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Can We Build a Human Brain Into a Microchip?

CmdrTaco posted about 5 years ago | from the i-for-one-welcome-our-robotic-overlords dept.

Supercomputing 598

destinyland writes "Can we imprint the circuitry of the human brain onto a silicon chip? It requires a computational capacity of 36.8 petaflops — a thousand trillion floating point operations per second — but a team of European scientists has already simulated 200,000 neurons linked up by 50 million synaptic connections. And their brain-chip is scaleable, with plans to create a superchip mimicking 1 billion neurons and 10 trillion synapses. Unfortunately, the human brain has 22 billion neurons and 220 trillion synapses. Just remember Ray Kurzweil's argument: once a machine can achieve a human level of intelligence — it can also exceed it."

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Undue Credit to Kurzweil (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 5 years ago | (#28974567)

Just remember Ray Kurzweil's argument: once a machine can achieve a human level of intelligence â" it can also exceed it.

Ray Kurzweil is a brilliant computer scientist and brought us many improvements -- maybe even the invention of -- the electronic musical keyboard.

But that is not his argument. I laughed when I read that as the concept was presented to me in sci-fi novels before Kurzweil's time. The earliest I (or Wikipedia) can trace the intelligence explosion [wikipedia.org] theory back to is Irving John Good who, in 1965, said [archive.org] :

Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an 'intelligence explosion,' and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.

This was popularized by Vernor Vinge which is where I recalled reading about it. There are many reasons to celebrate Raymond Kurzweil [wikipedia.org] . In my opinion, his is "work" in nutrition and his near-religion called futurology are not in those reasons. He has become a vocal proponent of a dream to become god-like. I do not share that dream and I wish him the best of luck in his endeavors. I just cringe every time I read of the "singularity being near" or the ability to live forever coming about. If it's going to happen, just sit back and let it happen. I feel he has done a great disservice to the field of artificial intelligence by promising unrealistic things in interviews to the lay person. Disappointment is a sure fire way to get yourself branded as a snake oil salesman religious nut.

Predictions for the future are for sci-fi books and movies, don't get into the habit of being a scientist in an interview with a reputable magazine or web site telling them what is about to happen. Example:

Kurzweil projects that between now and 2050 technology will become so advanced that medical advances will allow people to radically extend their lifespans while preserving and even improving quality of life as they age. The aging process could at first be slowed, then halted, and then reversed as newer and better medical technologies became available. Kurzweil argues that much of this will be a fruit of advances in medical nanotechnology, which will allow microscopic machines to travel through one's body and repair all types of damage at the cellular level.

And that's easily criticized:

Biologist P.Z. Myers has criticized Kurzweil's predictions as being based on "New Age spiritualism" rather than science and says that Kurzweil does not understand basic biology. Myers also claims that Kurzweil picks and chooses events that appear to demonstrate his claim of exponential technological increase leading up to a singularity, and ignores events that do not.

Re:Undue Credit to Kurzweil (2, Insightful)

divisionbyzero (300681) | about 5 years ago | (#28975157)

++

I agree 100%. I still don't understand why this charlatan gets so much press on Slashdot. Probably because it causes people like you and I to post.

Re:Undue Credit to Kurzweil (3, Insightful)

cpu_fusion (705735) | about 5 years ago | (#28975389)

I feel he has done a great disservice to the field of artificial intelligence by promising unrealistic things in interviews to the lay person. Disappointment is a sure fire way to get yourself branded as a snake oil salesman religious nut.

A disappointed public threatens research funding, but an unprepared public threatens chaos.

I'm more concerned with making sure we're thinking ahead to the radical change that is likely to come, be it in 10 years or 40, than to be concerned that lay people will distrust AI researchers.

Can We Build a Human Brain Into a Microchip? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28974571)

"Can We Build a Human Brain Into a Microchip?"
  No.

There. Fixed that for you. (5, Insightful)

denzacar (181829) | about 5 years ago | (#28974681)

"Can We Build a Human Brain Into a Microchip?"

Not YET.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (1, Interesting)

InsaneProcessor (869563) | about 5 years ago | (#28975173)

And we never will. There is one element that we are not given the power of, and that is to breath life into it. Only God (start the flame wars here) can do that.

