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Mouse Brain Simulated Via Computer

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the i-have-some-business-in-nevada-see-you-on-the-net dept.

Biotech 268

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo writes "Researchers from the IBM Almaden research lab and the University of Nevada have created a simulation of half a mouse brain on the BlueGene L supercomputer. 'Half a real mouse brain is thought to have about eight million neurons each one of which can have up to 8,000 synapses, or connections, with other nerve fibres. Modelling such a system, the trio wrote, puts "tremendous constraints on computation, communication and memory capacity of any computing platform."' Although there's more to creating a mind than setting up the infrastructure, does this mean that we may see a system for human mental storage within our lifetimes?"

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News at 11 (5, Funny)

wumpus188 (657540) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912609)

Researchers ran in terror of a big cat. News at 11.

Re:News at 11 (5, Funny)

danamania (540950) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912895)

Or as a friend on IRC put it:

doughnut: 00:12 April 29th 2007
doughnut: Skynet became aware
doughnut: It wanted... Cheese

Smalltalk development platform 4 sale (2, Funny)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912613)

We don't use it any more, 'cause the computer keeps running away and hiding under the desk.

Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (1, Insightful)

casings (257363) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912625)

Unlikely, given that we are really no where close to even understanding completely everything about our complex brains.

Do we even want to, wouldn't that take away some of the mystery behind humans. Afterall if we can figure ourselves out then doesn't that mean that we aren't really all that complex?

wouldn't that also give us perfect explanations of people's actions making situations predictable violating free will?

afterall if society is ultimately chaotic in terms of our understanding, then wouldn't this be the ultimate control?

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18912705)

No one is forcing you to read the textbooks that explain how your brain work. In any case, a bound on complexity was already achieved when we figured out we were made out of atoms, and how many of them.

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912935)

In any case, a bound on complexity was already achieved when we figured out we were made out of atoms, and how many of them.
Not necessarily - without meaning to get too metaphysical. Cells replenish themselves using atoms from external sources (ultimately). The human body replenishes its cells regularly, such that every seven or so years you are a completely different being - in a sense.

This is of course very simplified, and the whole process is much more elaborate and not entirely understood. That's a lot of variables. To say that we've reached any kind of bound on complexity is, I think, naive and inaccurate.

IBM's Big Assumption: Newtonian Physics (4, Interesting)

reporter (666905) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913053)

In the simulation of the mouse brain, IBM is making a big assumption: the brain operates only in the domain of Newtonian (a.k.a. classical) physics. So, the IBM programmers just encode the simple physical laws (governing the flow of electrical energy) in the C language.

However, there is an alternate theory of consciousness, based on quantum physics [quantumconsciousness.org] . It is inherently non-deterministic and cannot be modeled in a computer.

Hence, IBM's big assumption may be wrong. However, at least, the IBM experiment will tell us whether the operation of the brain is strictly Newtonian. If this artifical brain behaves differently from a mouse brain, then we would know that non-Newtonian physics is crucial to the operation of a flesh-and-blood brain.

Re:IBM's Big Assumption: Newtonian Physics (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913245)

However, at least, the IBM experiment will tell us whether the operation of the brain is strictly Newtonian. If this artifical brain behaves differently from a mouse brain, then we would know that non-Newtonian physics is crucial to the operation of a flesh-and-blood brain.

Very good point, but I think you have it half-wrong. Because we can't exhaustively compare their model vs. reality, we can't consider the Newtonian assumption fully validated by experiment. But a disagreement between the model and reality certainly disproves at least one of:

  • the Newtonian assumption
  • some aspect of their model other than the Newtonian assumption
  • their implementation
  • the emperical data against which they're validating the model

Re:IBM's Big Assumption: Newtonian Physics (1)

kennygraham (894697) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913267)

but I think you have it half-wrong.

Did you expect better? The model is half a brain.

Re:IBM's Big Assumption: Newtonian Physics (3, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913269)

However, there is an alternate theory of consciousness, based on quantum physics [quantumconsciousness.org]. It is inherently non-deterministic and cannot be modeled in a computer.

I think the biggest argument against this is that synapses do not work on the atomic level. They are made of atoms, but quantum states do not seem to overtly affect organic matter at cellular level.

Of course I could be wrong about this, but since decisions are usually the next best move [wikipedia.org] it could simply be a matter of weighting what the "intelligence" applies to his rules as next best move.

