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A Skeptical Reaction To IBM's Cat Brain Simulation Claims

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the why-stop-at-dog-brain-after-all dept.

Supercomputing 198

kreyszig writes "The recent story of a cat brain simulation from IBM had me wondering if this was really possible as described. Now a senior researcher in the same field has publicly denounced IBM's claims." More optimisticaly, dontmakemethink points out an "astounding article about new 'Neurogrid' computer chips which offer brain-like computing with extremely low power consumption. In a simulation of 55 million neurons on a traditional supercomputer, 320,000 watts of power was required, while a 1-million neuron Neurogrid chip array is expected to consume less than one watt."

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Does anyone really know what a cat thinks? (5, Funny)

cyberspittle (519754) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213660)

Think about it. Think about it like a cat.

Okay... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30213672)

Somehow my pet parrot now seems oddly... delicious. :O

Re:Okay... (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30215182)

I just left a scent marker on my co-workers desk. He gave me an odd look while I did it...

Re:Does anyone really know what a cat thinks? (4, Insightful)

marqs (774373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213746)

"If a lion could talk, we could not understand him."
Ludwig Witgenstein - tractatus logico-philosophicus

Re:Does anyone really know what a cat thinks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30213994)

1. Where's the food?
2. Hey, gimme fresh water too!
3. Empty my litter box you two-legged fool!
4. Don't bug me, I need to sleep.

Repeat four times a day.

Re:Does anyone really know what a cat thinks? (4, Funny)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214048)

Okay.

Give me food. Now.

Re:Does anyone really know what a cat thinks? (4, Funny)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214082)

Where's my food? I asked for food more than one minute ago and there's nothing here yet. I am outraged.

Re:Does anyone really know what a cat thinks? (4, Funny)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214122)

I still see a distinct lack of you-provided food around here. Make it snappy, can opener slave!

Re:Does anyone really know what a cat thinks? (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214102)

Your computer is chasing my mouse.

I CAN HAZ THINKINESS, THERE4 I IZ? (1)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214114)

Think about it. Think about it like a cat.

In block-capital Papyrus on top of a humourous cat photo.

Re:I CAN HAZ THINKINESS, THERE4 I IZ? (1)

Neil Hodges (960909) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214168)

I think you meant "block-capital Impact [wikipedia.org] ."

Re:Does anyone really know what a cat thinks? (5, Funny)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214164)

Hey... whats that moving dot on the wall? Why is it there? I must have it! Great! I captured it! Wait, whats this? It escaped me, inconceivable!!! What luck, it stopped right by my paw, Ill will capture it again! NNNNOOOOOOO!!!! Look, look there, its something moving under my feet. I must pounce it to figure out what it is! Weird, I pounced it and its still moving. Ill pounce it again! Ah, there it stopped moving, Ill sniff it now. Wait, its moving again... Curse you!

Re:Does anyone really know what a cat thinks? (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214690)

Ah, there it stopped moving, Ill sniff it now.

Except if said animal has ever had a clockwork mouse. Then it demands that you wind it up again and make it go.

But judging by the machinery these guys are using, they're thinking in terms of much larger values of cat than mine... :-)

Re:Does anyone really know what a cat thinks? (2, Insightful)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214860)

Insightful??

Hmmmph! My cat Phydeaux must have mod points again.

Re:Does anyone really know what a cat thinks? (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214166)

All right, here goes...

o hai
im in ur brain thinkin ur thots

No wonder my cats sleep all day...

Re:Does anyone really know what a cat thinks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30214170)

Spatulas. http://samandfuzzy.com/archive.php?id=32

Re:Does anyone really know what a cat thinks? (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214566)

Think about it like a cat.

I tried, but all it did was make me crave a cheeseburger.

Oh, and some vision about a cat up in the ceiling or something.

Re:Does anyone really know what a cat thinks? (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30215206)

I can haz brain simulation?

Re:Does anyone really know what a cat thinks? (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30215246)

Think about it. Think about it like a cat.

I can haz brain simulation?