Keep on trying though, there are other things that you will invent as the result.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (1)

dummondwhu (225225) | about 5 years ago | (#28975187)

Maybe it's possible if we blend it into a slurry first and let it dry in some kind of thin, wafer-like form. But is it really worth it at that point? I mean I can get chips relatively cheaply these days and thus don't have to put brains into a food processor.

Re:Can We Build a Human Brain Into a Microchip? (1)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | about 5 years ago | (#28974705)

Go ahead.

Maybe then it can assign probabilities to the various unintended consequences.

Then again, why? You people can't even successfully manage a currency or your banks. How will you deal with super-intelligent machines without ethical guidelines? Or do I repeat myself? :-)

Re:Can We Build a Human Brain Into a Microchip? (2, Funny)

4D6963 (933028) | about 5 years ago | (#28975355)

Stop crushing our scifi nerd pipe dreams, you bastard!

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28974591)

The only question is when. To quote R. Feynman: "There's a lot of room at the bottom."

Interesting, but... (4, Interesting)

bennomatic (691188) | about 5 years ago | (#28974593)

Something like this will be possible one day, but my layperson's understanding of how the brain works is fundamentally different from how computers work. The hard-wired CPU/RAM model is just not a perfect parallel, so while we can and will improve on machines that learn, it's going to be different from the wetware that is constantly growing, changing, forming new connections and interacting with internal, external and imagined stimuli.

Re:Interesting, but... (3, Insightful)

quadrox (1174915) | about 5 years ago | (#28974655)

While the CPU/RAM model is not the way the brain works (I suppose), but it can be used to run a "virtual machine" that itself does work like the human brain does.

I don't think they are trying to simulate a human brain just by throwing a bunch of hardware together...

Re:Interesting, but... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28974909)

Running the human brain in a virtual machine creates lots of overhead.

Re:Interesting, but... (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | about 5 years ago | (#28975133)

Emulating x86 on x86 - low overhead.
Emulating POWER on x86 - high overhead.
Emulating quantum computer on x86 - extremely high overhead.
Emulating brain on x86 - ?

Re:Interesting, but... (4, Insightful)

jonbryce (703250) | about 5 years ago | (#28974901)

Why should we try to create an artificial brain in the computing lab when it would be much easier to do it in the genetic engineering lab?

Re:Interesting, but... (4, Funny)

sabernet (751826) | about 5 years ago | (#28975225)

The former doesn't start smelling funny when you leave it on the lab counter overnight.

Re:Interesting, but... (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about 5 years ago | (#28975367)

Why should we try to create an artificial brain in the computing lab when it would be much easier to do it in the genetic engineering lab?

Obviously the computing boffins can produce nothing better than a moron, even with their best technology and decades of development. Unfortunately, even after a few billion years of development, we're mostly stuck with morons or worse from the genetic approach as well.

Re:Interesting, but... (4, Interesting)

Whorhay (1319089) | about 5 years ago | (#28974927)

We may not be able to build a chip that it's self perfectly mimicks the human brain. But we can very likely build a chip that can process the software necessary to simulate the brain. Think of it as a programming problem where you have object classes for each major type of cell in the brain. You then have to keep track of which ones are connected to which others at any one time. The real difficulty will be in allowing the individual cells to change their behavior over time and depending on the stimulus they have individually recieved. Otherwise the brain simulation would not be capable of learning and growing, but would instead be stuck at whatever development stage it was created at.

Re:Interesting, but... (4, Informative)

hoggoth (414195) | about 5 years ago | (#28975323)

But what if the brain works by exploiting all of the effects of molecules, proteins, ions, electrical charges, even quantum effects at a molecular level? We have seen that evolution is excellent at finding very clever ways of exploiting whatever resources are available. It is possible that the only way to simulate a brain is to simulate every single atom involved within a brain. For obvious reasons a computer made of 'n' atoms cannot simulate a brain made of 'n' atoms as fast as that brain can work.

I don't know that this is true, but it certainly brings up the possibility that it may be impossible to simulate a brain faster than a brain works, or better than a brain.

