Robert L. Blum, MD, PhD




AI: Future of Humanity

Sphere of Interest

WebBrain: AI
neurosci psych

Stanford Brain Lecture Notes

The RX Project:
Robotic Discovery

CV Biblio (1985)


Index of Essays

Psychology &
Neuroscience brain-icon

Computer Science,
Robotics, and AI

Health & Biotech

Earth Wisdom: Universe

Be Saved by Bob!!!
(And Other Balms )

Optimal Nutrition:
Are Fats Killers
or Saviors?


Consciousness Video:
Who, What, When?

Stan Dehaene's
Consciousness & Brain

Near Death Experiences: In the Desert With Pim Van Lommel

Fine-Tuned for Life?

Neuron Videos Say
Forget Realistic AI

EUV 2014 - Future of Moore's Law

BAM: Brain Activity Map of Spikes

Beating Jeopardy!
What is Watson?
AI Overlord or Tool?

SETI: Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

KEPLER Seeks Earth-like Worlds

STEVE PINKER in the Amazon: photos

Billion Year Plan:
AI Formulation

AI Awakens

CONSCIOUSNESS as Global Resonance

SEAN's Accident

Coronary Artery
CT Scan: Yes!

Book Review: TRANSCEND

Book Review:
Create a Mind

Does Drug X


Total Recall:
Everything, Always

Ralph Triumphs:
Elbot Cheers

Scientists &
Evangelicals Unite

Thomas Berry,
Geologian: Obituary

Calorie Restriction
Works in Monkeys!

TheBrain &
WebBrain: Review


Psych/NeurosciAI/RoboticsHealth/BiotechEarth Wisdom

Bob professional 2015

Diplomate: American Board of Emergency Medicine

Diplomate: American Board of Internal Medicine

Science Advisory Boards: Brain Preservation Foundation, Lifeboat Foundation
and Society for Mind Brain Sciences

Affiliate: Stanford Center for Mind, Brain, and Computation

Emergency Physician: Kaiser Permanente, Northern California, ret.

Research Associate (1981-1986): Stanford University, Computer Science Department
and co-Principal Investigator of the RX Project (Stanford University)
Awards from NIH: NLM, NCHSR; NSF; PHS; PReMA; RWJ Fnd; Toyobo Fnd;

PhD: Computer Science and Biostatistics: Stanford University - 1981
The RX Project: Automated Medical Discovery - 1976 to 1986

Post-Doctoral Fellow: Clinical Pharmacology: Stanford University (1976 to 1979)

House Staff and Chief Resident: Internal Medicine: Kaiser Northern California

MD: University of California, San Francisco (MSTP: neuroscience)
Regent Scholar

B Sci: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (mathematics)
Hertz Engineering Scholar

New (February 2016): AI and the Future of Humanity
The prospect of horrific AI taking over soon has been prominent in recent news
as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have posted warnings. Elon wasn't born yet when
I began studying AI and neuroscience. The above essay is my take on this. In brief ...

Will AI take over in the next couple of decades? No.
Might it dominate all key decisions within a hundred years? Quite possibly, yes.
Is that desirable for humanity? Possibly yes, but only if the AI is god-like,
that is, not only super-intelligent but possessing transcendent wisdom.

(Earlier and easier thresholds are 1) understanding the entirety of the internet and
2) autonomously doing Nobel-level science and engineering in many fields.)
Is this desirable for planet Earth and our biosphere? Probably, yes.
Humanity's unchecked proliferation has been an unmitigated disaster for our biosphere.

I've been fascinated by the neurobiology of consciousness for fifty years. How is it possible
for neural circuits to produce pain, pleasure, and our entire perceived world?

My Book Review of Stanislas Dehaene's Consciousness and the Brain
This is an outstanding work by one of the world's top researchers of consciousness.
Since the death of William James and the ascent of Watson, Thorndike, and Skinner,
consciousness has all but disappeared from American cognitive neuroscience.
Europeans, especially the brilliant Stan Dehaene, are leading the current revitalization.

Realistic AI? Not Possible Now;
New Videos of Neurons say "Forget It!"

Two new videos have just appeared in the prestigious journal Science.
The first is an animation showing the incredible level of detail at the synapse.
The second video, based on hundreds of electron micrographs stitched together,
shows the impossibly complex ultrastructure of the neuropil: the impenetrable forest
surrounding synapses.

The key question is how much of that fine detail must be modeled
to replicate the brain's performance. My guess is that much more is required
than is accounted for in current brain-inspired AI models.

Essential Reading: Optimal Nutrition: Are Fats Killers or Saviors?
We are each a community of 10 trillion cells in dynamic equilibrium with what we eat.
So, what should we eat? How many calories per day? How much fat and what kinds of fat?
Controversy abounds, but it's essential to get it right. I examine the issue in detail
and show you the best videos and articles available free on the internet.