I can haz (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30213674)

simulated cheezburger?

nonlinear (5, Insightful)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213696)

Wouldn't power consumption grow more than linearly with neuron count? I would think the number of connections is the dominant factor - so the comparison of two data points of power consumption vs neuron count is meaningless.

Re:nonlinear (2, Insightful)

jabuzz (182671) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213792)

You assume all neurons are connected to all other neurons. My brain does not work like that, so why you would expect a simulated brain to work like that does not make sense.

Re:nonlinear (2, Interesting)

gnick (1211984) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213996)

You assume all neurons are connected to all other neurons. My brain does not work like that...

Are you sure? I know that all of the neurons in your brain are not directly connected, but that doesn't imply that there's no path between them. So, while the power consumption involved with neuron interaction may not increase quite as much per added neuron as if you had direct connections between each of them, it still seems that it would be more complicated than a direct linear correlation.

Re:nonlinear (3, Funny)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214008)

It makes sense if you assume that *his* brain works like that.

Re:nonlinear (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214234)

considering that I can't even find the quote for the second article linked, I'll remain skeptical of the whole thing. The article on that "low power" version doesn't say anything about low power, in fact it talks about wattage woes and concerns due to the requirements to make a "neural" processor equivalent.

Also of note is that they're doing the same idea as intel, just at a horrendously lower capability. Basically a lack of information and whole lot of hype.

Re:nonlinear (1)

Raffaello (230287) | more than 4 years ago | (#30215220)

From the article on the "low power" neurogrid chip (page 3):

Just a few miles down the road, at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, a computer scientist named Dharmendra Modha recently used 16 digital Blue Gene supercomputer racks to mathematically simulate 55 million neurons connected by 442 billion synapses. The insights gained from that impressive feat will help in the design of future neural chips. But Modha’s computers consumed 320,000 watts of electricity, enough to power 260 American households. By comparison, Neurogrid’s 1 million neurons are expected to sip less than a watt.

So 5 orders of magnitude less power than current digital designs. Note however that they compute in a fundamentally different way - i.e., probabilistically, not deterministically. Since this is how real neurons work, the non-determinism is not a problem for such uses.

btw, they achieve this low power consumption by not generating a voltage spike until a certain threshold of much lower voltage (and much more variable) signals has accumulated in a capacitor. By contrast, digital devices effectively generate a voltage spike for every clock cycle, which of course requires far more power.

Re:nonlinear (1)

pz (113803) | more than 4 years ago | (#30215102)

Wouldn't power consumption grow more than linearly with neuron count? I would think the number of connections is the dominant factor - so the comparison of two data points of power consumption vs neuron count is meaningless.

Neurons are not typically fully connected in K-star like networks, they are more usually connected to a fixed number of other neurons that varies by type from a small handful to 10,000. The latter number (10,000) is used as when researchers and scientists want to estimate the total number of connections in the cortex, especially when talking about simulations or writing grant proposals where bigger numbers are more impressive.

So, power consumption should grow linearly with neuron count, if the simulation is following this particular lead from biology, and the simulation writers didn't do something stupid to create an O(n^2) dependency.

All those neurons using less than 1 watt? (5, Funny)

drainbramage (588291) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213700)

All those neurons using less than 1 watt?
I know some people like that.

Oblig. Penny Arcade ref (2, Funny)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213978)

VINDICATION! [penny-arcade.com]

Re:All those neurons using less than 1 watt? (1)

protodevilin (1304731) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213990)

I know some cats like that.

Re:All those neurons using less than 1 watt? (3, Funny)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214100)

I'm being environmentally, friendly you insensitive clod!

Re:All those neurons using less than 1 watt? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30214676)

But you've done irreparable harm to the grammars and commas! Ouch mine eyes.

Brain Power (2, Informative)

Trevin (570491) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213710)

The cat's brain is made up of 1 BILLION neurons and 10 trillion synapses. So with the nuerogrid chips, it will require at least a kilowatt to simulate.

Re:Brain Power (1)

rattaroaz (1491445) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213918)

Mmmmm . . . Billion cat brains.

Re:Brain Power (2, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213998)

So with the nuerogrid chips, it will require at least a kilowatt to simulate.

So, a reduction of 319kW, then? That's pretty good.