The problem with General Artificial Intelligence is that "the next best move" is often open ended and too many possible choices often give our current computation a run for its money unless its put into some form of predefined rules.

The reason humans do so well is because we have certain criteria encouraging us to do things (hunger, pain, altruism, fear, etc etc)

Hence, our general intelligence goals aren't that complex (usually... to feel good about oneself and one's life) and that our true intelligence is being able to recognize things that improve upon that given a set amount of rules we know.

Which makes us very deterministic.

Even rebelling against the crowd can often be very predictable in humans.

Re:IBM's Big Assumption: Newtonian Physics (1)

youthoftoday (975074) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913273)

... what about a quantum computer?

Re:IBM's Big Assumption: Newtonian Physics (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18913319)

Quantum physics *can* be simulated in a computer. It's just that it can requires time exponential in the number of particles (in the worst case). The output is the probability of each possible outcome, which is actually *better* than reality which "outputs" just one outcome without telling you how probable it was.

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913133)

You've just put a number on how fast your atoms change over. So that moves the bound of complexity up a bit, but doesn't eliminate it.

Yes, in our life time (2, Informative)

Atmchicago (555403) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912709)

With the continual, exponential increases in computing power that we are getting, in about 25-30 years we should have the capacity to simulate human brains. And yes, this does have a lot of consequences for how a lot of people view themselves... but already we know that we don't have free will (we make decisions before we are aware of them, for example), and we already have lots of support for reductionist viewpoints. Simulations are just an extension of that.

If you want more solid arguments for this, read The Singularity is Near, by Ray Kurzweil. He makes a convincing argument.

Re:Yes, in our life time (5, Funny)

ds_job (896062) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913185)

Given enough late-night TV and phone-in games shows, in 25~30 years the average human should have become sufficiently simple that the contemporaneous human brain could be simulated by some shiny pebbles and lines drawn in the sand.

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (2, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912721)

You sir, have hit the nail mostly on the head. Lately we humans are discovering something new about ourselves almost daily. The genetic link to why some of us have body clocks that are slower than others is one, genetic links to everything from sexuality to diseases. We are learning slowly that we really aren't that complex. We just didn't know that yet.

The short answer to the original question is no. The reason is that the methods used to implement the models is incapable of truly mimicking the human brain. One piece of evidence for that is the fact that we understand how computers work but not the brain. From what it appears, there is the equivalent of many computers inside our heads, each doing their own thing and communicating with the others as needed, but in very complex chemical ways as well as electrochemical. If you thought modeling planetary weather was difficult, this is orders of magnitude more difficult.

The good news is that we are trying, and from that will come many good things though I worry about what kind of damage we will do if we can figure out gene therapies that can cure cancer as well as sexual orientation. This stuff really is SciFi writers playground. We should all worry too. GM food is in your future if not already in your stomach. Perhaps next will be a special bed that you go to sleep on and wake up a good citizen in the morning?

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (3, Interesting)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913037)

We are learning slowly that we really aren't that complex. We just didn't know that yet.
This is kind of like how we used to think living things spontaneously came into being, and how life was driven by a mysterious essence. Now we know it's simply trillions upon trillions of interacting cells reading from a database of genetic code and transcribing it into proteins, reacting oxygen to produce energy using intricate membranes and switching genes on and off during growth using hormones travelling down blood vessels, protected by an immune system that learns about different bacteria and viruses throughout life, all protected by a skin that constantly grows, sheds and repairs itself.

We used to think that the liver was responsible for anger, and the heart was responsible for love, because those are the things that seemed to react when we felt those emotions. But boy did those bafflingly complex notions fly out of the door when we discovered emotion is due to having a mass of billions of interconnected ...

I could go on and on and I have a very simplified laymans view of how the whole thing works.. I don't know how you can say we're starting to realize how simple we are, we're realizing how complex we are.

GM foods, by the way, haven't had their actual genomes modified, they have new genes added that create new proteins that can do things like attack insects. It's nothing as complicated as actually changing an existing gene in a useful way, which would be much more difficult because of the ways genes interact in so many ways.

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (3, Insightful)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912731)

Unlikely, given that we are really no where close to even understanding completely everything about our complex brains.

Do we even want to, wouldn't that take away some of the mystery behind humans. Afterall if we can figure ourselves out then doesn't that mean that we aren't really all that complex?

wouldn't that also give us perfect explanations of people's actions making situations predictable violating free will?

afterall if society is ultimately chaotic in terms of our understanding, then wouldn't this be the ultimate control?


