Re: [GRG] The End of the Beginning for Brain Research

To Members and Friends of the Los Angeles Gerontology
Research Group:This just
in from Ray Kruzweil… — Steve Coles
At 07:49 AM 4/30/2013, Ray Kurzweil wrote:
    You should mention to your Group my letter to
Science which is posted on their website.  A major thrust of
book is a strong criticism of Paul Allen’s position on the endless
complexity of the brain.  As Science Director of
Paul Allen’s Brain Institute, it was inappropriate and a
conflict-of-interest for Science to assign their review of my
book to Koch. 
    Here is my letter to Science:
Letter to the Editor
cc: Gilbert J. Chin, Senior Editor
Re: The End of the Beginning for the Brain (Review of my book How to
Create a Mind) by Christof Koch, February 15, 2013
From: Ray Kurzweil
Date: February 28, 2013
    A major theme of my book is a criticism of Paul
Allen’s thesis (as he articulated in an essay titled “The
Singularity  Isn’t Near”
published in Technology Review magazine) that, essentially, the
brain is too complicated to understand. For example, Allen
writes that “every structure [in the brain] has been precisely shaped by
millions of years of evolution to do a particular thing….
In the brain every individual structure and neural circuit has been
individually refined by evolution and environmental factors.” 
I respond extensively to this and related points that Allen makes and
devote an entire chapter to my response to Allen.
I point out, for example, that Allen is ignoring the enormous redundancy
in neural structures.  In my view, it is thereby
inappropriate for Science to assign a review of my book to someone
who works directly for Allen and gets all of his funding
from him. Of the many reviews of the eight books I have written, I cannot
recall a comparable situation.  Not surprisingly,
Koch essentially repeats the arguments made by Allen.  He doesn’t
even acknowledge my response in the book to those
arguments, which makes me wonder if he read these sections of the book.
I’m not claiming that he would necessarily be
convinced by what I wrote, but at least he would make reference to what I
actually wrote.  What Koch did read he did not
appear to do so carefully, as he makes mistakes in characterizing what I
wrote. For example, he writes that I am predicting
that the “Singularity” (a point in time when computers are smarter than
humans) is “a mere decade or two away,” whereas
I have estimated that date as 2045. 
    Koch writes that “Biology knows nothing of
simplicity.” I don’t claim that the brain is simple, but merely that it
a level of complexity that we are capable of understanding. After all,
there are only about 50 million bytes of (compressed)
information in the genome (a figure I derive in the book) and that
describe the design of both the body and the brain. The
assumptions and plans of the Brain Activity Map Project, recently
announced by the White House, support my premise
that we are capable of understanding the brain and that there is very
rapid progress being made in the capabilities of brain
Ray Kurzweil
 From: L. Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D.
[] Sent: Friday, April 26, 2013 7:01 PMTo: Gerontology Research GroupCc: Christof Koch, Ph.D.; Ray Kurzweil; Sarah Black-Sevilla; Vint
Cerf, Ph.D.; Sebastian Seung, Ph.D.; John SmartSubject: The End of the Beginning for Brain Research
To Members and Friends of the Los Angeles Gerontology Research
         Unfortunately, we have
two respected members of our community crossing swords. 
Prof. Christof Koch,of CalTech in Pasadena, CA and Science Director of
the Allen Institute
for Brain Science in Seattle, WA has given an  particularly
unfavorable review to Ray Kurzweil’sHow To Create a Mind: The Secret  of Human Thought Revealed
(Viking, New York; 2012;
352 pages)[1].   Both of these gentlemen have their heart in
the right place!  Where they disagree
is in how to estimate the time remaining at the current rate of progress
for when we will finally
understand the brain in the way we would like to (in a way that allows
interventions not by
psychotropic drugs prescribed by psychiatrists but ways that will allow
engineers to examine
high-resolution fMRI, CT, or PET scans and tell us what to do when things
go wrong).  Koch
says that we should not mistake the exponential accumulation of data
about the brain for
progress in “understanding the brain” (i.e., measuring the
distance by which we have not yet
gotten to achieve our goal of locating consciousness).  In
particular, Koch complains that the
upcoming 5th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders (DSMMD) employed by psychiatrists and clinical psychologists doesn’t even
mention these sorts of scans
once.  How can we explain bipolar disorder, depression, or
schizophrenia if we can’t visualize the
circuitry at the level of neurotransmitters?   Figuring out
what happens in the case of a severe
concussion, hemorrhagic stroke, or non-lethal traumatic gunshot
wound  to the head using scans
is one thing, but figuring out the basis for a Grand Mal Epilepsy is
something else when all the
scans look normal while the patient is not undergoing a seizure. 
EEG and CT need to be correlated.
Knowing the architecture of a brain (Connectome) is not the same as
having a map of brain activity
for that particular brain. Brains are not assembled from billions of
identical LEGO blocks.  We
need to get all of the expert players to read from the same hymnal (i.e.,
Obama’s BRAIN Initiative
for FY2014, so we can measure our progress more intelligently). — Steve
Coles Ref.: 1. Christof Koch, “Neurobiology: The End of the
Beginning for the Brain,” Science, Vol. 339, No. 6121, pp. 759-60 (February 15,
L. Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D., Co-Founder
Los Angeles Gerontology Research GroupURL: E-mail: scoles@grg.orgE-mail:

L. Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D., Co-Founder
Los Angeles Gerontology Research GroupURL:
E-mail: scoles@grg.orgE-mail:


About Johnny Adams

My full-time commitment is to slow and ultimately reverse age related functional decline to increase healthy years of life. I’ve been active in this area since the 1970s, steadily building skills and accomplishments. I have a good basic understanding of the science of aging, and have many skills that complement those of scientists so they can focus on science to advance our shared mission. Broad experience Top skills: administration, management, information technology (data and programming), communications, writing, marketing, market research and analysis, public speaking, forging ethical win-win outcomes among stakeholders (i.e. high level "selling"). Knowledge in grant writing, fundraising, finance. Like most skilled professionals, I’m best described as a guy who defines an end point, then figures out how to get there. I enjoy the conception, design, execution and successful completion of a grand plan. Executive Director Gerontology Research Group (GRG). Manages Email discussion forum, web site, meetings and oversees supercentenarian (oldest humans, 110+ years) research. CEO / Executive Director Carl I. Bourhenne Medical Research Foundation (Aging Intervention Foundation), an IRS approved 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Early contributor to Supercentenarian Research Foundation. Co-Founder Geroscience Healthspan Forum. Active contributor to numerous initiatives to increase healthy years of life. Co-authored book on conventional, practical methods available today to slow the processes of aging – nutrition, exercise, behavior modification and motivation, stress reduction, proper supplementation, damage caused by improper programs, risk reduction and others. Fundamental understanding of, and experience in the genomics of longevity (internship analyzing and curating longevity gene papers). Biological and technical includes information technology, software development and computer programming, bioinformatics and protein informatics, online education, training programs, regulatory, clinical trials software, medical devices (CAT scanners and related), hospital electrical equipment testing program. Interpersonal skills – good communication, honest, well liked, works well in teams or alone. Real world experience collaborating in interdisciplinary teams in fast paced organizations. Uses technology to advance our shared mission. Education: MBA 1985 University of Southern California -- Deans List, Albert Quon Community Service Award (for volunteering with the American Longevity Association and helping an elderly lady every other week), George S. May Scholarship, CA State Fellowship. BA psychology, psychobiology emphasis 1983 California State University Fullerton Physiological courses as well as core courses (developmental, abnormal etc). UCLA Psychobiology 1978, one brief but fast moving and fulfilling quarter. Main interest was the electrochemical basis of consciousness. Also seminars at the NeuroPsychiatric Institute. Other: Ongoing conferences, meetings and continuing education. Aging, computer software and information technology. Some molecular biology, biotech, bio and protein informatics, computer aided drug design, clinical medical devices, electronics, HIPAA, fundraising through the Assoc. of Fundraising Professionals. Previous careers include: Marketing Increasing skill set and successes in virtually all phases, with valuable experience in locating people and companies with the greatest need and interest in a product or service, and sitting across the table with decision makers and working out agreements favorable to all. Information Technology: Management, data analysis and programming in commercial and clinical trials systems, and bioinformatics and protein informatics. As IT Director at Newport Beach, CA based technology organization Success Family of Continuing Education Companies, provided online software solutions for insurance and financial professionals in small to Fortune 500 size companies. We were successful with lean team organization (the slower moving competition was unable to create similar software systems). Medical devices: At Omnimedical in Paramount CA developed and managed quality assurance dept. and training depts. for engineers, physicians and technicians. Designed hospital equipment testing program for hospital services division. In my early 20’s I was a musician, and studied psychology and music. Interned with the intention of becoming a music therapist. These experiences helped develop valuable skills used today to advance our shared mission of creating aging solutions.
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