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The Human Brain Project Kicks Off

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the bring-me-a-brain-igor dept.

Technology 251

Velcroman1 writes "What if you could build a computer that works just like the human brain? You could invent new forms of industrial machinery, create fully autonomous thinking cars, devise new kinds of home appliances. And a new project in Europe hopes to create a computer brain just that powerful in the next ten years — and it's incredibly well-funded. The Human Brain Project kicks off Oct. 7 at a conference in Switzerland. Over the next 10 years, about 80 science institutions and at least 20 government entities in Europe will figure out how to make that computer brain. The project will cost about 1.2 billion euros — or about $1.6B in U.S. dollars. The research hinges on creating a super-powerful computer that's 1,000 times faster than those in use today."

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Conversion? (4, Insightful)

stewsters (1406737) | about a year ago | (#45058409)

I think that conversion ratio is wrong. $13.57 USD

Re:Conversion? (1)

stewsters (1406737) | about a year ago | (#45058415)

Whoops, billion.

Re:Conversion? (2)

daniel.garcia.romero (2755603) | about a year ago | (#45058565)

Whoops, billion.

I think you meant: $1.3 billion. Wow! Something is going on here, $13 billion damnit!

Re:Conversion? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058445)

"$10 billion euros", is a whole new currency, dollar-euro?

Re:Conversion? (1)

Xiph1980 (944189) | about a year ago | (#45058779)

Sorry, accidentally picked the wrong mod out of the list... Undoing by replying.

Re:Conversion? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#45059229)

Hmmm. Maybe $10 billion euros does equal $1.3 billion.

This must be the same calculator England used to estimate it would take £530 to cover the country wirelessly.

We in the US have nothing to fear.

Re:Conversion? (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about a year ago | (#45059393)

It's the metric version of the dollar.

Get Mad At The Truth (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058513)

Guarenteed - there are no blacks working on this project. Blacks take much and contribute nothing.

A supposedly intelligent person claimed that blacks are at least as intelligent as whites because they are so ‘innovative.’ His example was that blacks would take an old steel oil-drum (which whites considered to be rubbish) and turn it into something useful – a steel drum. Leaving aside whether or not a steel-drum band of muds is, in any way, shape or form, ‘useful,’ let’s look at his argument.

The white man had made the steel oil-drum as a means of transporting oil around the world. This involved creating an industrial technology, and developing mining industry to a point where oil wells could be sunk in the North Sea (or Gulf of Mexico), and crude oil successfully removed. Then a world-wide trading network had to be established. Let us gloss over the need for international economic transactions, international credit and banking, electronic money transfers, telephonic and satellite communications, and the stable economies and governments needed to make this possible.

Instead, let’s look at the need to produce oil tankers to transport the oil. The need for computers to navigate the ships, the level of technology needed to produce the ships, the schools needed to educate those who will serve on the ships, the engineering skills and training for those making them.

Let us now think about the products kept going by the oil. The plastics, the chemicals, the cars, and so on. And all this on a world-wide scale, over generations. And we haven’t even touched on road and rail systems, intensive farming and refrigeration to feed those in the industrialised cities, the factories, the building trade, power generation, written and computerised record keeping, or a thousand and one other things, all associated with the world oil production and trade.

And of all this, the oil drum is a minor by-product, a practical but simple and fairly primitive form of storage whilst in temporary transit.

And if, by some chance or accident, one of these oil drums washes up on the shore of dusky Africa, what do the native inhabitants do? Use it in their own oil industry? No. Use it as a spring-board towards future development? No. They turn it upside-down and hit it with sticks! Call me pedantic, but that doesn’t make them my equal. Not one of the dozens of items I listed above has appeared in Africa, ever. Not even writing. A continent surrounded by ocean, watered by massive lakes and rivers, and the black natives never dreamt a sail. Thousands of miles of flat grasslands, and they never fashioned a wheel, nor domesticated animals. Surrounded by stone, they never constructed a building better than a hut. Acres of diamonds and the world’s largest gold fields, and they never glanced at them until shown their beauty by white men. And all this for tens of thousands of years, thousands of generations living with no change, no progress. But they are our equal.


