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Artificial Synapse Created For Synthetic Brain

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the let's-vote-these-amateur-clowns-out-of-office dept.

Science 129

Zothecula writes "It's probably still going to be a while before autonomous, self-aware androids are wandering amongst us. That scenario has come a little closer to reality, however, with researchers from the University of Southern California having created a functioning synapse circuit using carbon nanotubes. An artificial version of the connections that allow electrical impulses to pass between neurons in our brains, the circuit could someday be one component of a synthetic brain."

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Whatever you say (5, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#35949966)

It's probably still going to be a while before autonomous, self-aware androids are wandering amongst us.

Sure, that's what they'd like us to believe, anyway...

(crap - forgot to post this anonymously!)

Re:Whatever you say (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950114)

the truth is out there.... (anon engage)

Re:Whatever you say (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950368)

The worry isn't in the hardware.

Re:Whatever you say (3, Interesting)

camperslo (704715) | more than 3 years ago | (#35951054)

The Androids would most likely be upset with software patents, a stifling inhuman rights abuse.

Re:Whatever you say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950930)

Hey, no worries, you have a wagon, you can go anywhere.

Triforce? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35949968)

ÂÂâ- â-Ââ- Triforce?

"prosthetic nanotechnology" (1)

WizardMarnok (2032762) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950016)

nevermind fixing brain trauma, I want a brain expansion just to upgrade my intelligence and functionality. Where is my exobrain? I don't want to wait another 30 years.

Re:"prosthetic nanotechnology" (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950074)

If your a guy,
you should know where your exo-brain is,
if you a girl,
you have lost it,
and will soon find it.

Re:"prosthetic nanotechnology" (1)

WizardMarnok (2032762) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950312)

But I need one I can CONTROL, dammit!

Re:"prosthetic nanotechnology" (1)

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detachable what? (1)

conspirator57 (1123519) | more than 3 years ago | (#35953434)

oh, detachable brainz0rz. well that's ok.

on a slightly more serious note (though still clearly fantasy) i expect connectivity, routing, and cooling to be an issue preventing integration on a scale allowing for androids walking about with us. which leads to the first androids "having the big head" or "being hot-headed". ba-da-bam. tsss! I'm here all the week. Try the chicken.

Hello, Borg. (1, Troll)

scottbomb (1290580) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950028)

I dread to think of all the unintended consequences resulting from this nonsense. As the old saying goes, "just because something CAN be done, doesn't mean it SHOULD be done." This is definitely not a smart thing to do.

Re:Hello, Borg. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950034)

God, Schmod! I want my monkey-man!

Re:Hello, Borg. (1)

conspirator57 (1123519) | more than 3 years ago | (#35953466)

i missed it: where did the GP say 'God'? Maybe he's worried about Skynet. Now who's the troll?

Re:Hello, Borg. (1, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950506)

I dread to think of all the unintended consequences resulting from this nonsense.

So instead you skipped right to the most absurd... borg. Skipped right over accidental contamination of workers and the environment, cancer, poisoning... took for granted that AI will be invented right around the corner... assumed sentient androids hellbent on the destruction of the human race was next.

Amazing how many luddites and technophobes are cruising around on slashdot. I'm assuming they're trying to get to Amish slashdot, using stone and straw computer boxes, because, you know, skynet.

Re:Hello, Borg. (1)

FreakyGreenLeaky (1536953) | more than 3 years ago | (#35951270)

Thank heavens your kind are in the minority. All you ever see is the negative. You would do well in the Vatican...

Re:Hello, Borg. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35951712)

But most humans are already nothing more than drones!

Me: Hello, I would like a cheeseburger, large fries and a banana milkshake.
Drone: Do you want fries with that?
Me: FFFFFFUUUUUUUU

If anything, robotic overlords would be an improvement! At least they would have a natural aversion for religious/superstitious delusions.

Re:Hello, Borg. (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35953360)

At least they would have a natural aversion for religious/superstitious delusions.

QT-1 would disagree...

Can it pass the bar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950032)

What do you think about it?
What does it think about it?
Not that any really deep understanding is going to take place,
but can it pass the bar?

Re:Can it pass the bar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950264)

Probably. They'll let anyone be lawyers these days...

Re:Can it pass the bar? (0)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950346)

Why would any-[hic]
Why would anyone-[hic]
Uhh... Why would anyone want to pass a bar?