Or on a slightly less pessimistic level, perhaps a "synapse" could be encapsulated in a software object, but the number of variables that make each synapse's position, arrangement, and connections unique are staggering and would require a machine to be thousands of times more powerful than a real brain in order to simulate it. That would move our "singularity" out til we have computers that can process as much as 22,000 billion neurons and 220,000 trillion synapses. I wonder if someone better at math and physics could calculate the bare minimum energy required for the negative-entropy to store 220,000 trillion somewhat complex pieces of information. I recall reading a calculation that the ZFS filesystem has the theoretical (but not practical) limit of enough information that the minimum energy required to actual encode that information would be enough to boil the Earth.

Re:Interesting, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28974969)

Virtualization?

Re:Interesting, but... (5, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | about 5 years ago | (#28974997)

Something like this will be possible one day, but my layperson's understanding of how the brain works is fundamentally different from how computers work.

According to Turing, all sufficiently complicated computing devices are equivalent. The architecture may be entirely different, but there's no reason in principle one cannot be simulated on the other.

At the very least, we know the brain obeys the laws of physics. A computer can simulate the laws of physics. Therefore, a computer can simulate the brain.

Re:Interesting, but... (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 5 years ago | (#28975313)

According to Turing, all sufficiently complicated computing devices are equivalent ...

Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe that was said of binary systems? Can you prove to me that the lowest form of information in the brain is the bit? Are neurons only 'on or off'? Is it just discharge or not discharge? I am no neurologist but I believe that small non-binary charges can be held by neurons that may influence thought. Neurons are fairly complex cells that have many complex dendrites -- some being multipolar instead of bipolar.

At the very least, we know the brain obeys the laws of physics.

Unfortunately we have a very incomplete set of laws for physics.

This may shock you but I assure you that there are things going on in the human brain that no physicist, biologist or biophysicist can explain. Hell, we can't even draw a definite line between what is chemical/physical and what is purely neurological function. There may not even be a line to draw. Although we are making advances, we are still in the dark about a lot of basic things in the human mind let alone discovering the detailed inner workings of the thing we call 'consciousness.' Can you tell me why it is that enlarged regions of our brain make us so much more 'intelligent' than mice or whales?

I hope for a huge breakthrough but it is nothing more than childish hope. My gut feeling is that we are much much farther from the 'intelligence explosion' than the futurologists think.

Easy! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28974611)

All you have to do is pick the right person [www.cbc.ca] and you can greatly reduce the number of neurons you'll need to model.

How about the converse (3, Interesting)

Locke2005 (849178) | about 5 years ago | (#28974617)

I'm more interested in whether or not we can build a microchip into a human brain. At least then I might be able to remember my wife's anniversary...

with DRM (3, Insightful)

DaveSlash (1597297) | about 5 years ago | (#28974863)

to erase everything you read when the license expires

Re:How about the converse (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28974905)

I'm more interested in whether or not we can build a microchip into a human brain. At least then I might be able to remember my wife's anniversary...

You could try remembering your anniversary instead. :-)

Re:How about the converse (4, Funny)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#28975095)

If there was only some other way that you could store information in a mechanical system for (perhaps automatic) retrieval and display at a later date.

Re:How about the converse (1)

mdda (462765) | about 5 years ago | (#28975105)

Remember to get married on a day that everyone else remembers.

My anniversary is July 5th : The day after Independence Day. Not a coincidence. (FWIW, we both liked the idea).

Re:How about the converse (1)

Snarkalicious (1589343) | about 5 years ago | (#28975137)

Heh. Don't let her hear you refer to it as 'my wife's aniversary.' Could be fatal.

Why? (1)

Alcoholist (160427) | about 5 years ago | (#28974631)

Why would we want to? There is already an excess of human brains available on the planet. What purpose would it serve to build more?

Lots of reasons (1, Redundant)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 years ago | (#28974787)

It would be a great tool for studying the brain.

Handy for deep space missions.

You can focus it on a single task that needs some level of 'intuition'. Like theoretical physics. The intuition would be used to think up new hypothesis.

Hell, you could have several million of them 'pondering' about any given problem at an accelerated pace.