Re:Brain Power (4, Insightful)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214172)

In a simulation of 55 million neurons on a traditional supercomputer, 320,000 watts of power was required, while a 1-million neuron Neurogrid chip array is expected to consume less than one watt.

320kW / 55 = 5.818kW per million of neuro with a traditional supercomputer.
One watt per million of neuro with a Neurogrid chip array.

So if a cat's brain is 1 BILLION neurons, that would require 5818.182kW with a supercomputer and 1kW with the Neurogrid chip array.

A reduction of 5817.182kW.

Re:Brain Power (0)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214532)

A reduction of five point eight one jiggawatts!

Re:Brain Power (1)

watanabe (27967) | more than 4 years ago | (#30215002)

The fine letter linked to in the above points out the real problems inherent in calculating this out: actually simulating NEURONS, rather than so-called "neural networks" is really hard, and requires a lot of computing power, plus development of techniques that are still cutting edge research. There is no chip array that can do all the (currently not completely specified) simulating of a cat brain at 1 kW.

Re:Brain Power (2, Funny)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214096)

Damn, if only we could find such a great source of power!

Re:Brain Power (2, Interesting)

hattig (47930) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214188)

Their chip uses 340 transistors to model a neuron, and has 65536 neurons.

That means it has ~22m transistors for neurons, although there certainly more transistors managing non-neuron aspects.

It looks like it was made on a 130nm - 250nm process for the die size.

Shrink that to 45nm once the technology is proven, and you'll have 8 to 32 times as many neurons in a single chip. That's 512Ki to 2Mi neurons per chip.

A chip makes up a neural cluster, and you use multiple chips to simulate multiple neural clusters, like a brain. They're using 16 chips at the moment for 1Mi neurons. They'll get to 64Mi neurons easily, and with more clusters, 1Bi doesn't seem out of the question in a few years.

Re:Brain Power (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214210)

Might want to start with simulating a dog brain to save power. That's what, maybe 5 neurons, 1000 synapses, and half a dog biscuit?

Re:Brain Power (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214812)

Or just one can of cat food. Better get the good stuff, though, she's a bit finicky.

Now we know the state of Schrodinger cat... (1)

KiwiCanuck (1075767) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213722)

so tuck your head between your legs and wait for the Universe to explode! ~:-)

Re:Now we know the state of Schrodinger cat... (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213760)

Well yes, I've been doing this for years now.

Re:Now we know the state of Schrodinger cat... (1)

MeatBag PussRocket (1475317) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214656)

... or maybe you havent...

The power of custom silicon (3, Interesting)

jabuzz (182671) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213734)

If you have custom silicon to do each neuron then you are going to be hugely more power efficient that a general purpose processor simulating a neuron in software. There is nothing new there and anyone who thinks otherwise is just clueless. Given IBM have the facilities and resources to fabricate some custom silicon I fail to see the issue.

Except (1)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213832)

Except that individual neurons have tens of thousands of possible connections to other neurons, and continually morph and change those connections. That's impossible to do on a rigid piece of hardware.

Re:Except (4, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213954)

Except that individual neurons have tens of thousands of possible connections to other neurons, and continually morph and change those connections. That's impossible to do on a rigid piece of hardware.

I'm no expert and I've just been reading the second link's project site on Stanford's page [stanford.edu] but your assertion to continually morph and change those connections seems to be mitigated by this strategy:

Neurogrid simulates six billion synaptic connections by using local analog communication, another choice motivated by cortical studies. Cortical axons synapse profusely in a local area, course along for a while, then do it again. Thus, nearby neurons receive inputs from largely the same axons, as expected from the map-like organization of cortical areas. Local wires running between neighboring silicon neurons emulate these patches, invoking postsynaptic potentials within a programmable radius. Using a patch radius of 6 lets us increase the number of synaptic connections a hundredfold—from 600 million to six billion—without increasing digital communication.