Re:Can it pass the bar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35952604)

Better yet, can it qualify for a boat loan?

The brilliance of this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950044)

The brilliance really seems to be an anolog replica,
but I can't wait to see sensors intergrated into a real ghost in the shell level cyberbrain.
It would be fantastic to see that future.

What Tomorrow Will Bring? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950052)

Put synthetic brains in the hands of Fewer Hacked Records Does Not Mean Better Security [slashdot.org] and you get what lies beyond, 'Today's APT (advanced persistent threat) attacks are aimed at taking over entire companies. At that level, individual data records just aren't that interesting.'"

Then "they" come for us, for the meatheads.

Self-assembly, too? (3, Insightful)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950096)

If these so-called synapses can't spontaneously self-assemble and inter-connect, they still have a LOT of work to do to achieve real AI. A more likely practical use for this was mentioned in another article about it: repairing damaged tissue in human brains (or perhaps deliberately "re-wire" portions to alter function).

Re:Self-assembly, too? (3, Interesting)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950572)

For that it would need to be able to interface with plain old mark one grey matter, and there's nothing (wishes side) in the article to suggest that it can.

Until it can do that, why is this any better than simply emulating the connections with software?

Impeccable logic (0)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950682)

You being the enemy of a friend, groupthink demands that I dismiss anything you say as heresy, but-but-but... does not compute! I am Nomad, I am perfect....

Re:Self-assembly, too? (2)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950938)

AI is not having anything to do with brain mimetism. You are confusing things here. The Watson computer playing Jeopardy is not a brain-like device and is somewhat near what can be called AI.

Re:Self-assembly, too? (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 3 years ago | (#35951594)

No only that, why would mimicking a human brain be a good option for an AI? Unless I'm mistaken, transistors fire a lot faster than neurons do. This would appear to be a downgrade for an AI.

Re:Self-assembly, too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35951802)

It depends a lot on the purpose of the AI.

The animal brain is very good at solving some classes of problems with far less energy requirements and grater resistance to damage than any transistor based architecture. There's also no reason to expect that the human brain is the theoretical limit of the architecture.

And of coarse if you want to simulate a human than the halting problem tells us that the simplest system that can perfectly emulate a human brain would be in fact a human brain (additional emulation layers add additional complexity, and a simplified model would reduce accuracy).

But can it... (3, Insightful)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950102)

FTA:In other words, it can take in the type of impulses generated by real neurons, and send them on in a form that could be further processed by other neurons

But does this mean that they have discovered a way to "plug in" a computer to a brain? Can these be used as an adapter to "talk" with neurons?

Quick learning like in "The Matrix" (1)

joesteeve (2002048) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950180)

Yes yes, I am jumping at the same thing :) I want 'the matrix' style 'quick learning'.. NOW NOW NOW :)

Woah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950544)

I know Kung Fu

Re:Woah (1)

bipedalhominid (1828798) | more than 3 years ago | (#35952668)

Do not try and bend the spoon. Rather, try to realize the truth. Neo ==> What truth? There is no spoon.

Re:Quick learning like in "The Matrix" (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35953382)

Quick Learning can wait. Load up Woman in Red please :D

Re:But can it... (1)

OrigamiMarie (1501451) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950218)

And that quote makes me wonder about a synthetic bridge over nerve damage. Get the details right, and you have a cure for paralysis. Wow . . .

Re:But can it... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950262)

I'm more shocked why they would detract from the coolness of an analog transistor with some nonsense about it's later uses. This is really a very cool thing with lots of real-world applications TODAY (phased arrays come to mind offhand - which themselves have enormous potential in medicine, materials sciences and many other fields). Hyping up some bogus hypothesis of where it will go is so typical of these stoner journalists - get a real job!

Re:But can it... (1)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950658)

analog transistor

Transistors are analogue components.

Re:But can it... (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950790)

There are already plenty of existing ways to plug computers to brains. They have already been connecting animals to computers and having them play games, control robotic arms whether nearby or far far away.

The problem is doing that safely without killing too many neurons and having other long-term issues (e.g. infection). Brains are about as soft as tofu, and actually move about a bit within the skull. It is tricky to keep stuff attached to precise parts of a brain without causing severe brain damage when the person goes jogging, or gets patted on the head.

This artificial synapse doesn't seem to be about solving that problem.

Maybe they can use a flexible elastic membrane as a multipoint sensor and have some fancy way of recalculating offsets on-the-fly if the membrane shifts a bit.

