An antidisciplinary, non-institutional science and technology project
for digital replication of the functionality (“mind”)
of simple nervous systems (“brain”)
It is very easy to answer many of these fundamental biological questions; you just look at the thing!
Feynman was talking about the electron microscope, a technology which matured during the course of his career. The same exuberance is appropriate today to imaging technologies that are just beginning to mature.
The nematode worm (scientific name C. elegans) is a simple-minded animal: it has exactly 302 neurons (compare that to a human's roughly 100 billion). The pattern of connections between these neurons was painstakingly mapped out decades ago using electron microscopy, but it turns out that knowledge of the connections is not sufficient to understand (or even replicate) the information processor they represent. For example, some connections are inhibitory while others are excitatory, but this map doesn't say which is which.
In order to learn how one neuron affects another, we need to see what happens when the first neuron is activated. NEMALOAD (“nematode upload”) is a project to integrate a number of recent technologies that should make this feasible, at least in C. elegans, and using this capability to replicate the information processing structure that governs the worm's behavior in a digital model.
What university are you working at? Or is this a startup?
This is a privately backed science project, both undertaken and funded for its own sake. It's not a startup (though I collaborate with startups). It's not a university project (though I collaborate with universities, and hold a Research Affiliate appointment at MIT). It's not a new way to do science, because scientists were backed by private patrons centuries ago, but in modern America, it is pretty unusual.
Is the project open access?
I am personally committed to the ideals of open source and open acccess. Unfortunately, the large size of our datasets (in the tens of gigabytes) makes it challenging to distribute. For now, it can be accessed via NEMASHOW, which also permits downloading individual raw data files, one at a time. You can also follow us on github.