Even a worm is not a computer

Scientists claim they have recreated the nervous system of a simple worm (a nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans) using electronic elements to replace the individual neurones of its small (302 neurones only) nervous system.

However, there is evidence that the working of the nervous system of even this lowly worm depends on hormonal conditions. I doubt these hormonal influences have been or could be modelled easily, if at all.

This is why I doubt that a human level artificial intelligence is possible any time soon. One can replicate nerve cells and their connections, but not their chemical, hormonal environment. And without hormones like oestrogen and oxytocin and adrenalin; and their fluctuations; would this AI “woman” truly think or feel like a woman?




15 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Julian O'Dea on March 28, 2015 at 9:09 am


    “why you will never be able to ‘upload’ your consciousness”


  2. Posted by Julian O'Dea on March 30, 2015 at 12:10 am


    “Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness”


  3. […] I have also written about these issues here. […]


  4. I have just noticed that the robot girl in Ex Machina has a nice short-haired look in some scenes in the movie:



  5. http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=157391&CultureCode=en

    “Vienna neuroscientists decode the brain activity of the worm.”


  6. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-11/rfuo-wam110215.php

    “Watching a memory form
    Sea slug study reveals novel memory mechanism”


  7. Posted by Julian O'Dea on November 29, 2015 at 4:46 am


    “New startup aims to transfer people’s consciousness into artificial bodies so they can live forever.”


  8. Posted by APL on January 2, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    “One can replicate nerve cells and their connections,but not their chemical, hormonal environment.”

    Well, why not? If you know how for example, a female’s hormonal cycle fluctuates, then it’s just a matter of building in a range of responses according to where the cyborg is in the cycle. Just include a supervisory program to adjust the bias according to the lunar cycle.

    The question is, what’s the point? The hormonal cycle runs the reproductive process. If you can build your cyborg off a production line, Why bother?


    • Posted by Julian O'Dea on January 3, 2016 at 1:20 am

      I think my point is that it is relatively essy to build a model of a nervous system with simple states of “on or off” and “signal or no signal”. It would be like one of those “finite state machines” mathematicians and electrical engineers analyse and model.

      But adding an analogue of hormonal conditions would require much more complex modelling, practically a replication at the molecular level of protein receptors and enzymes. That was the point of my reference to the C. elegans worm having a hormonally modulated nervous system. There is more to the creature than a circuit diagram.


  9. Posted by Julian O'Dea on July 30, 2017 at 7:40 am


    (Hubert Dreyfus’ [critical] views on artificial intelligence)


  10. Posted by Julian O'Dea on September 18, 2017 at 4:48 am


    “Engineers may build sophisticated robots, but they can’t build human bodies. And because the body–not just the brain–is part of consciousness, the mind alters with the body’s changes. A baby’s mind is different from a teenager’s, which is not the same as an elderly person’s. Feelings are involved: a lifetime of pain and elation go into the formation of a human mind. Loves, losses and longings.”


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