Re:But can it... (1)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950856)

Yes, but damnit, I want us to reach the brain-in-a-jar-controls-robot stage of tech!

Re:But can it... (1)

golden age villain (1607173) | more than 3 years ago | (#35951190)

It's a nice feat but there is still a long way to go before this thing matches what a real synapse do.

AI isn't far off (1, Interesting)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950150)

AI just needs to solve video cameras and laser range finders into a 3d representation. Once AI knows what is in its environment, robots can do all sorts of tasks and even understand natural language as a programming language. You can even make an AI which appears self aware by giving it desires to do different tasks, but that is kinda wreckless in my opinion. This AI isn't really that far off in the future. I know I'll be developing it when we got the software for turning environments into 3d levels. Imagine the Google cars driving down streets and instead of just taking picture, they're databasing the world for some sort of awesome MMORPG Cannonball run across continents. Imagine taking a video camera into the city and turning it into a big quake level. Once this is doable, it is going to be a race to have vision recognition of what is being looked at, who knows what player will do it? Open source I'm looking in your direction.

Re:AI isn't far off (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950422)

...The AI you're speaking of has a distinct lack of the I part. We can fake things along quite nicely, sure, but we're still ages away from true artificial intelligence. Slapping some cameras in front of a giant if/then/else statement ain't it.

Re:AI isn't far off (1)

Troed (102527) | more than 3 years ago | (#35951208)

... your post has a distinct lack of the I part. You can fake things along quite nicely, sure, but you're still ages away from true artificial intelligence. Slapping some words up on a giant screen ain't it.

(that is: We consider things to be magic^H^H^H^H^Hintelligent as long as we don't understand how they work. As soon as we do, we shift the threshold for what's magic^H^H^H^H^Hintelligence to what we don't, yet, understand)

Re:AI isn't far off (1)

conspirator57 (1123519) | more than 3 years ago | (#35953574)

i c wat u did thar.

Re:AI isn't far off (2)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950522)

Deriving 3-d representations of the environment is mostly solved - what's needed is a way to recognize objects in the environment in an abstract fashion. There are techniques for recognizing, e.g., a specific box (one previously seen) in a complex scene, determining its 3-d position stereoscopically (no laser range finding needed), and interacting with the object robotically. What's needed is a way to classify unknown objects by abstract class, e.g., recognizing that there is a box in a scene, even though the specific box in the scene (say, something brightly decorated like a cereal box, or oddly shaped like some sort of product packaging) has never been seen before.

Re:AI isn't far off (2)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950804)

You can even make an AI which appears self aware by giving it desires to do different tasks, but that is kinda wreckless in my opinion.

I prefer my AI's wreckless. If they create wrecks the autonomous vehicle projects should never go AI.

Re:AI isn't far off (2)

Hermanas (1665329) | more than 3 years ago | (#35951016)

robots can do all sorts of tasks and even understand natural language as a programming language

Not on their own [wikipedia.org] - we'll have to endow the neurons with prior knowledge about how human language works. (The circuits for human language is ingrained into the brain at birth by our DNA; it is only by using the assumptions about language that we are born with that we are able to learn it within 2-3 years. A clump of neurons without these assumptions would find it extremely difficult to learn human language, if not impossible.)

But, if we know enough about language to give robots the necessary prior knowledge, language is completely feasible. We might even be able to achieve similar results with an evolutionary algorithm, that mimics the way language evolved in humans - though that might also be difficult without prior knowledge.

Re:AI isn't far off (1)

Troed (102527) | more than 3 years ago | (#35951214)

The circuits for human language is ingrained into the brain at birth by our DNA

I'd love to read more about that.

Re:AI isn't far off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35951236)

http://www.amazon.com/Language-Instinct-How-Mind-Creates/dp/0060976519

Mind you: there is steady critical debate about the Chomsky/Pinker idea of specific "grammar genes". Mainstream theoretical linguistics believe in them, but to neurolinguistics, the picture is more complex. I actually feel qualified to say that the sentence parent quotes is probably wrong.

Re:AI isn't far off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35952844)

You can read some Pinker to start with.