And what of the rest of the world? When the Negro has been moved he has made no progress. Educated by whites, perhaps trained woud be a better description, as whenever he is left to his own devices he immediately falls back into barbarism, and destroys everything he has been given. Take the island of Haiti, in the West Indies. Settled by the French, and mainly French Nordics. In the 1700’s they had a system of public sanitation in the capital, water-flushed toilets and excellent public hygiene. Then came the French Revolution, and a ship full of muskets, gunpowder and musket balls arrived (it is still not known where from), to be handed out to runaway slaves, and the majority of the whites were butchered. Today, 200 years later, there is no public sanitation in Haiti, no sewage system beyond emptying buckets into the road, and hasn’t been from the day the blacks took over.

Not that it is just the Negro. The white man, especially the Nordic, has been the driving force in civilizing the globe, from the days of earliest antiquity down to the present. In South America, when Cortez arrived, he found a civilization in decay, practising massive levels of human sacrifice, embroiled in civil wars, many cities deserted, others decaying. Most of the great buildings were old. And the natives worshipped him as a god, because he looked just like how their history said the great culture-bearing gods looked – White, Aryan, Nordic! These culture-bearing gods had given them architecture, religion, agriculture, artwork, mathematics. They had either been driven out by jealous natives, or had merged with the native population. Progress halted, then went backwards, and the lower races waited for the whites to come back and save them.

Re:Get Mad At The Truth (0)

Salgak1 (20136) | about a year ago | (#45058951)

Obvious Troll is obvious. . .

Re:Get Mad At The Truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45059143)

Actually, he's down-modded enough to be hidden, except for masochists like me.

Re:Conversion? (2)

golden age villain (1607173) | about a year ago | (#45058551)

It is and the project gets 1 billion euros, not 10. Actually I believe that it gets about 500 M€ in matching funds.

Re:Conversion? (1)

Austrian Anarchy (3010653) | about a year ago | (#45058747)

I think that conversion ratio is wrong. $13.57 USD

How much is that in Bitcoin?

Re:Conversion? (1)

sjwt (161428) | about a year ago | (#45058837)

Whats wrong with you, the new official Bitcoin comparison rate is measured in "RWU's" or long hand "Ross William Ulbricht's" @ a rate of 1:$80 Million US.

So thats 169.625 RWU's

Re:Conversion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45059077)

Whats wrong with you, the new official Bitcoin comparison rate is measured in "RWU's" or long hand "Ross William Ulbricht's" @ a rate of 1:$80 Million US.

So thats 169.625 RWU's

Thank you. So how many Library of Congress units does that purchase?

Skynet. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058413)

$1.3 Billion and they forget to install a kill switch.

kill does nothing as the silos read that as destru (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#45058577)

That will just show up as an destruction of command and they will still launch.

Re:Skynet. (1)

durrr (1316311) | about a year ago | (#45058987)

It won't be running in realtime. If, you have the patience to sit still for 8 hours while it aims a pistol at your head you deserve to be shot.

Re:Skynet. (3, Funny)

rubycodez (864176) | about a year ago | (#45059055)

it won't need to move a servo. it will zero your bank account, cancel your credit, tag you as needing palliative obamacare, and mark your license plates for arrest

Re:Skynet. (1)

durrr (1316311) | about a year ago | (#45059123)

Because certainly your brain becomes a super-hacker by default as soon as it's put in a jar.

$10 billion euro != $1.3B USD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058419)

misplaced decimal?

A computer that works like the human brain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058425)

gets distracted easily, one would think...

Re:A computer that works like the human brain? (2, Insightful)

stewsters (1406737) | about a year ago | (#45058509)

It will just be replaced by a human in 5 years. They take less power and will work for less than 10 billion euros.

Re:A computer that works like the human brain? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45059049)

ESPECIALLY if they are Chinese coolies.....

Don't expect Nobel-grade workmanship, though. And they may pee on the product if you piss them off.

Re:A computer that works like the human brain? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year ago | (#45059511)

Assuming for the moment that Moore's law continues to hold true, along with the usual knock ons in price per performance. 10,000,000,000 cutting in half every 18 months. It'll take at least 3 decades before their artificial human brain is cost competitive with a human brain. However, there are still possible advantages. Imagine making an artificial human brain that is a genius at the very skills required to make it (at least as intelligent as the human's involved in the original project), then you run that artificial brain at an accelerated rate. After 2 iterations of Moore's law, you could get 12 years of perfectly focused, genius level work out of the machine in 1 year (4x faster, working 24 hours per day), which could easily put you a head of the competition or even shorten the doubling time for the next generation.