What we must never forget is that they are to serve mankind, and allow us to enjoy life. Intellect couple with robotics will almost demand a society become socialist. I mean, if all menial labor is done by robots, how do we feed and care for the 10;s of million who will be unemployed?

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

denzacar (181829) | about 5 years ago | (#28974799)

How many of those can work 24/7/365 on a single subject with 100% concentration?

Or how about how many of those can you scale down to fit into a shoebox or smaller (while they are till operative) or scale up by linking them in a cluster (preferably of the Beowulf kind)?

Re:Why? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 years ago | (#28975019)

"How many of those can work 24/7/365 on a single subject with 100% concentration?"
you mean besides WoW players~

The key will be not to implement anything they think up without fully understanding it ourselves. Also, designing in the love and respect of the human race.

Also, if we emulatate a specific persons brain, does that mean the emulation wil behave like that person? Can we create a chip thats in a specific 'state' and therefore have all the memories created as well?

If we make 100 of these things, and then treate them all differently, will they start to behave differently?

Re:Why? (1)

Andr T. (1006215) | about 5 years ago | (#28975201)

Thank you!!! I thought nobody had posted some kind of analogy with a Beowulf cluster. ./ would be doomed!

Re:Why? (1)

painehope (580569) | about 5 years ago | (#28974859)

Yes, and most of them aren't even being used!

Of course, we know what happens to a muscle that isn't exercised...

Don't let the SETI people know this (1)

mandark1967 (630856) | about 5 years ago | (#28975069)

or they'll be running around with pocket watches or other shiny objects on necklaces trying to hypnotize people to process work units in their head while they aren't actively thinking of other stuff.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28974923)

Because actual human brains require a lot of care when employed humanely: a lifetime of feeding and looking after overall physical and emotional well-being of the human possessing the brain. A fraction of the time and energy consumed is actually put to use toward the services for which we'd want to instead build electronic brains.

Re:Why? (1)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | about 5 years ago | (#28975243)

Why would we want to? There is already an excess of human brains available on the planet. What purpose would it serve to build more?

mmmmmm, braaaaaaaaaains!

Interesting question. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28975247)

Do you work in management?

I hope this technology comes to fruition (1)

Whorhay (1319089) | about 5 years ago | (#28974647)

Within the next couple decades. My biggest dream is to live long enough to be able to explore other planets and solar systems. Replacing our brains with chips is likely the only way we'll be capable of doing this within the next few hundred years, if not ever.

Re:I hope this technology comes to fruition (1)

Schiphol (1168667) | about 5 years ago | (#28974887)

Not that I wish to start a heady argument, but I doubt the result of replacing your brain with a chip would still be you.

Re:I hope this technology comes to fruition (2, Interesting)

Whorhay (1319089) | about 5 years ago | (#28975279)

That's why I'd like to see it implemented in such a way that once my wet brain starts to deteriorate and lose functionality those processes would be picked up by the chip. Eventually all the brain bunctions would be handled by the chip but there hopefully wouldn't be any defining point in time where there would be two copies of me functioning at the same time. This would likely allow me to gradually become a cyborg and be unaware of no longer being me.

I for one... (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | about 5 years ago | (#28974675)

I for one welcome our human brain on a microchip overlords. My wife is a grad student in anatomy neuroscience. Her work is like figuring out what a computer system does by analyzing the components inside one of many chips. We still have no idea how the brain works, where consciousness comes from. I hope projects like this (simulations, modeling, wild crazy speculative experiments) increase our understanding of how it works.

The Mueller-Fokker Effect? (1)

bennomatic (691188) | about 5 years ago | (#28974683)

Anyone read this book [amazon.com] ? The idea is that someone figures out how to capture the state of a human brain on some special tapes. Comedy, of course, ensues.

Re:The Mueller-Fokker Effect? (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about 5 years ago | (#28975277)

That's an oldie but a goody (mid to late 70s IIRC, read it as a teenager). Nice to see someone else remembers it.

I always thought there should be an actual "Old Cold Dacron Heart" you could listen to while looking for your car in a big lot on a rainy day.