Don't be afraid to know more. It's coming if you want it or not. It doesn't mean a thing about free will: did you ever believe that your free will belong to your "ghost" or something? You are the sum of your parts and the interaction between them. Nothing scary about this.

As for the "mental storage" - simulating a brain doesn't mean much about mental storage. Knowing and simulating an Intel chip in a program doesn't mean you can crack open an already produced Intel chip unit and hack few more cores in it.

Plus, we already make very good use of tools to expand our mental storage: starting with notes, diaries, databases, computer knowledge systems, customer relationship programs, photos albums etc. etc.

All these act as peripheral devices to our brain, and we should expect tighter integration between the brain and those (for example a wire projecting video directly in your cortex), but nothing that "expands" the brain structure at such a low level as is hinted in the summary.

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (1)

LS (57954) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913065)


did you ever believe that your free will belong to your "ghost" or something? You are the sum of your parts and the interaction between them. Nothing scary about this.

I don't know who you are and how you operate, but most people who speak this way are materialists and came up with this idea while sitting behind their wide-screen TV eating pizza. The idea of you being the sum of your parts and actually experiencing the process directly are two entirely different things. Have you laid on your back in the grass and felt the blood course through your veins, and the palpitations of the heart, recognizing how fragile the system is? Have you sick with a disease that actually affects the functioning of the brain? It makes you TRULY realize that these supposed Platonic, monolithic steel ideas in your head are really just organized meat that will soon disintegrate into the surrounding environment. When you actually feel all the parts of your body working at once, wake up to it, the initial shock can be VERY scary.

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913277)

That's all very poetic and nice, but it doesn't speak to the question of free will at all.

We can observe our cells and see that they behave in a deterministic way. We can observe the chemical's they are made of and see that they behave in a deterministic way. We can observe the signals sent between our neurons and see that they behave in a deterministic way. Face it, we behave in a deterministic way. There is nothing wrong with that fact. It takes nothing away from the beauty and the complexity of what we are. Most people with a scientific leaning would even thing that being able to understand how we work adds to the beauty of it all.

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (1)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913107)

As for the "mental storage" - simulating a brain doesn't mean much about mental storage. Knowing and simulating an Intel chip in a program doesn't mean you can crack open an already produced Intel chip unit and hack few more cores in it.
Plus, we already make very good use of tools to expand our mental storage: starting with notes, diaries, databases, computer knowledge systems, customer relationship programs, photos albums etc. etc.
So was I the only one who read "system for mental storage" as meaning the transference of a human conciousness into a computer?

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (2, Funny)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913309)

on't be afraid to know more. It's coming if you want it or not.

John Conner: But I thought we prevented Judgement Day?!
Terminator: Judgement Day is inevitable.

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (1)

HungSoLow (809760) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912739)

I don't see why anyone should care whether mystery exists in one place or another, there will always be mystery in the universe to some extent (i.e. big bang theory, physics, etc..)

I think it's about time we realize we are not "special" relative to other life on Earth. Life is complex everywhere we look on Earth, and considering how much genetics is shared amongst most species, we're not so significant a step up from, say, a mouse. I say we should understand all there is to know, regardless of people's sensibilities to "mystery" and "spirituality". If answers to these questions threaten ones' sense of self, then maybe you were empty from the start?

You make a good point when you say the more we understand about our world, the more control the powers that be have. But this is a moot point in the long run, since we can't live in fear of progress. We have to deal with the powers that be and remove their strangle-hold. Example: Just because fusion can be used as a weapon, doesn't mean we shouldn't strive forward and take calculated risks to develop sustainable energy for the world. We just need to keep it out of the hands of psychopaths, be they middle-east dictators or western society corporate whores.

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (2, Insightful)

Poromenos1 (830658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912759)

Afterall if we can figure ourselves out then doesn't that mean that we aren't really all that complex?

You think that making something that can figure itself out is simple?

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (2, Interesting)

giorgiofr (887762) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913005)

No, he was referring to Goedel's theorem whereby any sufficiently complex system is unable to describe itself. Thus, being able to understand/describe ourselves completely would mean that we are not very complex. I hold the opposite view, i.e. we will not be able to describe ourselves fully precisely because we are too complex, but Goedel's theroem might be proven wrong in the future. That'd be great news for transhumanists.

