Well, you knew this day was coming. Ray Kurzweil, futurist and author, was attacked for his supposed lack of understanding of how the brain functions, by popular biologist and ScienceBlogs blogger PZ Myers earlier this week.

Image courtesy of Singularity Hub

This attack came following a presentation that Ray gave at the Singularity Summit this past weekend, titled, The Mind And How To Build One. You can read the article by PZ in the link above, so I won't get into that here. A few other responses came out of this controversy, including a piece written by Leo Parker Dirac on his website, Embracing Chaos. Dirac raises other issues with Ray's logic that PZ missed, as well as clarified a few others. Singularity Hub also featured an article written by Aaron Saenz, titled When Will Computers Match The Human Brain? Kurzweil vs Myers. Saenz claims that the attack was unfair, due to the fact that it was based on a summary written by an attendee of the Summit, not from the presentation itself. He mentions several instances of misquotes and generalizations taken from the summarized report of the talk.

Tonight (actually, this morning), Ray Kurzweil himself released this response addressing PZ's blog post directly, featuring it on his website, Kurweilai.net. Here is an excerpt:

While most of PZ Myers' comments (in his blog...) do not deserve a response, I do want to set the record straight, as he completely mischaracterizes my thesis.

For starters, I said that we would be able to reverse-engineer the brain sufficiently to understand its basic principles of operation within two decades, not one decade, as Myers reports.

Myers, who apparently based his second-hand comments on erroneous press reports (he wasn’t at my talk), goes on to claim that my thesis is that we will reverse-engineer the brain from the genome. This is not at all what I said in my presentation to the Singularity Summit.
I explicitly said that our quest to understand the principles of operation of the brain is based on many types of studies — from detailed molecular studies of individual neurons, to scans of neural connection patterns, to studies of the function of neural clusters, and many other approaches. I did not present studying the genome as even part of the strategy for reverse-engineering the brain.

You can read the rest here.

What do you think? Reverse engineering the brain- is it just a pipe dream, or a real possibility? And can it happen in our lifetime? Only the future can tell.

However, for those of you who want to hear from Ray Himself, in a talk he gave a few months ago on the same general principles, you can look to this video recording of his presentation from the H+ Summit (where I was also a speaker, so I was present for this talk), titled The Power of Hierarchical Thinking. He explains many of the concepts that are currently being debated, so it is worth taking a look if you want to participate in the discussion.