The Mouse Brain As A Gatekeeper For AI And Autonomous Cars  

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The unheralded mouse brain could be one of the cornerstones or keys to achieving AI-based true self-driving cars. (Photo by Silje Roseneng on Unsplash.) 

By Lance Eliot, the AI Trends Insider  

Mice can be amazingly smart, mightily so. We all would likely agree that mice are quick on their feet and physically agile. On a personal level, I’ve dealt with mice that decided to take up residence at my home and were determined to stay without my permission and without paying any rent. Upon witnessing a mouse running around in my domicile, I rushed over to the local store and got an everyday mousetrap.   

Turns out that the mice avoided the thing and probably got quite a laugh at my having set it up to begin with. Let’s refer to them as mocking mice, in addition to being mighty mice.   

I watched numerous popular online videos claiming to provide a guaranteed-to-work formula to catch a mouse. Those darned clever mice seemed to escape each one.   

I finally threw in the towel and did what my colleagues and friends had suggested all along. I got a cat.   

I don’t know if my beloved cat dispatched the mice directly, or maybe they headed for the hills after realizing that there was a new sheriff in town. As I said, mice can be very cunning.   

Scientists would say that mice are reasonably intelligent beings. They are being analyzed and scrutinized on a daily basis. The assumption is that mice can reveal all sorts of insights about animals in general, and about mammals in particular, and hopefully provide a helpful glimpse into the nature of human brains and human capabilities.  

They seem to have short-term memory and a long-term memory. Mice will figure out more expedient paths of a maze and seek to optimize their self-behavior. They seem to be able to work in teams, making use of various communications to coordinate their joint activities. It is believed that the communications take place via sound, touch, smell, urination, and even by the act of thumping their appendages.   

Mice might be a crucial pathway toward figuring out the human brain. Mice might also be a crucial pathway toward devising Artificial Intelligence (AI) in machines.   

Say what? 

Yes, the more we can identify how brains work, mice or humans, the better chance we would seem to have toward crafting AI systems. If we can somehow reverse engineer brains, we might be able to create AI systems that do more of what brains do. Some believe that we will simply mimic or simulate the wetware of brains. Others indicate that we might not need to do such mimicry and can instead glean insights to devise AI systems that are able to exhibit intelligent behavior, though they might be made in completely different ways than that of wetware brains.   

You can conceive of efforts in AI as racing forward on multiple fronts at once.   

There are those that don’t especially pay attention to the biomedical efforts of brain reverse engineering. They are fine with such work taking place, but the pace and progress have little bearing on their AI efforts. Absent any hard-and-fast tangible indications from the wetware focus, those AI developers and researchers are forging ahead anyway. No need to wait for the bio side to pin down how the brain operates. 

Meanwhile, there are other AI developers and researchers that closely monitor or are directly involved in these wetware examinations. This is then infused into their AI constructions. The AI use of Machine Learning (ML) and Deep Learning (DL) is notably influenced by and tends to use Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs), which are somewhat akin to wetware neural networks, though decidedly less so and not on par (as yet).   

The thing is, there is a huge debate about whether having tons upon tons of something that runs on a machine in a computer-based way that mimics neurons is ever going to arise to intelligent behavior in the manner that we construe intelligence. If we don’t also come to understand how intelligence arises from the neurons and their interconnections in wetware, we might be doomed to having merely a humongous network of computer-based simulated neurons that aren’t particularly overwhelmingly impressive.   

Perhaps we might get AI toward parts of intelligent behavior via these massive ANN’s and then get stuck. The widespread supposition is that the only way to get unstuck will involve decoding how brains give rise to intelligence in the natural world.   

The mighty mouse might be a significant step in that direction.   

Where might a better devised AI be used, namely an AI that might be shaped around what we ultimately learn from the brains of mice? The mouse brain could be one of the cornerstones or keys to achieving AI-based true self-driving cars.   

The future of cars consists of AI-based true self-driving cars. There isn’t a human driver involved in a true self-driving car. Keep in mind that true self-driving cars are driven via an AI driving system. There isn’t a need for a human driver at the wheel, and nor is there a provision for a human to drive the vehicle.   

Here’s an intriguing question that is worth pondering: How might the insights from reverse-engineering the brains of those lovable and clever mice somehow stoke the advent of AI-based true self-driving cars?   

I’d like to first further clarify what is meant when I refer to true self-driving cars.   

For my framework about AI autonomous cars, see the link here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/framework-ai-self-driving-driverless-cars-big-picture/   

Why this is a moonshot effort, see my explanation here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/self-driving-car-mother-ai-projects-moonshot/   

For more about the levels as a type of Richter scale, see my discussion here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/richter-scale-levels-self-driving-cars/   

For the argument about bifurcating the levels, see my explanation here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/reframing-ai-levels-for-self-driving-cars-bifurcation-of-autonomy/ 

Understanding The Levels Of Self-Driving Cars 

As a clarification, true self-driving cars are ones where the AI drives the car entirely on its own and there isn’t any human assistance during the driving task.   

These driverless vehicles are considered Level 4 and Level 5, while a car that requires a human driver to co-share the driving effort is usually considered at Level 2 or Level 3. The cars that co-share the driving task are described as being semi-autonomous, and typically contain a variety of automated add-on’s that are referred to as ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems).   

There is not yet a true self-driving car at Level 5, which we don’t yet even know if this will be possible to achieve, and nor how long it will take to get there.   