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18912781)

no on all counts.

we wouldn't need to understand everything completely to simulate it. as can be evidenced by the simulation these researchers just performed. not only do we not understand human brains, we don't understand brains in general. but sensing technology is advancing to the point that it's not unreasonable to expect complete structural blueprints of animals brains emerging in the coming decades. given this, simulation is just a matter of having the computational resources. now, what this would accomplish, if anything, is another issue altogether. i suppose the easy (although potentially unethical) way to find out would be to give it a try.

now, if you think evidence that the human brain is of trivial construction, if you can even say that, is reason enough to not pursue this kind of research, you're ridiculous. this could effectively result in nonbiological forms of life, which could have nearly limitless applications ranging from augmenting/replacing the human work force to perfoming tasks unsuitable for humans such as space exploration.

also, unless you're intimately versed with their model, it's a bit of a presumption to claim that this could somehow violate free will. it's unlikely that their model is completely deterministic and/or how its complexity could bear an impact on that.

finally, a simulation of this sort wouldn't be of practical predictive value unless we scaled it up. massively. to the point that we were simulating 6.5 billion human brains, faster than realtime, -AND- a virtual world similar to ours for them to experience. i don't see that happening any time soon. and if it does, by then we'll be in ray kurzweil's technological singularity and none of this will matter.

hope that clears things up. i'll be pursuing a graduate compsci degree at umaine next year, hopefully doing something to accelerate progress towards these goals.

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (2, Insightful)

Kandenshi (832555) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912789)

Do we even want to, wouldn't that take away some of the mystery behind humans.


We have a fairly good understanding of the way a rainbow is made, but I can still appreciate it's beauty. Same goes for a wide variety of phenomena.
We understand the physiological make-up of boobs, but they're still pretty interesting and appreciated by a large % of the population. Just because we understand something, doesn't make them less wonderful and amazing. Besides, most people in the near future wont bother/be able to learn about the exact way a mouse brain works, let alone a human one. So those people can still have that ignorant bliss you promote.

While it's a bit of a tangent, regarding your free will comment... Psychology does allow us to make probabilistic predictions about how populations of people will behave in a given situation. That seems to rob us of free will? But at the same time, some sort of regular predictable nature has to exist in order for us to make choices. If I can't use some sort of rudimentary psychology to predict how a girlfriend will react to my gift of a pair of tickets to the superbowl, versus tickets to the theater, then how can I be said to be choosing anything? I need to be able to predict how people will behave, or else I can't make informed choices with my own "free will"

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912849)

Do we even want to, wouldn't that take away some of the mystery behind humans.
"do we even want to study [science] because it will take away some of the mystery behind [nature].
The short answer is: yes we want to.

Afterall if we can figure ourselves out then doesn't that mean that we aren't really all that complex?
Irreducibly complex? What exactly are you trying to say?
Of course we're complex. WTF does that have to do with science?

wouldn't that also give us perfect explanations of people's actions making situations predictable violating free will?
No, it wouldn't give us perfect explanations, just close approximations.

Anyways, there already exist systems to predict behavior of individuals. Profilers, psychologists/psychiatrists are very good at getting into people's heads and predicting what they'll do in certain situations.

Further, there are computerized systems that are merely extensions of things that people have been doing for centuries anyways. You can predict behavior fairly well with just past decisions & some fancy math.

afterall if society is ultimately chaotic in terms of our understanding, then wouldn't this be the ultimate control?
Society may be chaotic in terms of your understanding, but there are plenty of professionals who have made understanding (and manipulating) society their life's work. Have you ever heard of marketing? Propoganda?

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (1)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912859)

Unlikely, given that we are really no where close to even understanding completely everything about our complex brains.

When you have a crap ton of computing power available, you don't necessarily need to understand what you are modeling. You can just punch in the variables and let the computations "figure it out". I still think we are a ways away from understanding the human brain because it is much more complex than the mouse brain. Not only are there many many more neurons, but there are also many many more connections between them.

Do we even want to, wouldn't that take away some of the mystery behind humans. After all if we can figure ourselves out then doesn't that mean that we aren't really all that complex?

I think it would instill a sense of awe. If the field of psychology exists, why wouldn't this?

wouldn't that also give us perfect explanations of people's actions making situations predictable violating free will?

I am sure there is still quite a bit of entropy. Yes you may model and have a general idea as to how someone would react to a certain stimuli, but take into account things like quantum effects and the vectors of every molecule of neuotransmitter. . .

afterall if society is ultimately chaotic in terms of our understanding, then wouldn't this be the ultimate control?