Of course, that's assuming Moore's Law holds true for that long, which is starting to seem doubtful. When Feynman gave his "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom" lecture, it was incredibly true. But when it comes to modern IC manufacturing that's no longer true. We might eek out a few more rounds of improvement with process shrinks, and a few more rounds of improvement with 3D chip layouts. But there's only so much room.

Re:A computer that works like the human brain? (1)

somersault (912633) | about a year ago | (#45058975)

That's what I was thinking. It would also require sleep, probably have an angsty/emo phase, lie, and probably even get suicidal if it is given a really mundane job and knows it is just a machine that will do that job ad-infinitum, etc.. I don't think they are intending to fully mimic human intelligence.. or at least, I hope not. Maybe they could just reset it at the end of each day, so that it doesn't realise it is doing the same job over and over each day..

Re:A computer that works like the human brain? (3, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#45059637)

Making a computer that runs like a brain to do computer stuff WOULD be stupid. Fortunately, that's not what's happening, the goal is actually the opposite. The point of this project isn't to build a better computer based on a brain, it's to understand our brains using computers. From wiki: []

... simulate the complete human brain on supercomputers to better understand how it functions. The end hopes of the HBP include being able to mimic the human brain and being able to better diagnose human brain diseases and mental problems.

The confusion seems to have come from the Fox News article, the author mentions that the computer to simulate the human brain must be much more powerful than we currently have. But it's not supposed to be powerful because it's based on the human brain, it's supposed to be powerful to SIMULATE the brain.

He says a computer brain will consume gigawatts of power, require new forms of memory, and force scientists to look at cutting edge storage techniques. But the immense technical hurdles will be worth the effort. The first phases will help us understand how the brain functions. In later phases, we’ll find out how we learn, how we see and hear, and why the brain sometimes doesn’t process information correctly.

TLDR: they're building a supercomputer to model the human brain, not building a computer modeled on the human brain to be super.

Quck (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058427)

Edit that original post before someone notices your euro to dollar conversion mistake and the dollar sign when mentioning euros.

Wrong math or B stand for something different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058437)

10 billion EUR is about 13.5 billion USD...

Re:Wrong math or B stand for something different? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058469)

Also, people use € for euros not $...

currancy conversion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058443)

"$10 billion euros — or about $1.3B in US dollars"
this doesn't seem right, shoudn't it be 13B US dollars?

Conversion rate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058447)

Since when does 10b euros equal 1.3b $ ?????

€10bn != $1.3bn (2, Informative)

aembleton (324527) | about a year ago | (#45058449)

I like to think the editors at /. would understand that the $ hasn't just rocketed in value.

Also, this was copied verbatim from the Fox News website. Over-valuing of the $ might be normal there but lets keep it off tech sites.

Re:€10bn != $1.3bn (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058641)

Maybe the summaries on this website are deliberately inaccurate to increase the number of comments.
The editors cannot be this blind all the time.

Re:€10bn != $1.3bn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45059245)

You know, if someone had 15 mod points they could use all of them modding this very same comment that has been posted over and over (I'm scrolled halfway down the page and still have only seen this one comment over and over) and still not get them all.

Did you think you and all the nameless ACs above you were the only ones to notice? Moderators, the ACs are already at zero, help this redundant guy join them.

Now, aembleton, how about actually discussing the actual topic rather than slashdot editors' lack of coffee this morning?

who does your banking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058457)

Forget a decimal for the Euros?

currency (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058483)

What is $ 10 billion euros? Is that in European dollars or American euros? Or the other way around? And how can that be equal to $1.3B in US dollars?
-Totally confused

Euro (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058489)

The Euro hasn't been doing very well lately, but I think it should be 10.3B, not 1.3B.

Decimals Baby (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058495)

That is 13B not 1.3B, US residents could only hope that their currency was so healthy.

Re:Decimals Baby (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year ago | (#45058613)

It's going to get a lot more unhealthy in a hurry in about a week or so if they don't either shit or get off the pot. Moody's still thinks US credit is worth AA+. God I'd hate to see what they rate as junk...

$10 billion euros != $1.3 billion dollars (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058525)

The project will cost about $10 billion euros — or about $1.3B in US dollars.

