for stays of up to 180 days. 

Sweet Tooth

Creator: Jim Mickle
Starring: Christian Convery, Nonso Anozie, Adeel Akhtar, Stefania LaVie Owen
Rating: 2.5/5

COMPANY PROFILE

Date started: 2020
Founders: Khaldoon Bushnaq and Tariq Seksek
Based: Abu Dhabi Global Market
Sector: HealthTech
Number of staff: 100
Funding to date: $15 million

In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein
By Fiona Sampson
Profile

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

Graduated from the American University of Sharjah

She is the eldest of three brothers and two sisters

Has helped solve 15 cases of electric shocks

Enjoys travelling, reading and horse riding

 

Maestro

Director: Bradley Cooper

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan, Maya Hawke

Rating: 3/5

The specs

Engine: 1.8-litre 4-cyl turbo
Power: 190hp at 5,200rpm
Torque: 320Nm from 1,800-5,000rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch auto
Fuel consumption: 6.7L/100km
Price: From Dh111,195
On sale: Now

Score

New Zealand 266 for 9 in 50 overs
Pakistan 219 all out in 47.2 overs 

New Zealand win by 47 runs

New Zealand lead three-match ODI series 1-0

Next match: Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi, Friday

The specs

Engine: 3.5-litre, twin-turbo V6
Transmission: 10-speed auto
Power: 410hp
Torque: 495Nm
Price: starts from Dh495,000 (Dh610,000 for the F-Sport launch edition tested)
On sale: now

The Gentlemen

Director: Guy Ritchie

Stars: Colin Farrell, Hugh Grant 

Three out of five stars

Ads on social media can 'normalise' drugs

A UK report on youth social media habits commissioned by advocacy group Volteface found a quarter of young people were exposed to illegal drug dealers on social media.

The poll of 2,006 people aged 16-24 assessed their exposure to drug dealers online in a nationally representative survey.

Of those admitting to seeing drugs for sale online, 56 per cent saw them advertised on Snapchat, 55 per cent on Instagram and 47 per cent on Facebook.

Cannabis was the drug most pushed by online dealers, with 63 per cent of survey respondents claiming to have seen adverts on social media for the drug, followed by cocaine (26 per cent) and MDMA/ecstasy, with 24 per cent of people.

Getting there and where to stay

Fly with Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi to New York’s JFK. There's 11 flights a week and economy fares start at around Dh5,000.
Stay at The Mark Hotel on the city’s Upper East Side. Overnight stays start from $1395 per night.
Visit NYC Go, the official destination resource for New York City for all the latest events, activites and openings.

Schedule for Asia Cup

Sept 15: Bangladesh v Sri Lanka (Dubai)

Sept 16: Pakistan v Qualifier (Dubai)

Sept 17: Sri Lanka v Afghanistan (Abu Dhabi)

Sept 18: India v Qualifier (Dubai)

Sept 19: India v Pakistan (Dubai)

Sept 20: Bangladesh v Afghanistan (Abu Dhabi) Super Four

Sept 21: Group A Winner v Group B Runner-up (Dubai) 

Sept 21: Group B Winner v Group A Runner-up (Abu Dhabi)

Sept 23: Group A Winner v Group A Runner-up (Dubai)

Sept 23: Group B Winner v Group B Runner-up (Abu Dhabi)

Sept 25: Group A Winner v Group B Winner (Dubai)

Sept 26: Group A Runner-up v Group B Runner-up (Abu Dhabi)

Sept 28: Final (Dubai)