Re:The Mueller-Fokker Effect? (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about 5 years ago | (#28975285)

You might enjoy "Kiln People" by David Brin. They figure out how to copy people into golems then upload the day's memories (should you want them) into your real life brain.

The copies only last for a day, and you can't make copies of the copies.

It's a pretty good book.

Intersting tidbit (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 years ago | (#28974695)

is that mimicking a brain in hardware starts to show actually intellect.
It will be interesting to see how that plays out in larger scale tests.

Re:Intersting tidbit (2, Funny)

dzfoo (772245) | about 5 years ago | (#28974971)

Do you mean that, while in the process of simulating human intellect, the simulator itself becomes self-aware? Then what if the simulacrum becomes aware of the simulator? Would it create a metaphysical singularity, or just blow the stack?

Inquiring minds want to know.

        -dZ.

Quality of simulation (4, Insightful)

Tacvek (948259) | about 5 years ago | (#28974719)

Even if we have a chip capable of simulating the same number of neurons and synapses as the human brain, that will not magically form an artificial life-form. I know little about simulated neural networks, but I do know that they are only a very rough approximation of the workings of the human brain. We still don't understand all the intricacies of the neural and chemical interactions that occur to a sufficient level to properly simulate all of them.

Re:Quality of simulation (1)

bigjarom (950328) | about 5 years ago | (#28974943)

Also, we must remember that the human brain does not function in a vacuum. That is to say that the brain is part of a system along with the rest of the nervous system and all other systems in the body. To accurately reproduce the function of a human brain, you must reproduce all the linkages, stimuli, output, feedback, etc. These guys may be producing a really intelligent computer, but it's not an artificial human brain.

Re:Quality of simulation (1, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 years ago | (#28974951)

Not true.

Simulation of a brain* has shown behavious one would expect in an actual brain.

So yes, it does look like imitating the brain will cause intelligence.
This is very cool, and I hop it pans out to large Simulations.
It could mean that intellect comes from the organization of the brain, a by products of the evolutionary need for memory.

*limited set of emmulated neurons, really.

Re:Quality of simulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28975233)

actually we do understand the intricacies of the neural and chemical interactions here. it's the structure of the brain that we'd need to figure out, but that's coming along nicely also.

Sure we can... (4, Informative)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | about 5 years ago | (#28974725)

...but why would we? The brain was assembled by natural selection -- a process that can only improve and work with what it already has, which is hardly ideal. The human brain is certainly amazing, but it is not perfect. There are certainly better, faster, and more efficient ways of designing the superhuman AIs of the future. Looking at the brain will give us a good road map, but is not the end-all be-all.

I see a strange arrogance and egocentricity in trying to design robots to be exactly like us, why not think outside the box? Why are upright, bipedal robots always portrayed as the ultimate? There are most certainly more efficient and better designs than the one we are saddled with, this is just how we happened to evolve, we are simply the current end of one branch of the evolutionary tree.

Re:Sure we can... (4, Insightful)

ardor (673957) | about 5 years ago | (#28974827)

The way we evolved can be a hint about efficiency. For example, bipedal movement turned out to be pretty efficient on a human scale, while eight legs like a spider are not. Therefore, it is important to know *why* things evolved the way they did. Was it because of energy efficiency? Adaptation to local predators? etc.

Re:Sure we can... (1)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#28975267)

And yet wheels are vastly more efficient than we are (I guess only given suitable conditions, but we have done a pretty good job creating those conditions).

Re:Sure we can... (3, Interesting)

Extremus (1043274) | about 5 years ago | (#28974949)

Mode parent up! Do not seems reasonable to consider the "conscience" as a phenomena inherent to the biological brain. In fact - and this is somewhat ironic -, the most successful intelligent systems are based in cognitivist approaches, which are a little bit far away from the conexionist approach. While I do not believe that this situation will last much longer (given the difficulties in programming symbolic reasoning systems), I do not also believe that the brain simulation approach is the only way to go, or even the most efficient way to go.

It's your birthday... (1)

VinylRecords (1292374) | about 5 years ago | (#28974727)

...someone gives you a calfskin wallet. You've got a little boy, he shows you his butterfly collection, plus the killing jar. You're watching television...suddenly you realize there's a wasp crawling on your arm.