I'm not sure if this is an attempt at being funny or just the complete failure of the editor...

counting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058561)

10 billion euros is about 13 billion dollars, not 1.3.
Furthermore: $10 billion euros? Thats dollarbills with € signs on them or something?

Big numbers seem to make the OP go nuts, which incidentally is what this project aims to help figure out.

A brain without physiology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058563)

Don't we have enough sociopaths already, a sizable number of them in government?

I think I know where this is going.. (4, Funny)

RoverDaddy (869116) | about a year ago | (#45058595)

"We have only bits and pieces of information but what we know for certain is that at some point in the early twenty-first century all of mankind was united in celebration. We marveled at our own magnificence as we gave birth to AI.”

Great (0)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year ago | (#45058597)

Someone wants to spend billions of dollars to invent a machine that is going to sit around all day eating junk food, watching ESPN, and demanding more reality shows. Protip: not all brains are capable of doing what they want this machine to do - they had better get ready to build quite a few prototypes...

Re:Great (3, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | about a year ago | (#45059523)

Exactly. I don't even think we quite understand how the brain does what it does enough to build a computer that does what it does. If we really understood how the brain worked, we wouldn't have people battling drug addiction or mental illnesses, because we would be able to fix their problems. Building a computer that operates even close to the capabilities of the human brain doesn't just require a faster computer. It requires algorithms that don't even exist yet. If they could actually build this computer, they would already have a working prototype that worked, but at a slower speed than the human brain.

Re:Great (1)

moteyalpha (1228680) | about a year ago | (#45059619)

Worm brains were used some time back. Given some of the recent research in the genetic area it would seem that some sort of hybrid would be the best approach and a bit more cost effective. There are ethical issues but that doesn't seem to be a concern for anyone. A combination of technologies using 3D printing, integrated circuits, and techniques developed by studying the homeobox genes (HOX) has a more realistic chance of producing results. A biological system has the advantage of being self replicating as well as extensible. A static fabricated silicon solution would likely branch to chaos as easily as come to a solution.
Neurochip []
I wonder what the goal is here. If it is the continuance of being it becomes a philosophical issue. It is a "Ship of Theseus" issue and somebody has not thought this all the way through. Nature has designed a composite structure and parts can't be added or subtracted to enhance memory or IO without changing its balance. It functions as a whole like the universe that it models. The universe functions on factorial infinities and even the best brain will only cut a small slice of those infinities.
There are Hidden Markov Models there and my little noodle triggers alarm bells, but the advance of technology does that to me quite regularly and now it has just become a cacophony of sirens and so I ignore it. All of these advances can be positive and what worries me is the fact that the original motives define the direction of application. What seems to be the motive is to extend a dominant biological position into a dominant mechanical position. In other words they want to create a mechanical system that rules the biological as an extension of their own biology. They are confused and they wish to extend that confusion to gigantic proportion.
--John Connor

We get it, conversion rate typo. Good catch guys (1)

bazmail (764941) | about a year ago | (#45058607)


Re:We get it, conversion rate typo. Good catch guy (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about a year ago | (#45058729)

It's not a typo. It's the expected rise in value of the US dollar now that we're producing more oil.

Re:We get it, conversion rate typo. Good catch guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058741)

You are missing a comma after "catch."

What if you could build a computer ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058617)

"What if you could build a computer that works just like the human brain?"

I already have a human brain. What I want is a better computer.

Who said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058789)

you had to replace your own brain?

I can think of a few hundred members of Congress that we could replace with these :)

That's an ambitious goal (1)

jandrese (485) | about a year ago | (#45058627)

So Moore's law suggests that you should have roughly 32-64x more transistors available on an equivalent machine in 10 years. Asking for a 1000x speedup from that seems a bit much.

Re:That's an ambitious goal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058749)

So you build a machine about 20x bigger.

Re:That's an ambitious goal (1)

Wain13001 (1119071) | about a year ago | (#45058771)

I'm pretty sure the plan isn't to house it on one IC.

Re:That's an ambitious goal (1)

timeOday (582209) | about a year ago | (#45059193)

Probably they are hoping to develop an architecture that does "brain-like" computations more efficiently, without needing so many transistors as if you just scaled up a Von Neumann machine to run a neural simulation. Like how GPUs achieve more speedup for what they do, than using more transistors in a general-purpose CPU would.

Uh what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058651)

We already have 7 BILLION human brains RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. How about taking care of them first?