Prospects for Immortality: My Assessment of Brain Preservation
I'm on the Science Advisory Board of the Brain Preservation Foundation (BPF,)
which seeks to advance the state of the art by awarding cash prizes for best research.
So, what are the prospects? I have not signed up with Alcor, but ask me again in 2030.

Here, neuroscience MD, PhD candidate Andy McKenzie elicits my opinions.
In brief: molecular brain preservation may be achieved by 2040.
Resurrection in silicon may not be possible until after 2100. So, keep eating vegetables!

EUV 2014: The Future of Moore's Law
Will Moore's Law soon hit a brick wall? To prevent that,
Cymer, ASML, and Intel have spent billions developing EUV lithography.
Here's the current state of EUV. (It's a matter of when, not if ...
2017 critical layers for the 10 nm node; 2020 all layers for the 7nm node.)

IBM Unveils First 7nm Chip
This was a summer 2015 blockbuster tech story that was
well-covered by the New York Times, EE Times, and by
Mukesh Khare, who co-led this IBM collaborative tour de force.
(This took the sting out of Intel's delay of 10nm to 2017.)

New: Updated WebBrain of Cognitive Neurosci and AI:
A Repository of 8000 Links to Cognitive Psychology, AI and
(the public half of my 16,000 node private collection.)
Also, hundreds of new links on biology and clinical medicine (longevity and nutrition)
(updated January, 2016 - News flash: my in vivo brain is still only 1½ quarts, if that.)
Also see my notes on recent Stanford Cog Neurosci/ Psych lectures here,
and see this concise 2016 graphic from Stanford News on building a brain.)
Also, see this just released article that describes Stanford Neuroscience Institute's
wonderful, recent (October 1, 2015) annual symposium

My Stanford Lecture Notes 2015: Cognitive Neuroscience and AI
(You won't find any of these lectures anywhere else on the web; Stanford is at the forefront
in opening online classes to the world. But most of the lectures I attend are not available except here.
Also look in my WebBrain for hundreds of archived lecture notes (updated January, 2016).)

Shockwave for Atherosclerosis
In June, 2015 Stanford Prof. Todd Brinton presented his company
Shockwave Medical's new catheter for busting up atherosclerotic lesions
from the inside using ultrasound. If you're a male over 60, you've got lesions.
I do and so do you. It's not yet FDA approved. Meanwhile, you can do this.

Carmat: Artificial Heart Triumph
Carmat's second patient went home (January, 2015) and was living a normal life
until he died unexpectedly in May, 2015. A third patient was implanted in April, 2015
and was reported to be doing well as of October, 2015.

Stanford's Karl Deisseroth Wins $3 million Breakthrough Prize
For a decade I (and everyone else) assumed a Nobel for Karl was imminent. Of course,
he was just 35 when he invented neuronal optogenetics. (The Nobel committee
is still working through its backlog of oldsters.) Meanwhile Karl keeps cranking out
stunning neurotech. His latest is Clarity - transparent, see-thru brains -
much easier to see the connections. Karl is as prolific as Edison (but nicer.)

Stanford Neurosciences Institute 2014 Inauguration Videos
This was a total thrill: the launch of the SNI, attended by Stanford President
John Hennessy and NIMH Director Thomas Insel. These talks are all stellar.
Stanford Neurosciences Institute website is here. SNI is directed by
Prof. Bill Newsome, who was tapped by NIH Director Francis Collins to co-direct
the Obama Brain Initiative Working Group. How important is SNI?
The old COGEN building that is being scraped now before constructing the new HQ
cost > a hundred million translated into 2015 bucks. The new buildings for
SNI and Chem-H will cost about 240 million. Stanford is forever
abuzz with exciting neurosci, cog sci, and AI/robotics.

My Sphere of Interest
A summary that integrates my various areas of academic interest with long-term
societal goals. History is a race between education and catastrophe. H G Wells

(This concise 2015 graphic from Stanford News Service shows many of my interests
(although I had nothing to do with it, except perhaps as a grain of sand in an oyster).)

Popular: Let the AIs, not us, formulate a billion-year plan!
Recently the (Ray) Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence (KAI) newsletter ran a major article
by Lt Col Peter Garretson (US Air Force)) entitled What our civilization needs is
a billion year plan
. Here's what made me bristle in that article: 1) strong advocacy of
manned space programs, 2) using those programs to rescue humanity, and
3) pushing the notion of trillions of humans spreading throughout the galaxy.

My rebuttal in KAI argues that 1) manned missions, costing 100X the price of science-based
launches, are a waste of precious NASA resources better spent on robotic probes and rovers,
2) humanity is already choking off the biosphere of Earth - we don't need trillions more
in space, and 3) humanity is a stepping stone to the profound intelligences
soon to emerge
(< 1-2 centuries) that will be the great explorers and engineers of space.

Online Video: Consciousness: What, Who, When, and Why
(an introduction to the scientific problem of consciousness (for a general audience))

Is the Universe Fine-Tuned for Life?