If they connect most (if not all) possible connections that the morphing/changing synaptic channels can take, then they use a sort of addressing technique and RAM strategy to continually morph and change:

Instead of hardwiring the silicon neurons together, as Mead did in his silicon retina, we softwired them by assigning unique addresses. Every time a spike occurs, the chip outputs that neuron’s address. This address points to a memory location (RAM) that holds the synaptic target’s address, or to multiple memory locations if the neuron has multiple synaptic targets. When this address is fed back into the chip, a post-synaptic potential is triggered at the target. An extremely efficient technique, as the same post-synaptic circuit serves all the synapses that neuron receives—virtual synapses! Encoding, translating, and decoding an address happens fast enough to route several million spikes per second, allowing a million connections to be made among a thousand silicon neurons. These softwires may be rerouted simply by overwriting the RAM’s look-up table, making it possible to specify any desired synaptic connectivity.

Although their page is really hard for a lay person like myself to get through, it's very informative [stanford.edu] . Having read it, I'm considerably more optimistic about the future of biological tissues and nervous systems being translated to hardware. At least people are starting back at the simple components and adding new twists.

Re:The power of custom silicon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30214576)

Except that they're using the properties of low-power silicon transistors (they misfire frequently) to model the properties of mushy neurons whilst saving energy. Read the article, it's actually quite interesting.

long ways to go yet (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30213748)

From the original FA: "The simulation, which runs 100 times slower than an actual cat's brain, is more about watching how thoughts are formed in the brain and how the roughly 1 billion neurons and 10 trillion synapses in a cat's brain work together."

So the most bad-ass computer simulation, assuming it worked, which this guy is saying it probably didn't, was still 100 times slower than a real cat's brain. A real cat's brain also fits inside a tiny furry space the size of a baseball... and it runs on a once-daily small bowl of cat food. We have a long ways to go.

Re:long ways to go yet (2, Informative)

slashchuck (617840) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213830)

... A real cat's brain also fits inside a tiny furry space the size of a baseball...

The brain size of the average cat is 5 centimeters in length and 30 grams. [wikipedia.org]

Re:long ways to go yet (1)

dumuzi (1497471) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214672)

So it would indeed fit inside a baseball, if the baseball had a hollow spot inside it that was 5cm long (and the right width and height too).

Re:long ways to go yet (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30213878)

More than this, their simulated neurons aren't anywhere close to the real thing. A real neuron, an individual cell, has tremendous computing power due to the distribution of a bunch of different ion channel types (active conductances) in a highly complex dendritic tree. Simulating a few seconds of just ONE neuron accurately can take several minutes to several hours of supercomputer time. I know this because I do it for a living.

Re:long ways to go yet (2, Insightful)

fbjon (692006) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214186)

No surprise there. Raytracing a photorealistic scene takes far longer than just bouncing some photons around. Running Windows in a VM makes it really slow compared to running on hardware. This "brain" isn't all that different.

Re:long ways to go yet (4, Funny)

Neil Hodges (960909) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214208)

...I know this because I do it for a living.

Don't each of our brains do this for a living, too?

Ah, one of the greatest mysteries of Slashdot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30214972)

We now know what AC does for living. Or at least that it has something to do with supercomputers and brain simulation, possinbly biologics too... This certainly explains why he seems to be able to claim expertise in nearrly any given subject!

Re:long ways to go yet (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 4 years ago | (#30215098)

It sounds very interesting. Do you know of a good reference for those of us who don't have Masters in Biology or Comp-Sci?

Re:long ways to go yet (4, Insightful)

Rod Frey (1685360) | more than 4 years ago | (#30215232)

Isn't there value in moving to a higher level of abstraction than a single neuron though? Or simplifying the basic elements for the sake of a tractable broader model?

Simulating a single atom, for example, is reasonably complex: it would be impossible with current computational resources to simulate the electromagnetic properties of a metal if we required accurate simulations of individual atoms. Yet despite ignoring what we know about the atomic models, the higher-level models are very predictive.

Not that we have such predictive, higher-level models for the brain. That's what some researchers are searching for: I'm just suggesting that those models hopefully won't require accurate simulation of individual neurons. That seems to be the pattern in other domains.