Meanwhile, the Level 4 efforts are gradually trying to get some traction by undergoing very narrow and selective public roadway trials, though there is controversy over whether this testing should be allowed per se (we are all life-or-death guinea pigs in an experiment taking place on our highways and byways, some contend). 

Since semi-autonomous cars require a human driver, the adoption of those types of cars won’t be markedly different from driving conventional vehicles, so there’s not much new per se to cover about them on this topic (though, as you’ll see in a moment, the points next made are generally applicable).  

For semi-autonomous cars, it is important that the public needs to be forewarned about a disturbing aspect that’s been arising lately, namely that despite those human drivers that keep posting videos of themselves falling asleep at the wheel of a Level 2 or Level 3 car, we all need to avoid being misled into believing that the driver can take away their attention from the driving task while driving a semi-autonomous car.   

You are the responsible party for the driving actions of the vehicle, regardless of how much automation might be tossed into a Level 2 or Level 3. 

For why remote piloting or operating of self-driving cars is generally eschewed, see my explanation here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/remote-piloting-is-a-self-driving-car-crutch/  

To be wary of fake news about self-driving cars, see my tips here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/ai-fake-news-about-self-driving-cars/  

The ethical implications of AI driving systems are significant, see my indication here: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/ethically-ambiguous-self-driving-cars/   

Be aware of the pitfalls of normalization of deviance when it comes to self-driving cars, here’s my call to arms: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/normalization-of-deviance-endangers-ai-self-driving-cars/   

Self-Driving Cars And The Mouse That Roared   

For Level 4 and Level 5 true self-driving vehicles, there won’t be a human driver involved in the driving task. All occupants will be passengers; the AI is doing the driving. 

One aspect to immediately discuss entails the fact that the AI involved in today’s AI driving systems is not sentient. In other words, the AI is altogether a collective of computer-based programming and algorithms, and most assuredly not able to reason in the same manner that humans can.   

Why is this added emphasis about the AI not being sentient? 

Because I want to underscore that when discussing the role of the AI driving system, I am not ascribing human qualities to the AI. Please be aware that there is an ongoing and dangerous tendency these days to anthropomorphize AI. In essence, people are assigning human-like sentience to today’s AI, despite the undeniable and inarguable fact that no such AI exists as yet.   

With that clarification, you can envision that the AI driving system won’t natively somehow “know” about the facets of driving. Driving and all that it entails will need to be programmed as part of the hardware and software of the self-driving car. 

Let’s dive into the myriad of aspects that come to play on this topic.   

We are considering how mouse brains might be useful for making further progress on achieving AI-based true self-driving cars.   

It would seem apparent that we know everything there is to know about how humans drive. 

The thing is, all of those discernible rules and abundant logic about the driving act are ultimately converted into the human brain. Once the whole kit and caboodle go into your brain, we really do not know what takes place. The brain in terms of turning all that wetware machinations into human thinking is still an abundant mystery. 

In short, if studies of the brains of mice could reveal the innermost secrets of how the brain arises to the task of thinking, we might be able to unlock the same as it pertains to human thought. And, if we did that, we would have a much clearer understanding of what goes through the human mind during the driving chore. Some ardently believe that the vaunted and revered Level 5 will not be achieved unless we can first unpack the inner workings of human thought.   

That being said, I would not want to imply that the glories of finally figuring out how humans think are going to be used simply to garner autonomous vehicles and self-driving cars. You can bet your bottom dollar that a lot more could be achieved with AI that leveraged or exploited the byzantine complexities of the human brain. 

For more details about ODDs, see my indication at this link here: https://www.aitrends.com/ai-insider/amalgamating-of-operational-design-domains-odds-for-ai-self-driving-cars/ 

On the topic of off-road self-driving cars, here’s my details elicitation: https://www.aitrends.com/ai-insider/off-roading-as-a-challenging-use-case-for-ai-autonomous-cars/ 

I’ve urged that there must be a Chief Safety Officer at self-driving car makers, here’s the scoop: https://www.aitrends.com/ai-insider/chief-safety-officers-needed-in-ai-the-case-of-ai-self-driving-cars/ 

Expect that lawsuits are going to gradually become a significant part of the self-driving car industry, see my explanatory details here: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/self-driving-car-lawsuits-bonanza-ahead/   

Conclusion 

Start small and make our way to something big, really big.   

We can welcome and seek to squeeze every ounce of insight from the mapping of the mouse brain. A lot more mapping is going to be needed. Be thankful for those gallant mice that contribute to this grand quest.   

A final comment for now. 

The approximate estimated count for the number of human neurons in our brains is around 86 billion. For a mouse it is something akin to 70 million. Recall how I obtained a cat, partially prompted to deal with my mouse problem at home.   

The estimate of the number of neurons in the brain of a cat is around 250 million. On a rough comparison, this means that the cat has perhaps three to four times the number of neurons of a mouse. Please note that you have to be careful making any generalizations by the sheer count of neurons alone, since that’s not the only factor involved.   

But, I’m sure your neighborhood cat thinks it can outsmart those troublesome mice, and the feline is eagerly and earnestly willing to prove to you that by far a cat is heads and shoulders smarter than those annoying mouse freeloaders underfoot. 

The race to figure out how to best attain AI is akin to a cat and mouse gambit that we don’t yet know how it will play out. It is going to be exciting, that’s for darn sure.  

Copyright 2021 Dr. Lance Eliot  

http://ai-selfdriving-cars.libsyn.com/website