What does it mean to simulate the human brain?

Earlier this week the exciting news was released that the Human Brain Project is one of the two Flagship Initiatives launched by the European Commission.

The project is an international collaboration between more than 80 research institutions. It will create computer models of the human brain to help us better understand the brain and its diseases. It is hoped that the project also will have practical applicability in the form of new computing and robotic technologies.

At CRB we are especially happy and proud that Kathinka Evers is on board as one of the Division Leaders of the Ethics and Society Division. She will investigate the philosophical implications of the project for our understanding of mind, identity and consciousness.

A main question for Kathinka is what simulating a brain means. The brain evolved in an environment and works embedded in social contexts. What does this imply for the attempt to simulate the brain? How does embodiment and social context enter the simulation of the brain?

The mapping of the human genome led to a deeper understanding of the significant role the environment plays in the functioning of our genes. Will the Human Brain Project result in similar emphasis on the environment with which the brain interacts?

The Ethics Blog will follow Kathinka’s work on this and other questions about the human brain with great interest.

(Here is an interview I made with Kathinka in June 2012.)

Pär Segerdahl

Part of international collaborations - the Ethics Blog

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