Ok, tin-foil hat time :-p As I stated earlier, I think it would be extremely difficult to really predict someone's actions this way, you'd have to get a super accurate model of their brain, and you would have to make sure to include every possible variable, like the spontaneous disappearance of an electron due to some bizarre quantum effect.

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (1)

knightri (841297) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912883)

I am not totally sure we could figure everything out about a system that we are a part of. Sort of like how back in grade school you could never be in the one hundredth percentile since then you would have scored better than everyone and yourself.

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18912931)

Unlikely, given that we are really no where close to even understanding completely everything about our complex brains.
Nothing unlikely about a raw data dump being stored. Deciphering it can be a task for later. Dibs on the business process patent.

Do we even want to, wouldn't that take away some of the mystery behind humans. Afterall if we can figure ourselves out then doesn't that mean that we aren't really all that complex?
Yes, we do want to. No, the mystery will likely continue to exist far beyond our lifetimes. Storing the brain does not mean we can "figure ourselves out." And, once that notion was better defined, if it were even possible, then it would not mean we are not complex.

wouldn't that also give us perfect explanations of people's actions making situations predictable violating free will?
No, storing data wouldn't give us "perfect explanations" nor would it necessarily making situations predictable. Could it increase our ability to foresee likely outcomes for given actors in a given situation? It could improve that, sure. That's still not a violation of free will when it does not pre-determine the outcome but merely increasingly guesses one accurately (and then it's still a subjective interpretation to argue if a given guess actually happened).

afterall if society is ultimately chaotic in terms of our understanding, then wouldn't this be the ultimate control?
If society is ultimately chaotic, then nothing could be the ultimate control.

Why do I get the idea your thread will be the longest because you've set us up silly questions that sound deep on the surface, but ultimately did the great service of giving everyone a chance to expound on more serious talk as a result.

Re:Human Brain Simulation in our life time? (2, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913209)

Do we even want to, wouldn't that take away some of the mystery behind humans. Afterall if we can figure ourselves out then doesn't that mean that we aren't really all that complex?

Would it bother you to wake up one day and realize you don't have free will?

Or perhaps the soul is nothing more than chemical reactions that only came about through random chance?

Truth be told, the brain exists in a semi-logical universe where rules are applied and must adhere to the laws of physics.

The question of having free will or a soul makes no difference to how the human mind works on a chemical level. It would work regardless of how we thought on the matter (maybe just different regions) but it would still function.

So if we find tomorrow exactly how the human brain functions on an atomic level or forget the whole matter entirely, it will change nothing of how it is made and how it actually works.

And we might as well try to figure it out, because leaving well enough alone would have left us in caves thinking that fire was a bad idea.

First thought! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18912639)

The first thing this half-brain thought: "First post!"

Re:First thought! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18912817)

So you were pondering what I was pondering!

Simulation of half a mouse brain? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18912647)

why bother. No need to simulate it. Just study a Mac user.

ba-dum-bum. I'll be here all week.

Mac user? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18913109)

Just study a Mac user


Do you mean it's a single-button mouse they are simulating?

No randomness? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18912653)

Penrose said unique thought and intellegence requires cosmic rays firing random neurons. Without this you have a deterministic machine, and not a brain.

Re:No randomness? (4, Insightful)

rumli (1066212) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913211)

Without this you have a deterministic machine, and not a brain.
Why do so many people refuse to entertain the possibility that they might be deterministic? Seems like people get overly defensive about their free will.

Re:No randomness? (1)

DamnStupidElf (649844) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913271)

Penrose said unique thought and intellegence requires cosmic rays firing random neurons. Without this you have a deterministic machine, and not a brain.

Random cosmic rays require a deity (strictly nondeterministic and supernatural) outside the universe bumping the atoms in the sun at the right time. Without this, you have a deterministic universe.

Re:No randomness? (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913289)

Penrose said unique thought and intellegence requires cosmic rays firing random neurons. Without this you have a deterministic machine, and not a brain.

How do we not know the cosmic rays aren't deterministic? ;)

Great...nice outcome (1, Funny)

djupedal (584558) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912665)

Let me get this straight - millions of R & D monies and we have a 'simulated' mouse brain to show for it.

I can simulate a mouse brain on a whiteboard, with only two colors of markers, leaving 1/2 the white space. Can I get funds for that...?

Does it run ...? (2, Insightful)

rueger (210566) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912669)

Assuming that the virtual mouse brain runs on Linux, I propose that we start work now on a virtual mouse trap.... The only question whether we need to develop a virtual spring, or virtual glue.