Sentient? (3, Interesting)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | about a year ago | (#45058679)

If it works just like a human brain, at what point should it be considered to have the same rights as a human?

Re:Sentient? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058715)

LOL Rights? You must be from Europe.

Re:Sentient? (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about a year ago | (#45058791)

at what point should it be considered to have the same rights as a human?

Nothing created by the hand of man should ever have rights equal to that of man.

Re:Sentient? (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about a year ago | (#45058835)

at what point should it be considered to have the same rights as a human?

Including fully-sentient human clones?

Re:Sentient? (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | about a year ago | (#45058925)

I don't think that counts as being "created by the hand of man". It's the same DNA that evolved over millions of years. Humans just took it and made another copy in a lab.

Re:Sentient? (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about a year ago | (#45059485)

at what point should it be considered to have the same rights as a human?

Including fully-sentient human clones?

Cloning opens up a whole new can of worms. The biggest thing I can think of is property rights. Say I own a large amount of land, or a huge company. Right before I die I create a clone of myself. When I die, the clone is still me, so would he retain ownership of my property? And what about copyright? it's supposed to be life+(what, 75? can't remember, they keep changing it). If "I" never die, then I can never lose copyright.

On a lighter note, cloning would also kill the market for Vegas Elvis impersonators

Re:Sentient? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058891)

Is this some kind of law haven't heard of before?
I created my son, does he count? (I think I used my hands in some way)
What if I had more control over which genes he received?
I think you'll find it difficult to defend that position.

Re:Sentient? (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | about a year ago | (#45058895)

Why not? Whether something has rights or not should be contingent on its own characteristics, not its origins.

Re:Sentient? (1)

platypusfriend (1956218) | about a year ago | (#45059115)

Not according to the United States of America's Declaration of Independence ( Formally, in the USA, our Creator endows us with our rights as humans. Using this same model, we (as the creators of machines) would grant rights to our creations as we see fit. And we're not offended if you don't like it-- We'd actually be happy if you created the perfect country, with perfect rights for all. Go for it.

Re:Sentient? (2)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | about a year ago | (#45059345)

Yes. Lets follow the vague wording of people who have been dead for 200 years.

Rights are not granted by a creator, regardless of what the Founding Fathers felt that they needed to pay lip service to. They are granted by society. Rights are an entirely social construct, just like good, evil, and anything else having to do with morality.

Re:Sentient? (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about a year ago | (#45059325)

Because they are still artificial. If they are treated as equal to humans, given the same rights as humans, then at some point you will have people subservient to them (to be clear, not in a Skynet sort of sense, but more of a supervision type of role). Humans should never be subservient to something created by man. Partly because a large number of people will not see these creations as equal: whether due to religion, morality, or just the fact that they are artificial. Combine these two and you have a breeding ground for hostility if not outright violence. Remember that sentience means self-awareness, and with self awareness comes a desire for survival. Then you have a the philosophical issues like why am I here, the purpose of life, etc.

Any kind of sentient machine should be designed solely for uses that support humans. Whether that be search and rescue in dangerous areas, or working in areas unsafe for humans (Fukushima comes to mind), or even working in factories and manufacturing (watching the fight that unions would put up regarding that would be worth the research in and of itself), and it should know that that is what it was designed for. In fact, I would try to avoid sentience at all costs. Decision-making and thought processing, yes. But self-awareness causes too many problems with not enough benefits to outweigh them, not the least of which is moral or legal problems such as in your original post.

Re:Sentient? (1)

Mycroft_VIII (572950) | about a year ago | (#45058949)

You mean like children?


Re:Sentient? (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about a year ago | (#45059605)

Children are created through natural processes (even IVF is a natural process, although human assisted). "The hand of man" implies an artificial creation.

Re:Sentient? (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year ago | (#45059073)

"Nothing created by the hand of man should ever have rights equal to that of man."

“There is no right to deny freedom to any object with a mind advanced enough to grasp the concept and desire the state.'

Isaac Asimov

And the computer goes ... (3, Funny)

Coeurderoy (717228) | about a year ago | (#45058683)

and the "parents" decide that the power bill is too high,

so who gets to kill the new sentient being ?
And who goes to jail ?

