The 2,422nd Meeting of the Society

June 5, 2020 at 8:00 PM

Powell Auditorium at the Cosmos Club

When AI Joins the Human Brain

Brain Co-Processors for Restoring and Augmenting Human Function

Rajesh P. N. Rao

Cherng Jia and Elizabeth Yun Hwang Professor
Director, Neural Systems Laboratory
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
University of Washington, Seattle

Sponsored by PSW Science Member Adarsh Deepak

About the Lecture

Biological evolution has endowed the human brain with computational capabilities that have made us the most adaptive and inventive species on the planet. These capabilities are beginning to be replicated or in some cases surpassed by recent advances in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). In this talk, I will explore the tantalizing possibility of merging AI and the brain using the concept of brain co-processors. I will present recent examples of brain co-processors developed at the Center for Neurotechnology that can be used to rewire the brain and spinal cord after injury or disease in order to restore lost function. I will also present other brain co-processors that augment the human brain by enabling direct brain-to-brain communication and sensory augmentation. I will conclude by discussing the ethical and societal implications of brain co-processors and the need for appropriate guidelines and regulations as tech companies begin investing in such neurotechnologies.

About the Speaker

Rajesh P N Rao is the CJ and Elizabeth Hwang Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, and co-Director of the NSF Center for Neurotechnology at the University of Washington. Before joining the faculty at the University of Washington, Rajesh was a Sloan Postdoctoral Fellow at the Salk Institute.

Rajesh has done pioneering research in computational neuroscience, AI, and brain-computer interfacing. He and his collaborators were the first to demonstrate direct brain control of a humanoid robot, direct brain-to-brain communication in humans, and three directly-communicating human brains forming a “Brian-Net”.

Rajesh is an author on more than 200 articles on his research, and he is the author of the authoritative text: Brain-Computer Interfacing (Cambridge University Press), and co-editor of two texts on research in these areas: Probabilistic Models of the Brain (MIT Press) and Bayesian Brain (MIT Press).

Among other honors and awards, Rajesh is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Scholar award, an NSF CAREER award, a Young Investigator Award from the Office of Naval Research, a Sloan Faculty Fellowship, and a Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering.

Rajesh is an avid teacher and speaks often to the public. In addition to his more conventional educational activities, he and Adrienne Fairhall offered the first massively open online course (MOOC) in computational neuroscience, on Coursera.

Rajesh also is actively interested in classical Indian paintings, and in the 4000-year-old undeciphered Indus script, a topic on which he has given a TED talk that, as of now, has had over 2 million views.

Rajesh earned his PhD at the University of Rochester.