Re:AI isn't far off (1)

Troed (102527) | more than 3 years ago | (#35952948)

For very simple definitions of "circuits", yes, maybe the GP could be considered correct. That wasn't what I thought was claimed :)

Re:AI isn't far off (1)

Scottingham (2036128) | more than 3 years ago | (#35952448)

"The circuits for human language is ingrained into the brain at birth by our DNA"

I would disagree and say it's more the function of mirror neurons versus any specific 'language only' neurons. Brain damage due to stroke or brain tumors show that the language centers of the brain can actually move around, suggesting that where the language centers are currently is not inherent to its function.

Re:AI isn't far off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35952826)

The mere existence of mirror neurons in humans is doubtable, though your general idea of a more general, genetically based "communicative circuit" being implicated in language learning instead of specific grammar genes is probably a good one.

The fact that AFTER language has been learned, its specific implementation can recover, does not say anything like what you're making out of it though.

Re:AI isn't far off (1)

Theotherguy_1 (1971460) | more than 3 years ago | (#35952158)

You're simultaneously overestimating and underestimating the state of computer vision. It's really kind of cute. It's actually very easy to make a 3D model of the world from sensor data now using a variety of simple, fast methods. The difficult part is perceiving what this data IS!

As a researcher in AI and robotics, I can assure you that we're a very, very long way off from having artificial intelligence which is even close to functioning autonomously in a human environment. I'd put the level of understanding and sophistication of current AI algorithms at about the level of a fly, or perhaps a cockroach if we wish to flatter ourselves. I think the closest we are to commonplace autonomous robotics is having autonomous cars, but even that has significant hurdles to overcome before it becomes commonplace (the typical $1,500,000 price of the sensors, for instance).

Re:AI isn't far off (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 3 years ago | (#35953666)

What sort of sensors do autonomous cars require that would cost $1,500,000? That seems like a far fetched number considering these days you get phones with several camera's, gyroscopes, compasses and GPS for only a few hundred dollars. What else do the cars need?

Re:AI isn't far off (1)

InsertCleverUsername (950130) | more than 3 years ago | (#35952830)

I know I'll be developing it when we got the software for turning environments into 3d levels. Imagine the Google cars driving down streets and instead of just taking picture, they're databasing the world for some sort of awesome MMORPG Cannonball run across continents. Imagine taking a video camera into the city and turning it into a big quake level.

It's easy to imagine when it's already being done: http://tech.slashdot.org/story/11/01/24/1710210/Kinect-Hack-Builds-3D-Maps-of-the-Real-World [slashdot.org]

Like Gibson said, "The future is already here --it's just not very evenly distributed."

Great! (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950160)

All we need is about a quadrillion of them for a brain.

Can they get back to us with a time & cost estimate?

Re:Great! (2)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950268)

All we need is about a quadrillion of them for a brain.

Maybe if we only used half or may be a third of that?

The first AI capable of acting as a CEO is still an achievement.

Re:Great! (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35953620)

There's already an investment firm in New York run by a program (I think the program was called Stella? Can't find a source now, I think it was either on Wired or CNN).

Re:Great! (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950528)

All we need is about a quadrillion of them for a brain.

Who wants to make brains out of these? I'm guessing not the researchers, since we can already make brains the natural way, and there's little advantage that I could see to making one synthetically.

Re:Great! (1)

FreakyGreenLeaky (1536953) | more than 3 years ago | (#35951274)

5 to 10 years, as always.

Only one synapse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950222)

Great - another candidate for president.

(see how nicely non-partisan?)

Re:Only one synapse? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950360)

The tea party candidate will be loudly and proudly synapse-free.

Ride-along (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950266)

I'd like to take advantage and ask if any of you have seen any really cool stuff on AI lately. I look from time to time - as a complete layman - and the last thing I saw was Jeff Hawkin's latest work (Numenta). Anybody got any tips?

I know it's a trifle but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950310)

No one has ever shown that consciousness can be reduced to neurobiology. That it can is simply a matter of faith. And if it can't, no number of artificial neurons is ever going to make for a conscious robot.

Re:I know it's a trifle but... (1)

VoidCrow (836595) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950488)

pfft.

Re:I know it's a trifle but... (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950838)

True, but before it's tested a lot of strange theories rest on faith. This could be viewed as a way of testing it.
Anyways: they want to use these these to help brain injuries. If the consciousness isn't reducible to neurobiology then the only other explanation I have heard is "The brain is a sort of antenna for the signals from the consciousness". This could be used to repair said antenna.