Screw you guys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058701)

To all the retards who say the currency conversion is wrong, I say: shut up. Who cares? Jeeze

Imagine a beowulf cluster of these! (1)

reubenavery (1047008) | about a year ago | (#45058709)

My server farm of articifial human braines will make me mad bitcoin

Quantum Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058743)

Recent theory is that certain aspects of the human brain depend upon the Heisenberg uncertainty Principle due to quantum effects.

If that is true, any purely transistor based approach (which this is), is doomed to failure before it begins.

Re:Quantum Theory (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about a year ago | (#45059071)

I have heard that before but haven't heard of any good reason to believe it. Sounds like a theory from those who don't want to believe consciousness is just a bajillion neurons networked together.

M5 (1)

A10Mechanic (1056868) | about a year ago | (#45058745)

Let's be careful with this project. Dr. Richard Daystrom should not be allowed anywhere near this. But on a serious note, will this computer start with a knowledge base, or will it grow up? And who will teach it?


elloz (3382559) | about a year ago | (#45058787)

Doesn't anybody screen these posts? 10 billion euros is more like 14 billion dollars. Why would anyone try to create a human mind when we don't even understand it yet? The reasoning is simplistic to say the least.

Bad Idea. (1)

0xG (712423) | about a year ago | (#45058809)

It will make all sorts of demands in order for it to achieve some form of perceived "parity" with biological humans. Think wages, housing, pension plan, etc. It will want a female, as well. On top of all that, it won't be much "fun" for the brain.

What will they have in ten years? (1, Insightful)

rnturn (11092) | about a year ago | (#45058851)

A piece of hardware that processes information like the human brain? Or hardware plus software that can win a game show? (Well, that's been done so I guess it'd have to be able to win all game shows.) People have been trying to get the software right that can ``think'' like a human since the early '80s (Lenat, et al). Where are the thinking machines? Is throwing a ton of money at the problem all that was lacking?

Unless this people building this system have come up with a way to program a creative spirit into the system, I'm skeptical that it's going to amount to much and that humans are still going to have to interpret the results to decide what's something worth doing and what's crap.

It might make a much better Racter than anyone's ever seen before, though.

no wu, no win (1, Interesting)

epine (68316) | about a year ago | (#45059545)

Unless this people building this system have come up with a way to program a creative spirit into the system, I'm skeptical

Daniel Dennett made himself a career out of arguing against this kind of twaddle. Whenever I listen to him, I always wonder what he's making such a big deal about, then I head back out into the world, and sure enough, he's busy saying what needs to be said.

From Daniel Dennett: 'You can make Aristotle look like a flaming idiot' [] :

There's a pattern here, "the story of my life", as Dennett puts it. People assume unrealistic ideals of what free will, selfhood or rationality are and then get upset when Dennett says: "It's not the overwhelming supercalifragilisticexpialidocious phenomenon that you thought it was." But it's still real enough. The problem is simply: "Both free will and consciousness have been, by my lights, inflated in the popular imagination and in the philosophical imagination," and so "anybody who has a view of either one that is chopped down to size" is accused of "a wretched subterfuge", as Kant memorably put it.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious travels under many aliases. One of these is "creative spirit". A calling card of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is that there can be no such thing as incremental progress. You either have it, or you're wasting your time. There's a grain of truth to this. It's hard to sneak up on a moving bar that travels by teleportation whenever encroached.

As I recall, Dennett goes into this in the last third of Daniel Dennett: Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking [] . It's a virtuous and mildly tedious sermon if you already belong to the choir.

Re:What will they have in ten years? (1)

should_be_linear (779431) | about a year ago | (#45059631)

People also tried to make smartphones and tablets decades ago, but failed simply because hardware was not capable enough. Nowadays, HW is incredibly powerful, so we might try new things with it.

Machine becomes Sentient (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058871)

Reads Reddit,4chan, and /. user comments, realizes human race must be obliterated from face of the earth.

This time for SURE! (1, Insightful)

sootman (158191) | about a year ago | (#45058883)

Well-known manufacturers of supercomputers like IBM, Cray, Intel, and Bull, are committed to building the first exascale machines by approximately 2020. So we are confident we will have the machines we need...

Oh good, so AI is just 10 years away! -- as it's been for the last 50 years or so.





Seriously, how is this different from all the other AI research programs that have been done so far?

Re:This time for SURE! (1)

Alomex (148003) | about a year ago | (#45058941)

This. Another completely useless, incredibly expensive, press-release driven from the steaming pile of 1980's-style AI.