We are getting closer to Eldon Tyrell's replicants...and I for one welcome our mircochip brained overlords.

Re:It's your birthday... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 years ago | (#28975057)

How about:

"I for one welcome our limited lifespan mircochip brained overlords."

Re:It's your birthday... (2, Funny)

AP31R0N (723649) | about 5 years ago | (#28975333)

If they look like Sean Young, i welcome them too.

Time we (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28974739)

all got our coats

Exceeding (2, Interesting)

Usually Unlucky (1598523) | about 5 years ago | (#28974755)

Instead of recreating a human brain why don't they figure out how to wire a processor into the human brain to improve it.

I could use a built in graphing calculator or spell check.

Re:Exceeding (1)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | about 5 years ago | (#28975289)

yeah, like a modchip, then we could get the public to run unsigned code!

One word (2, Interesting)

therpham (953844) | about 5 years ago | (#28974759)

Cylons!

The real question is (1)

jerep (794296) | about 5 years ago | (#28974763)

Can we build a microchip into a human brain?

Somewhat just said that (Locke2005). (1)

Sybert42 (1309493) | about 5 years ago | (#28975039)

Why did you post this?

Re:Somewhat just said that (Locke2005). (1)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | about 5 years ago | (#28975309)

Why did you post this?

Oh wait, I've seen this on Who's Line is it anyway, you talk with questions!... Um, Is that your ferret or are you just happy to see me?

It's not just the parallelism (4, Interesting)

imgod2u (812837) | about 5 years ago | (#28974785)

It's the reconfigurable nature of the human brain that's unique and powerful. If all you did was take one person, listed all of the skills of that person -- all of the things he knew; all of the skills in smell, touch, sight and taste; all of the cognitive reasoning ability -- then you could create a chip to simulate those skills. Algorithms for image recognition, feature extraction, speech recognition, etc. are all available that are very very close to what humans can do.

But the thing that separates humans is that it didn't take hundreds of years of mathematical development to come up with these algorithms. The human brain develops these algorithms through changes in its structure from birth. At about age 10, speech recognition specialized and tailored to the dialect, language and tones that the person hears has developed on its own.

That type of structural formation and learning is what would need to happen in silicon to make a truly intelligent machine. Neuron clusters emulated using transistors would need to be able to dynamically form connections to other neuron clusters. There'd have to be some type of distributed learning algorithm encoded in the operation of each individual neuron.

Speech recognition is easy. Image recognition is easy. Developing a distributed, scalable, self-modifying architecture that can learn all of those and more on its own with nothing more than training samples is the difficult part.

Emulation or Memristors (1)

dreamer.redeemer (1600257) | about 5 years ago | (#28974793)

Sure, we could emulate the functioning of parts of the brain using our modern computers, but pretty soon it won't make a lot of sense; memristors have functionality that is reminiscent of neurons, and it is not difficult to imagine their utilization for a silicon implementation of the neocortex.

Re:Emulation or Memristors (1)

imgod2u (812837) | about 5 years ago | (#28975079)

Memsistors are nothing like neurons....

Neurons are incredibly complex nodes with a built-in structural formation algorithm; an algorithm that's not understood at all.

Memsistors store current values.

Not the whole brain...less is more (3, Interesting)

GNUCyberKat (62503) | about 5 years ago | (#28974805)

Quote from article:

"It takes about 20 transistors to implement a synapse. Clearly, building the silicon equivalent of 220 trillion synapses is not an easy problem to solve."

-- That's nice if you want to model the entire brain but why would you? How much of the brain is geared toward bodily functions that one would not necessarily need to model? If you exclude the required synapses dedicated to those functions you can focus on a smaller subset that would be easier to build and operate...no?

Another thought is when building a brain model...who's? Not all brains are built equal...almost every brain related health story I read online speaks of neurological issues in the brain...what are the odds of building these into any model of a brain? It can get expensive correcting the circuitry to improve and correct these? Which leads me to wonder...what does a flawless brain look like exactly?