Re:long ways to go yet (5, Informative)

toppavak (943659) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213974)

He's not arguing that it didn't work, he's arguing that they essentially ran a simulation of a large Artificial Neural Network, a relatively trivial task as long as you have a big enough computer behind it. ANNs are essentially points that connect to each other and learn by assigning weights to these various connections- this is essentially the simplest possible way to simulate the behavior of a neuron. The argument is being made that to claim an ANN, regardless of its size, approaches the capabilities of any mammalian brain is simply wrong, and that a true attempt to create such a simulation would need to factor in the stochasticity of ion channels, branchings in neurons and various other biological phenomena that have a tremendous impact on how our brains work.

Without reading more details on the original work, I'm inclined to say that he has a very valid point if they were indeed only running a large ANN model.

Re:long ways to go yet (3, Insightful)

Zackbass (457384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214232)

Considering how little we know about the emergence of intelligence from networks how is it possible to claim outright that an ANN can't approach the capabilities of a human brain? Real neurons are vastly more complex and aren't accurately modeled with such simple systems, but we don't have any idea what those complexities have to do with intelligence, so it seems to be quite the leap of faith to make claims on the topic.

Re:long ways to go yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30214724)

Assuming that you've been drunk in your life, it's pretty clear that those complexities have an effect.

Without those complexities it's like assuming a spidersweb will be effective after you've removed the extra complexity of having some strands be sticky.

Also you have adolescent pruning and developmental growth biases, and a host of other things that sculpt 'raw' brain matter into something coherent.

Re:long ways to go yet (3, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214492)

It basically just seem to be a case of the same old AI arguments we've always heard even since Turing's days.

The problem is, we don't actually know what the limits of ANNs are, there is no proof that suggests that they can't, given ever greater amounts of computing power allow for the emergence of (at least seemingly) truly intelligent response to an event.

So on one hand we have the IBM guys overstating what they've achieved, and on the other we have a guy spouting out a view of the limits of ANNs without actually putting any effort into providing evidence for their limitations.

I don't know why but the AI field has always been horifically polarised, the kind of arguments you get in that field are just so immature it's beyond belief. You have people in the AI field following their viewpoint religiously, completely unwilling to consider the other viewpoint. To see what I mean just look up some of the discussions on Searle's chinese room argument.

If AI scientists spent as much time on research as they did bitching at each others experiments and theories we'd have a walking talking robo-jesus by now that could build worlds.

Re:long ways to go yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30214836)

Whilst I think that blue brain may be overkill on the complexity side, there is still more complexity required than provided by ANNs.

Brains do not simply dump a bunch of neurons in one spot, with a couple of rules on how to organise themselves. The are positioned via chemical gradients, and hundreds of cell signalling molecules. They then interact in complex ways via synapses, length and frequency of firings etc etc.

Now you could try to model all that with a simple ANN model, but it's going to be hopelessly ineffient, and a nightmare to try and understand.

Re:long ways to go yet (3, Funny)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214106)

The simulation, which runs 100 times slower than an actual cat's brain, is more about watching how thoughts are formed in the brain...

What? I can already tell them that!

IF $stomach_contents = 0 THEN ConsumeFood;
IF $claw_count > 0 THEN ScratchShitOutOfFurniture;
IF $Sphincter_Tension > 0 THEN PoopAnywhereYouWant;
IF $TimeSinceSleep < 1800 THEN $TimeSinceSleep = $TimeSinceSleep + 1 ELSE YawnFishBreathInOwnersFaceAndFallAsleepOnComputerChair;

Re:long ways to go yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30214136)

There's definitely a difference between simulation and modeling.

Re:long ways to go yet (1)

fran6gagne (1467469) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214140)

From the original FA: "The simulation, which runs 100 times slower than an actual cat's brain

Well, it is a retarded cat brain and you should know that people love retarded animals. On top of that, it doesn't need a litter! I expect to see this thing commercialised soon.

Re:long ways to go yet (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 4 years ago | (#30215194)

and you should know that people love retarded animals.

As evidenced by the popularity of "reality" shows.

Re:long ways to go yet (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214732)

This could still be an accurate representation. Cats work in batch mode. They sleep 23 hours a day, during which they think about how they'll spend the hour they are awake. So if they're solely comparing the simulation's processing speed to how cats function in awake mode, it may actually be around four times slower in aggregate. Not to shabby.