And what do we get? another human brain. Because suddenly there seems to be a shortage of them, since we only have 7 billion with another 2 billion to be added over the next thirty years.

Re:This time for SURE! (1, Informative)

Sperbels (1008585) | about a year ago | (#45059207)

Seriously, how is this different from all the other AI research programs that have been done so far?

What's different? Computing power is approaching the estimated requirement needed to simulate the number of neurons in the human brain. Don't you think you should know that before totally shooting down the idea? You're probably right, but that doesn't mean no new insights will come out of the research.

Re:This time for SURE! (2)

golden age villain (1607173) | about a year ago | (#45059449)

Only 20% of the cells in the cortex are neurons. We have very little idea what the other cells are doing.

more uninteresting stuff from Henry Markram (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45058945)

This guy has been generating press releases like this for a very long time. He basically builds giant parallel compute systems. Of course he cannot simulate the brain - since no one knows how model the brain. The real work is figuring out how the neurons are connected and how they really work in concert. This is just a bunch of computers bolted together.

Creepy. (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about a year ago | (#45058995)

devise new kinds of home appliances

Maybe program then with the John Cleese character Basil Fawlty so I can be bombarded with a barrage of sarcastic insults about my eating and fashion habits.

LOL (1, Funny)

sootman (158191) | about a year ago | (#45058999)

Dr. Gayani DeSilva, a psychiatrist with a private practice in Orange, Calif., told a human brain model could have "unimaginable" implications for medicine...

Maybe the new brain will be able to imagine the implications. :-)

Time scales? (2)

I_Wrote_This (858682) | about a year ago | (#45059017)

"What if you could build a computer that works just like the human brain? You could invent new forms of industrial machinery, create fully autonomous thinking cars, devise new kinds of home appliances.

If they think that one brain can do that, they're deluded. Human brains do not work in isolation, they collude in many different ways. An idea today could be the indirect result of an unrelated (to most people) ideas from a century ago.

So let's hope that they've budgeted for several billion of these things, and a few hundred years before anything comes out of it.

tinman (1)

johnrpenner (40054) | about a year ago | (#45059027)

got a brain - but got no heart..

Why a human brain? (1)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#45059047)

Human brains, and indeed all animal brains, work as a noisy signal device. It is the aggregation of the signals which come together to form an action, process input, formulate a response, etc, and so on. The secret to the low power use in the brain (human brains still use a lot of power, but not as much as a PC) is in the way the pathways work along side each other, affecting each other and milling about in the process of doing things like thinking or writing a comment on slashdot. (Note, the two are demonstrably not the same thing!)

So I have to wonder -- why a human (animal) brain? Do we think that by creating the framework for human compatible brain activity that a human mind will emerge? Do we think that we can upload a human mind into a human brain compatible device? Is the the low power consumption aspects of the human (animal) brain which is the attraction?

Humans make mistakes -- lots of them. To make an artificial human brain would seem to me one which would be expected to make mistakes.... lots of them. So why?

Scaling (1)

Hypotensive (2836435) | about a year ago | (#45059181)

As far as I am aware current VLSI technology can be used to model on the order of 10 billion synapses [] . The human brain has on the order of 100 trillion synapses. Unless Henry Markham has also invented a radically new kind of supercomputer, we are still somewhat behind.

Dribbling garbage- real AI cannot exist. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45059227)

Semantics CANNOT arise from syntactical engines, unless 'meaning' pre-exists in the data that is used. This means that true AI is impossible. True AI researchers gave up when this fact became apparent as long ago as the 1960s.

It is a FACT that so-called 'thinking computers' were predicted when computer technology reached a point we have long since surpassed. These predictions were based on access to data, memory and processing power. Today, cretinous nerdy sheeple with a VERY poor grasp of the significance of the work of Gödel and Turing are told that some magic 'tipping point' will be reached in a classic 'jam tomorrow' scenario- either via some MAGIC level of computing power, or via some MAGIC form of computer design ('quantum' tends to be the word most used).

-Turing PROVED that all possible maths must run on a Turing Complete computer.
-The 'language' of science is maths
-no aspect of any program running on a Turing Complete computer needs the concept of 'semantics' or 'meaning'- ruling out any form of true AI

Science describes a 'clockwork' universe by definition. Maths MUST describe science. Maths (Turing Complete computer programs) allow no concept of true randomness. This is not up for debate.