SETI: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

BAM - Brain Activity Map: Every Spike from Every Neuron
In 2012 a blue-ribbon panel of nanotechnologists and neuroscientists from
the Kavli Foundation proposed creating an incredible new set of tools to enable
the visualization of every spike from every neuron in brain-wide regions in real-time.
The resulting functional connectome would greatly advance brain science and its simulation.
Enthusiasts included NIH Director Francis Collins and Pres. Barack Obama. This project
became the ten-year scientific moon shot presented in the 2013 State of the Union!
That project is now the (Obama) Brain Initiative.

Near Death Experiences: In the Tucson Desert with Pim Van Lommel

With STEVE PINKER in the AMAZON - Cognitive Science in the Jungle

Voted Best Article on Watson by Quora:
Beating Jeopardy! What is WATSON? AI Overlord or Tool?

Kepler Seeks Earth-like Worlds

Google Goes Into Robotics Big-Time
by buying up several robotics start-ups. Here are videos of their acquisitions.)
The upside: those firms have stable funding. The downside: they've been
sucked into invisibility behind Google's "black hole event horizon."

Allen Brain Institute Symposia Video Archive
A magnificent collection of lectures presented by some of
the world's top neuroscientists to the world's top neuroscientists.).
(Imagine Sir Isaac Newton giving a powerpoint pitch to Queen Ann.)

Stanford Center for Cognitive and Neurobio. Imaging (CNI):
Inaugural Event videos, March 22, 2013

An outstanding video collection by some of the world's leading experts in
fMRI and cognitive neuroscience. Includes lectures by Marcus Raichle,
Leslie Ungerleider, Nancy Kanwisher, and many others.)

Consciousness as Cortical Global Resonance

Computational Models of the Neocortex: Stanford: Spring 2012
Tom Dean, Google researcher and former Chairman of Computer Science at Brown,
taught a course at Stanford in computational models of the neocortex in spring 2012.
I audited the course, which featured weekly visits by top computational neuroscientists.
Tom's materials for the course include many must-see, up-to-the minute videos and pdfs,
including the latest from Bruno Olshausen, Ed Boyden, Sebastian Seung, Stephen Smith,
Markus Meister, Dharmendra Modha, Henry Markram, and others.

Is Microsoft Broken? My Struggles with Windows 7
I now enjoy Win7's features but getting there was a major struggle,
battling Restore/ Recover options that didn't work. Perhaps the CIA tolerates
Chinese theft of Microsoft software as a means of reducing China's productivity -
kind of like Iran and Stuxnet. My photos contrast a Microsoft Store and an Apple Store.
Substituting lawyers for engineers is not a long-term business model for success.

Book Review of Ray Kurzweil's How to Create a Mind

Book Review of Kevin Kelly's What Technology Wants

On a Planet Near You: Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror
On Sunday, the 5th of August, 2012 NASA's one ton rover, Curiosity, landed
on the surface of Mars. To do so it had to slow itself from 13,000 mph using a tightly
choreographed sequence involving a parachute, retrorockets, and a sky crane with tethers.
Here is a superb collection of hi-res photos of Curiosity on Mars. And here is a
wrap-around panorama of the Martian landscape showing Gale Crater and Mt. Sharp.

Total Recall - Technology Wants Everything, Everywhere, Always

Artificial Consciousness? Digital Computers, No: Silicon Networks, Maybe!
A response to David Gelernter's AI is Lost in the Woods

Against the Wall, Behaviorists! Get Conscious Now! Read William James!
America's towering intellectual of the nineteenth century,
James' descriptions of the self were decades ahead of his time and
as aesthetic as the prose of his younger brother, Henry James.

Book Review of TRANSCEND: 9 Steps to Living Forever

Review of Why Red Doesn't Sound Like a Bell:
Understanding the feel of consciousness
by Kevin O'Regan

Robot Scientists Automate Discovery

Phil Zimbardo's Secret Powers of Time

Salman Khan teaches the world science and math

Review of Manna: Two Visions of Humanity's Future by Marshall Brain
Future AIs may act as enslaving Big Brothers or as empowering liberators.

Antidepressants Don't - Ketamine Does
Increasing evidence suggests that antidepressants mainly work via a placebo effect.
See Lesley Stahl's interview of Harvard's Irving Kirsch on the TV show 60 Minutes.
Also, ketamine general anesthesia may acutely resolve severe depression.

Sir Martin Rees: Humanity's Final Hour
Only have a few minutes to check out my website?
Here's how. Go directly to Sir Martin's TED lecture (and skip everything else!)
Extinction level threats to humanity need to be front-and-center.

There is a view, gaining some traction, that superintelligent AI is imminent.
This view is erroneous. (Super-human AI is NOT imminent!)
Furthermore, that sensational forecast only serves to further weaken
already anemic efforts to lessen real existential dangers: nuclear war,
ecological calamity, pandemics, and proliferation of bioweapons capabilities

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