Simon's Cat (1)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213856)

I bet they just based their simulation on Simon's Cat [youtube.com] which, to be honest, is a pretty accurate representation.

argument from personal ignorance, but.... (1)

debatem1 (1087307) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213886)

I don't really see how they would have verified that they were able to simulate a cat's brain. AFAIK, we don't have single-neuron level imaging, and the resolution on FMRI and EEG put those right out. Looking at macro level behavior would be pretty absurd- I too, can write a program that will decide to play with yarn. Unless there's something I'm missing, IBM seems to have made a claim it can't support.

Re:argument from personal ignorance, but.... (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214202)

Why do we need single neuron level imaging? The activity of a single neuron really tells us very little. The emergent patterns in the form of brain activity of multiple neurons are what matters. The question is whether we are getting the right responses in this respect from the right set of neurons in reaction to the corresponding trigger.

Re:argument from personal ignorance, but.... (1)

debatem1 (1087307) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214744)

The question is whether we are getting the right responses in this respect from the right set of neurons in reaction to the corresponding trigger.

As I see it, there's several problems here.

The first is that we don't really understand neurology all that well- higher level thought is, for the most part, a mystery to us, so identifying the "right set" isn't really possible for us at this point.

The second is that even if we were able to select the "right set", I don't think we have the imaging technology necessary to distinguish between correct and incorrect states without inducing a margin of error that would qualify our hypothesis out of existence. I may be wrong about that- it's been known to happen, and I'm not an expert.

The third is that because many different regions of the brain are involved in high level thought, the degree of confidence you can gain from any one observation matching the model is relatively low, even if you could have confidence that you're measuring the right thing and that your measurements are accurate.

Putting all of this together, the only way I can see to verify correctness would be to ensure a very tight correlation between total model state and total simulation state. AFAICT, that will require incredibly good nondestructive resolution to be practical. I don't know for sure, but as far as I do know we aren't there yet- which brings me back to the question of why they said anything if they weren't sure.

Re:argument from personal ignorance, but.... (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214434)

AFAIK, we don't have single-neuron level imaging, and the resolution on FMRI and EEG put those right out.

Just so that you know... We can get higher resolutions on brains neurons by invasive means such as cutting the brain apart and looking at live cells slice by slice under a powerful microscope.

It is rather tedious and gruesome but it is a viable way to look at the neurons directly.

Its even been to done to humans after they have passed away, but animals you can sort of get away with doing it while the subject is still "hot". (Oh I am making this sound worse than it is)

As far as non-invasive resolutions, yes, so far we don't have individual neuron levels but doesn't mean we have other means.

Re:argument from personal ignorance, but.... (1)

debatem1 (1087307) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214952)

You seem to have some knowledge here, so if you don't mind (and will forgive the pun) I'd like to pick your brain about this.

Lets say we have a tabby, an ocelot, and a simulation that we are told models one of the two. Given that we're able to perform any kind of scan or procedure on the two animals, could we determine which species the simulation was using only that data?

Brute force neurons... (4, Insightful)

xtracto (837672) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213916)

So according to this guy rant letter, the "cat-brain simulation" was nothing more than the simulation of a ANN wiht X number of neurons with X equal to the average number of neurons in a cat.

However, it seems the /complexity/ of the simulated neurons is not remotely similar to that of the neurons of a real cat.

With that view, yes it seems less breakthrough. The experiment reminds me of AI researchers that thought that we could get intelligent machines using a brute-force kind of approach; this by adding /enough/ knowledge-rules, /enough/ processing power, etc...

Re:Brute force neurons... (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214486)

Until Moore's law tapers off you shouldn't really denigrate those who think that. It looks like we should have enough power by now, but that doesn't mean that more power won't make it easier.

It's also a perfectly reasonable assertion that current computers remain too slow to properly do strong AI.

Re:Brute force neurons... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30214828)

It's not the amount, it's the entire paradigm. The model is flawed. AI research as it's done today mostly just keeps primatologists higher than 0 on the food chain and computer science academics on the wane making absurd claims to alleviate their fear of death.