Re:Not the whole brain...less is more (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28975159)

A flawless brain??? I believe it would look exactly like mine!

Re:Not the whole brain...less is more (1)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | about 5 years ago | (#28975347)

Which leads me to wonder...what does a flawless brain look like exactly?

Tasty! Mmmmm, brains!

Re:Not the whole brain...less is more (1)

Zashi (992673) | about 5 years ago | (#28975361)

what does a flawless brain look like exactly?

Here, I'll show you mine.

FACETS PhD program (1)

Sybert42 (1309493) | about 5 years ago | (#28974811)

I applied for this--looks pretty interesting.

Do they need to map the entire brain (0)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 5 years ago | (#28974829)

plans to create a superchip mimicking 1 billion neurons and 10 trillion synapses. Unfortunately, the human brain has 22 billion neurons and 220 trillion synapses

First off, it's been said that people only use 10% of their actual brain power. So 1 billion neurons probably isn't far off from what we would use anyway.

Secondly hardwiring a bunch of circuits together doesn't mean you have created a human brain. You still need to write the software that runs on those circuits. Currently, we don't even know how to write the software. If we did, we would have written it already. We would have a computerized brain, but it would just run slower than an actual human brain. Other's point out that the big thing about the brain is that it is constantly changing it's connections, every time we receive a stimulus. Each brain is the product of all the stimuli it has received over the lifetime of the person. How you program that into a computer is beyond me.

Re:Do they need to map the entire brain (1, Informative)

characterZer0 (138196) | about 5 years ago | (#28975207)

First off, it's been said that people only use 10% of their actual brain power.

Lots of stupid things have been said. People generally only use 10%-20% of their brains at any given moment. They use nearly all of it through the course of the day.

Re:Do they need to map the entire brain (3, Informative)

Hungus (585181) | about 5 years ago | (#28975221)

Lots of "things" are said and lots of things are wrong. "people only use 10% of their actual brain power" is belongs to both groups.

Though an alluring idea, the "10 percent myth" is so wrong it is almost laughable, says neurologist Barry Gordon at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. Although there's no definitive culprit to pin the blame on for starting this legend, the notion has been linked to the American psychologist and author William James, who argued in The Energies of Men that "We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources." It's also been associated with to Albert Einstein, who supposedly used it to explain his cosmic towering intellect.

source: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=people-only-use-10-percent-of-brain [scientificamerican.com]

Re:Do they need to map the entire brain (1)

danking (1201931) | about 5 years ago | (#28975325)

First off, it's been said that people only use 10% of their actual brain power. So 1 billion neurons probably isn't far off from what we would use anyway.

This is 100% false. [scientificamerican.com]

some humans, you could - others need a little more (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 5 years ago | (#28974831)

Face it some people can't make up their minds. That puts the level of complexity of their brains somewhere beneath a simple OR logic gate. Other people would need a random number generator to emulate their brains.

These we can do already - but why bother?

Lower Standards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28974845)

Sure. The real question is whose brain.
Darl McBride's? Absolutely.
Steve Jobs'? We don't even know how that reality distortion field works.

Time to learn... (1)

CyrusOmega (1261328) | about 5 years ago | (#28974853)

Building the structure of the brain is vastly different from the uses of the brain. The human brain develops over time in ways that would be very difficult to reproduce. That, mixed with the fact that learning takes place during this development makes the puzzle even more difficult. Remember too, that it takes our brains 10+ years, at the earliest, to produce thought patterns complex enough to solve modestly difficult logic problems (and in some cases it never happens). So, if man managed to build a brain like structure, we would probably spend several years just training it.

Can it kill people? (1)

DM9290 (797337) | about 5 years ago | (#28974889)

The question is, whether we can put a brain on a chip smart enough to procreate and kill human beings.

it doesn't need to be smarter than that to destroy human kind. And once humanity is eliminated, no one will care if computer chips can mimic our brains.

Re:Can it kill people? (1)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#28975363)

Wolves have not succeeded in destroying human kind, and they meet both of your criteria.

Lots of diseases procreate and kill human beings without doing anything resembling what we call thinking, but few of them have even threatened the globe (lots of diseases have been catastrophes, but each time, we bounce back).

