Many people are unaware that NASA's share of the federal budget is quite small. Doesn't it make sense to invest in space travel and technology? Why aren't we throwing all of our money towards colonizing Mars? It's actually not a simple issue. A lot of voters feel that we should focus our efforts on improving the conditions of our own planet before we start exploring others. Others think space travel should be privatized and not publicly funded. We've come a long way since the Space Race.
But now we seem to be engaged in a new race, towards replicating the human brain. The European Union recently invested $2 billion in the Human Brain Project, which aims to create a simulation of the brain. The United States is now going to try to one-up the EU through their $100 million investment in MICrONS, Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks. MICrONS is an effort to reverse engineer the way that the brain learns in order to replicate its connections in code and teach machines how to learn.
It seems the world is engaged in a sort of Brain Race to create an advanced artificially intelligent system. But NASA has name and brand recognition -- does the public even know what MICrONS is? In the next few years, we're likely to be confronted with a major public divide over whether government funding should go into research towards artificial intelligence. It's a hot issue. There are people who think artificial intelligence is a great thing, and still others who fear the looming singularity like nobody's business. Those who lived through the Space Race will never forget sitting in front of their TVs to watch the first rocket launch -- perhaps one day we'll be crowded around smartphones replaying .gifs of the first advanced AI completely owning a human being at Candy Crush.