Skeptical? (5, Interesting)

golden age villain (1607173) | more than 4 years ago | (#30213936)

This IBM announcement was just ridiculous. To cite only one argument, the brain does not consist only of neurons. It contains at least as many other cells which are also involved in signal processing. Mohda would be laughed at in any neuroscience conference and he certainly doesn't help the cause of theoreticians in the neuroscience field by making such stupid announcements. Eugene Izhikevich who designed the neuron model being used for these simulations had a PNAS paper not too long ago modeling the entire human brain and he did not claim that he successfully modeled the human brain. Plus no one has any clue how the brain computes really so making a claim about the formation of thoughts is just nonsense.

Re:Skeptical? (2, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214814)

Plus no one has any clue how the brain computes really so making a claim about the formation of thoughts is just nonsense.

Unfortunately, what a certain class of pseudo-scientist has learned is that monkeys in suits are too stupid to know the difference between real, conservative, careful science and over-hyped handwaving. Since we live in a world where monkeys in suits have managed to get almost total control of the corporate system and used that to leverage thier way into political power, people who suck up to the monkeys and make them feel good about themselves and their world by making outrageously false claims get rewarded with cash, while real scientists get left behind.

Our world increasingly looks like Fredrick Pohl's story "The Marching Morons", in which idiots have taken over the world (it's much more clever than the film "Idiocracy" was) and the idiots refer to the few remaining smart people, who keep things running, as "dummies". In retrospect, Pohl's story seems less about genetics (intelligence being at best very weakly heritable, as everyone with a brain knows) and more about the social factors that put money and power into the hands of exactly the kind of human who seeks money and power (rather than knowledge and serenity.)

Re:Skeptical? (1)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214888)

There's also the number of assemblies we don't know about that have been disregarded early to be brought back on the table (name forgotten) as something that's a) important and b) much much much more powerful than we thought (Kurzweil likened them to RAM, which they are ostensibly not). Oh, and c) we have no real clue how they work because neuroscience isn't even there yet.

Adult Children Seeking Attention (-1, Offtopic)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214016)

Nothing generates traffic and interest in a topic then a fight.

Recent events now confirm in my mind that we have raised an entire generation of adult children who have now degenerated science into the equivalent of a school yard chanting:

"FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!"

In order to get attention.

Since we have lost our marbles overall is this issue and reaction any more a suprise then ClimateGate?

We have been a victim of an generation or two that has been raised on advertisments and entertainment, instant gratification, and agenda driven science. We validate a theory and it is instantly a widely advertised solution or product to lock in investment and grant money rather then taking a thourough approach. Instant Gratification and marketing has polluted science. Shame on all parties. Science and technology, like most parts of society has fallen vicitm to the Idiocracy. This is the 'intellectual' version of the trial in the movie Idiocracy regardless of side.

It seems, in every aspect of life, we have become polarized and narrow minded because we are only interested in self gratification of our own conventions. We demand tolerance yet are intolerant of others. We demand acceptance but only for 'our side'. The behavior of IBM AND it's curent critics on the issue seems to have a root in this adult child crisis. Our mentality has degraded into the mentality of grade school children. I fear there is no solution as the reward structure we have created rewards the worst and punishes the best.

WHO IS JOHN GALT!?

Re:Adult Children Seeking Attention (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30215112)

Actually, I'd say you are being unduly optimistic about human nature, and unduly pessimistic about how things are going.

When was the golden age you imply once existed when most individuals worked diligently and wisely for the benefit of all?

The human animal is still the same animal that it has been since before recorded history. We're selfish. There is quite literally no limit to what we will do towards our own selfish ends.

We've done pretty well for ourselves since we started making selfish work, and even though some times are better than others we're still doing pretty well.

Re:Adult Children Seeking Attention (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#30215134)

It's not nearly as bad as it seems.

The media doesn't understand what fair and balance is. They assume every opinion are equal and as valid as facts. They are not.
Media generates controversy and then display it for all to see. Hence, the perception is that it's all a fight and confusion. This is generally incorrect.

Science marches and and continues to deliver the goods.

RE: Ponze Scheme and Astrology (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30214044)

Climate [sic] science is a new age astrology and Global Warming is its Ponze Scheme.