Bullshit (0, Troll)

TheMiddleRoad (1153113) | about 5 years ago | (#28975013)

There will be no intelligence explosion. A snail cannot design a smarter snail. Humanity has not yet designed a smarter human. Furthermore, all we know is that meat makes thinking brains. Computers just switch bits on and off, and certainly don't know what bits are or anything for that matter since they don't think.

Re:Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28975245)

Humanity has not yet designed a smarter human.

Yet.

Re:Bullshit (1)

spleenhead (633571) | about 5 years ago | (#28975265)

yes, we have built smarter brains, over many generations via sexual selection

Re:Bullshit (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about 5 years ago | (#28975329)

Humanity has not yet designed a smarter human.

Many children are smarter than their parents. Sometimes it's by design. Parents will give their children better learning tools and opportunities than they had.

Re:Bullshit (1)

ug333 (919867) | about 5 years ago | (#28975391)

What? Is this supposed to resemble a logical argument? We have already "created" smarter humans by passing knowledge down through the generations, allowing us to reach further and further (shoulders of geniuses, and all that). And why on earth wouldn't a human be able to create something smarter than him/herself? We have created things that are faster and stronger. We have created machines that can perform certain calculations many orders of magnitude faster than us. Why is "intelligence" such a sacred trait?

From the article (3, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about 5 years ago | (#28975041)

Hawkins believes computer scientists have focused too much on the end product of artificial intelligence. Like B.F. Skinner, who held that psychologists should study stimuli and responses and essentially ignore the cognitive processes that go on in the brain, he holds that scientists working in AI and neural networks have focused too much on inputs and outputs rather than the neurological system that connects them.

I agree with this quote. A lot of computer scientists try to build artificial intelligence without really understanding how their own brain works. It is really too bad because they have an unusually observable specimen right in their own head. Genetic learning? Is that how you feel you learn personally? Of course this question can't answer everything about artificial intelligence, but it can definitely help and is too often ignored.

Also, one thing that isn't clear from the article is whether the synapses will be static, or whether they can move and grow, just as human brain synapses can.

Soul / Spirit (0, Flamebait)

lotsobees (1613469) | about 5 years ago | (#28975115)

They cannot create a soul... they cannot create the spirit of a man. Human arrogance at its height.

Re:Soul / Spirit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28975223)

Who told you that?

Re:Soul / Spirit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28975227)

Of course they cannot, because such thing doesn't exist.

The "soul" is, at most, an element of the mind. A sense of identity, self-awareness, you name it.

Re:Soul / Spirit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28975287)

Sorry to break it to you, but you're most likely just the sum of a bunch of chemical reactions going off at the same time. Whatever you believe to be a "soul" is just an emergent property of those reactions.

Re:Soul / Spirit (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about 5 years ago | (#28975379)

Prove you have a soul and my dog doesn't, and I'll agree with you. (For the record, I know my dog has a soul, but I'm not sure about the rest of you)

"thousand trillion"? (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | about 5 years ago | (#28975175)

That's not what a nerd would say...it's called a quadrillion. These larger number set aren't that hard to remember... the prefixes are from Latin. Bi-, Tri-, Quad-, Quint-, Hex-... We already use them in name of some of our months.

22x more? (1)

spleenhead (633571) | about 5 years ago | (#28975241)

thats only 10 more years of computer hardware development

Now that your brain's on a chip (1)

hessian (467078) | about 5 years ago | (#28975273)

...we're installing Windows. haha

already done (4, Funny)

blackfrancis75 (911664) | about 5 years ago | (#28975315)

Hi, BrainChip here - just logging on to let you know I do exist. Cheers, - BrainChip.

Not only that (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 5 years ago | (#28975345)

But the actual brain can change the synapses over time, making new ones and obsoleting old ones. I'd like to see some silicon do THAT. I wouldn't worry, we'll still be boss for a while.

I need a new brain (1)

argee (1327877) | about 5 years ago | (#28975381)

Just think, with Moore's law in effect, we'll be able to buy a New Brain in about 6 years. Perfect! I just wish I could buy one now.
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