Re:I know it's a trifle but... (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 3 years ago | (#35953708)

Isn't the burden of proof on you to show that consciousness can't be reduced to neurobiology? Based on what we know, it would seem biology is sufficient.

Re:I know it's a trifle but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35953958)

No, the burden is not automatically on me to show proof. That burden is shared equally by both positions. The "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" mantra is just that. It's something people repeat. Without any epistemological basis. Read more philosophy of mind and less Michael Shermer.

Affordable Seo Services (-1, Offtopic)

brianmike (2078518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950324)

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hurry the fsck up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35950476)

Srsly, rite, I've waited long enough for the singularity. Hurry up already!

Some details from the paper (2)

kyle5t (1479639) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950500)

"Although there are a multitude of variations in synapses, we have modeled a typical cortical synapse. Action potentials, the signals from other neurons that arrive at the synapses are about a millisecond in duration and about 100 mV in amplitude. Under certain conditions, the synapse responds with an output potential of around 5-10 mV that lasts around 10 ms. Thus the synapse slows and spreads the effect of the action potential, synchronizing its effect with other action potentials, since not all action potentials arriving at the postsynaptic neuron will arrive simultaneously...The resulting postsynaptic potentials produced by many synapses combine to create enough potential (voltage) for the postsynaptic neuron to generate an action potential and fire."

I think the same thing could be achieved with just an RC filter. If I'm following this correctly, the difference here is a "demonstrated variation in synaptic strength, a key neural mechanism associated with memory and learning." Things will really start to get interesting when something like this circuit can be made that is also capable of amplification. That would be a complete artificial neuron.

http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/freeabs_all.jsp?arnumber=5754178 [ieee.org]

Article could use a fact-checker (3, Informative)

interactive_civilian (205158) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950548)

From TFA:

"This is a necessary first step in the process," said Parker. "We wanted to answer the question: Can you build a circuit that would act like a neuron? The next step is even more complex. How can we build structures out of these circuits that mimic the neuron, and eventually the function of the brain, which has 100 billion neurons and 10,000 synapses?"

Uhhh... That number of synapses is off by about 10 orders of magnitude. I assume the number of synapses was meant to be a "per neuron" number, but that's a pretty glaring thing to leave out of that sentence. :-/

Re:Article could use a fact-checker (1)

JTsyo (1338447) | more than 3 years ago | (#35952728)

Also a study has shown that neurons also have a "wireless mode" in which information is passed via a electric field. I'll try to find the link.

Re:Article could use a fact-checker (1)

Hieronymus Cowturd (1698850) | more than 3 years ago | (#35953468)

Yeah, I remember this coming up before. A poster in that thread mentioned an instance where algorithmic circuit optimization produced a design that utilised the magnetic field generated by its components in its operation. Optimising neural networks using such techniques may yeild similar results (field strength notwithstanding).

Emperor's New Mind (1)

rich_hudds (1360617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950784)

23 years since Penrose pointed out that the Strong AI proponents were wearing no clothes and still we're getting articles about their latest catwalk

Re:Emperor's New Mind (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35951112)

Penrose himself is wobbling back and forth over the boundary between genius and insanity. His own view of the mind seems to be a modern type of dualism, calling consciousness a special result of some quantum magic.

Re:Emperor's New Mind (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 3 years ago | (#35953754)

I didn't find the arguments in that book very convincing at all.

Re:Emperor's New Mind (1)

rich_hudds (1360617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35954018)

The argument is pretty simple. Every computer is a Turing machine. All Turing machines are essentially alike. Building faster computers is not going to bring about Strong AI.

If you think your brain is a Turing machine fine, I don't think mine is.

Strong AI needs something we haven't discovered yet, that something will probably explain our sense of consciousness too. It is probably some aspect of Physics that we don't understand yet. Penrose speculates about this for which he has been ridiculed but his basic argument that we are not Turing machines is sound and doesn't rely on his speculations.

Lets not get carried away. (1)

Kuruk (631552) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950864)

Its not like adrenaline will make the nano tubes toss a petri dish off of there siblings.

We cant weaponize it just yet :)

Humans: (1)

crhylove (205956) | more than 3 years ago | (#35950934)

Don't really know how it works, but we can brute force a replica with a beowulf of these.

Why do robot brains need synapses? (5, Interesting)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 3 years ago | (#35951086)

Just because biological brains have synapses, do computer brains need them as well?

Serious question. I don't know where AI is or where it's taking us.