Not surprised, remember Deep Blue? (2, Interesting)

NapalmScatterBrain (1288748) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214046)

IBM has a known history of making overblown claims. This is what happens when you let your PR mesh with your technical research. Deep Blue was a giant PR stunt, and they had humans retooling the code in between matches. What a crock. When they get a robot that catches mice, purrs, and jumps on the table to eat my burger when I leave the room for 2 seconds, maybe then I'll believe it.

Almaden's Dharmendra Modha: You got pwned! (3, Funny)

gozu (541069) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214052)

I saw that story earlier and dismissed it for the crap that it was. I'd like to thank Henry Markram for vindicating my snap judgment with his flame email.

Re:Almaden's Dharmendra Modha: You got pwned! (5, Funny)

yt.rabb at gmail (1091047) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214336)

The only thing missing from that email was his momma. Hey Mohda, Your momma's research methodology is so flawed, that she puts the hypothesis to be proven as an assumption. Biatch.

Markram's for real (5, Informative)

bellwould (11363) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214088)

My research recently took me to some of Markram's work - the guy is brilliant and REALISTIC. His research goals are simple and attainable and any claims of success he has are *well* within the real world. He's incrementally worked his way up from a few neurons - the way a *real* scientist works; and to him, the simplest "brain simulation" of any sort is definitely possible, but far off in the future.

Re:Markram's for real (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30214548)

Sounds a bit like the sort of fight that is brewing between the cell simulator communities. On one side are the Systems biology folks who believe that with a sufficiently large training set you can generate a complex model that is predictive for things outside of the training set. But the rules themselves generated in the model aren't meaningful.

At the other end of the spectrum are the folks trying to sort out all the various contacts between various entities in the cell, and how one goes from all of these rules based on physical chemistry to a description of the cell. Two totally different approaches, each are valid depending on how you define the problem you're trying to solve.

In the above argument, it feels a little like this is the same argument. One is just trying out a really complex model (over simplification of neurons aside, this is still a large and complex model) and they want to see what they get. Granted they've probably oversold their results by a few orders of magnitude, but you HAVE to make some approximations in such things and it is not predetermined at all where the line is as far as how much approximation you can tolerate. No one would realistically suggest simulating a brain from a quantum mechanical description of all the bits of all the cells and hope to get anywhere with it. Too little approximation. Even treating all the cells like collections of point entities for the various proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, sugars, small molecules etc. is too little approximation. But the argument here that neurons can't be treated like point entities is an argument that the approximation has gone too far. I tend to agree, but there may still be interesting things that emerge in simulating such a large collection of simple elements. They may teach us VERY LITTLE about the actual function of the brain, but might teach us something useful about machine learning etc.

-sk

Has anybody claimed..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30214242)

Has anybody claimed/verified that the cat in question is alive?

a binary simulation (1)

Sterculius (1675612) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214436)

I have simulated a Conservative Republican's brain with only two points: 1. Listen to Rush Limbaugh. 2. Mindlessly repeat what Rush says.

One question remain! (1)

fran6gagne (1467469) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214516)

Can one of those cats run linux?

Re:One question remain! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30214646)

That would be nice, cause I'd like to hack my cat so it stops scratching the sofa!

Emo Philips (3, Interesting)

Temujin_12 (832986) | more than 4 years ago | (#30214636)

"I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this."

Quantum computing vs digital (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30214862)

Brains use quantum computing plus new physics. You can't simulate that in classical digital efficiently. The computational power of the quantum computer scales exponentially, whereas computational power of digital computers scale linearly. The advantages of quantum are somewhat offset by increased error handling problems, but that doesn't make it much easier to simulate.

Having said that, with our digital computing power increasing exponentially with time, they could make a digital analog to a brain, and thereby prove that the brain is more than electrical circuits, because that digital version doesn't function properly.

Skeptics! Buuuuuurn them! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30214872)

These cat-brain deniers are making me SICK! idiots!

The debate about cat brain simulation is OVER!

Cat brain. (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 4 years ago | (#30215000)

It's hard to verify anything cause the machine just sits there and ignores everyone.
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