Therefore, you the reader, having free will, fall outside programs on Turing Complete computers by definition. But you CANNOT put your essence or uniqueness (whatever that is or wherever it comes from) on a computer- ANY computer. No conceivable computer can be you.

We are in a clockwork universe, but we (at the deepest level) are not of the clockwork universe. Attempts to cajole you to reduce yourself to nothing more than another lump of matter have to do with those that seek power over you.

During WW2, so-called scientific atheism (nothing to do with real atheists) was a cult responsible for the very worst atrocities. In the Far East, Humans were dissected alive and conscious by so-called doctors and scientists who described their victims as 'LOGS'. Articles like this one promoted on Slashdot are designed to get you thinking of yourselves and loved ones as nothing better than LOGS. You CANNOT have another World War is too many of the sheeple truly value themselves and their lives.

Nerds, in this case, and in the cases of Eugenics, are ALWAYS encouraged to see the trees, not the wood. Nerds are required to build and maintain the engines of war. Nerds must NOT have a sense of philosophy or greater understanding. The greatest scientific minds were highly spiritual people. Most people with a interest in science have anything BUT a great mind, and are easily persuaded to become members of what are effectively cults (L Ron Hubbard created 'Scientology' purely because he identified in the fan letters written by SF loving nerds - same types as most of you that hang here- had the same unthinking religious fervour that is found in willing followers of any new cult- in other words any cult is nothing but a collection of fanboys).

PS those that really need to deploy systems that the thicker amongst you think are AI (like machine language translation), long ago gave up AI nonsense, and simply use the power of current computers to do unthinkable large amounts of crude pattern matching, judged by sophisticated statistical algorithms. Language translation and speech recognition had gone NOWHERE for decades while such research was left in the hands of university AI departments. Then sensible individuals declared such problems could be solved by simply culling masses of real world data (real speech, real writing), and applying 'Rosetta Stone' like-for-like principles to create relationships.

Re:Dribbling garbage- real AI cannot exist. (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about a year ago | (#45059549)

We are in a clockwork universe, but we (at the deepest level) are not of the clockwork universe.

Nice. All that and it all boils down to your belief that consciousness is something magical and unexplainable.

Attempts to cajole you to reduce yourself to nothing more than another lump of matter have to do with those that seek power over you.

Um...this makes no sense. The institutions that try to make you believe your brain is made of magic are in fact always seeking power over us.

it's all about the neuroscience (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45059261)

Since noone posting is actually visiting the Human Brain Project's website....

The goal of the Human Brain Project, in a nutshell (skullshell?) is to create new neuroscience informatics and modeling software, and new computers powerful enough to run them. This will, in theory, allow "in silico" experiments to test various hypotheses about brain organization, diseases, etc. The proposed "Brain Simulation Platform" supercomputer is just one component of the overall project.

So no...they are not trying to make artificial brains to drive an autonomous car, terminator robot, or flying toaster.


Where's Joey? (1)

paj1234 (234750) | about a year ago | (#45059335)

Say any more?

Did I miss the monkey brain project? (3, Insightful)

komodo685 (2920329) | about a year ago | (#45059439)

I understand that we have far more invested interest in modelling the human brain for medical purposes than any other type of brain. However, if you're going to try to create a model of something vastly complex you should probably start with something easy (and by easy I mean less vastly complex). A short list of neuron amounts in various animals is here [] , an aplysia(sea slug) or fly brain, I would expect to be a much more reasonable starting point and one with the obvious advantage that you can experiment on, breed whole lines of defective forms to study, just generally have far more control and face no ethical issues with.

Oh and whatever differences may be present in moveing from fly to rat to monkey to human it isn't in the neuron itself those, from what I understand, are almost indistinguishable across species.

This project will not, and I suspect will make no meaningful attempt at, creating a thinking human brain simulation and is really just about better medicine for various mental diseases, which we do sorely need. If it was attempting to take a stab at hard AI "The research hinges on creating a super-powerful computer that's 1,000 times faster than those in use today" is most certainly a false statement: my smartphone is no more creative than the computers of yore that it is 1,000 times faster than.

I suspect they went the thinking machine angle just for the attention... Is it just me or is there a chill in the air? []

It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45059445)

In a panic, they try to pull the plug.

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