This is more useful to study human neurology.

Re:Why do robot brains need synapses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35951162)

Because we don't know what else would work. First, we emulate, then we improve, or have the emulated AI do that for us.

Re:Why do robot brains need synapses? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35951174)

ust because biological brains have synapses, do computer brains need them as well?

Serious question. I don't know where AI is or where it's taking us.

The answer to the question is simply: "nobody knows". Is the role of the synapse simply to connect one cell to another, like a piece of wire in a circuit, or does it have some deeper functional role? Its behaviour is certainly far more complex than the OP suggests. My money is on the current paradigm (the brain as a computer) being about as completely and utterly wrong as the previous paradigm (the brain as a clock-work mechanical machine) was.

Re:Why do robot brains need synapses? (2)

FreakyGreenLeaky (1536953) | more than 3 years ago | (#35951288)

Some of the most useful achievements come from science mimicking nature.

Re:Why do robot brains need synapses? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35951342)

And some don't. Aeroplanes don't flap their wings and submarines don't wiggle their tails.

Re:Why do robot brains need synapses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35951672)

Some of the most useful achievements come from science mimicking nature.

Then again we managed to start flying when we stopped trying to flap wing-like structures...

Re:Why do robot brains need synapses? (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 3 years ago | (#35951400)

No, current research in AI doesn't try to emulate the brain, it even doesn't study it. AI study knowledge, knowledge organization, logic and so on. Not biological brains and synapses.

Re:Why do robot brains need synapses? (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35951510)

There are a lot of boxes that are hard for people to think outside of. For example, while this article was scant on technical details, I'll bet money that their "synapse" uses orders of magnitude more power than a biological synapse and that its accuracy/reliability is a great deal higher (not a desirable feature) and is not affected by neighboring artificial synapses.

Part of what makes the brain awesome is the low amount of power it uses. The "noise" in the brain is still a bit mysterious but also seems to be a functioning part of how it all works. The boxes that engineers have trouble thinking outside of involve a tendency to desire clean, clear and measurable signals giving way to accurate, predictable and reliable results. In a way, it's the very opposite of intelligence.

Unless they are proceeding with those types of things in mind, they are going down the wrong path.

Re:Why do robot brains need synapses? (1)

master_p (608214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35951670)

Well, the brain is a massively parallel computer, so the only way such a massive parallel computer can be done is by imitating its structure.

Re:Why do robot brains need synapses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35951696)

that's robodiscrimination

stupid emp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35951708)

I for one am glad my brain does not burst into flames when touched with the smallest emp.. yuck. count me out. on nano-tube uploading.

Holy crap this is cool (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 3 years ago | (#35951952)

I literally almost drooled upon reading that.

Godel sez NO. (1)

noshellswill (598066) | more than 3 years ago | (#35951968)

Listen to what the drooling SlackWare-minded dweeb has to say ... "It's probably still going to be a while before autonomous, self-aware androids are wandering amongst us. That scenario has come a little closer to reality, however, with researchers from the University of Southern California having created a functioning synapse circuit using carbon nanotubes." Pure crappola -- worse than a BASH-Shell script. The crucial phrase is "... be a while...". Yeah right. Godel sez it should take 10^35 years or so ... about as long as your fav local protons take to decay. Hahaha ... feckin-A dweeb is soooo predictable.

A neuroscientists take: (1)

bmacs27 (1314285) | more than 3 years ago | (#35952656)

Most synapses (i.e. the vast majority) communicate with chemical, not electrical signaling. Further, it did not appear that they were incorporating any of the dendritic morphology which is very likely computationally important. Finally, there are no generic "waveforms sent to and from synapses." These things all vary depending on what neurons you are looking at. In other words, nothing to see here, move along. Honestly, all that memristor talk a couple years ago was much more interesting than what's in this article.

airplane wings "flap" with feathers? (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 3 years ago | (#35953228)

One hypothesis for A.I. or Androis is they dont have to copy human physical brains exactly. I recall some aeronautical pioneers tried to imitate birds very closely.

I suggest they start with (1)

Mirrim (1560587) | more than 3 years ago | (#35954732)

Former Miss Americas and Miss USAs for implants once they have this fully developed.

Birth of the Positronic Brain? (1)

Tennessee Bear (2006520) | more than 3 years ago | (#35955066)

Its a start, how long till Asimov's Positronic Brain..........is US Robots's funding this?
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