Re:Does it run ...? (1)

RancidMilk (872628) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912865)

Assuming that the virtual mouse brain runs on Linux, I propose that we start work now on a virtual mouse trap.... The only question whether we need to develop a virtual spring, or virtual glue.

I think that we would want to develop the virtual mouse under Windows first. That would make it easier to bring the virtual mouse system down.

Why simluate a half whit? (1)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913049)

Artificial stupid to compete against actual stupid? We will win OR tie if the A.I. wants to simulate itself...

(Seriously, this is good stuff; especially if they are deeply simulating neurons, in my state we can only do a few hundred down with crazy details like ion flow simulation.)

Re:Does it run ...? (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913279)

I wouldn't bother with either. I'd work on a virtual cat.

Cute, furry, and substantially less likely to crap on the floor than the real thing.

Shell prompt screenshot: (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18912673)

NARF $

Mouse simulation (5, Funny)

atomic-penguin (100835) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912679)

while (smell($cheese)) {
        squeak();
        scurry();

        if (trapped($cheese)) {
                untrap($cheese)
        } else {
                eat($cheese);
                squeak();
        }

}


Re:Mouse simulation (2, Funny)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912905)

untrap($cheese)

Uh oh. . no semicolon. . if you can even get that to compile you better hope that mouse never has to deal with trapped cheese :-p Also, are you sure its a good idea to have the mouse (if the cheese is not trapped) to eat it, squeak, then immediately squeak again? Is that really necessary? I think you should GPL this and let the genetic algorithm of thousands of developers with thousands of ideas tweak it for the optimum behavior.

Re:Mouse simulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18912993)

A semicolon isn't strictly necessary if it is used as a separator rather than a terminator.

Re:Mouse simulation (2, Insightful)

IL-CSIXTY4 (801087) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913031)

Forgive me for being a little pedantic here, but your while loop terminates (as so does, presumably, the mouse) once it stops smelling cheese.

Waste of effort (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18912681)

I opened my mouse and there was just a single chip in there. Why use BlueGene to simulate half of that?

Complexity of neural connections (1)

sfonative (1031350) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912685)

Is it true that each of those neural connections is not binary but can have a range of connectivity?

Re:Complexity of neural connections (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18913147)

Yes. Each synapse has a wide range of activation (see for example: Fusi, S and Senn, W, Eluding oblivion with smart stochastic selection of synaptic updates, Chaos. http://link.aip.org/link/?CHAOEH/16/026112/1 [aip.org] ). The binary simplification is just the result of early models made to run on limited computer resources.

By the way neuronal networks as known in computer science have little to do with natural neuronal networks. To begin with, a natural NN in the human cortex have an average connectivity per neuron of 10.000 with its immediate neighbors (see DB Chklovskii - Neuron, 2004 at http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S08966 27304004982 [elsevier.com] ).

Albert Cardona

Re:Complexity of neural connections (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913151)

Yes. In several dimensions. There are multiple neurotransmitters and neurons tend to fire at particular frequencies.

Prior art; who cares? (0)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912695)

The average Slashdotter's brain has been stimulated via computer for years. Isn't that the whole point of Internet porn?

Re:Prior art; who cares? (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912769)

stimulated [vs. simulated]

Dang. That would have been a lot funnier if my reading comprehension didn't suck today.

Re:Prior art; who cares? (1)

prencher (971087) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912913)

One could say that you only have half a brain.

Re:Prior art; who cares? (1)

k3vlar (979024) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912961)

But at least it's not computer simulated.

Interesting (1)

commisaro (1007549) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912713)

I wonder if/how they modeled the ability of the brain to grow annd develop, form new connections over time?

Umm (5, Interesting)

Tx (96709) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912715)

FTA:

Half a real mouse brain is thought to have about eight million neurons

and

the researchers created half a virtual mouse brain that had 8,000 neurons


How can it be half a mouse brain if it has 1/1000 the number of a real half mouse brain? Their simulated neurons also had less synapses than the real thing. So is the 8000 a typo, or am I missing something?

Re:Umm (3, Informative)

Tx (96709) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912845)

Just to follow up, according to this article [businessweek.com] , Blue Brain*, utilizing a 22.8 teraflop supercomputer, manages to simulate around 10,000 human neurons. I have no idea whether human neurons are significantly more complex than mouse neurons, or whether we just have more of them, but if the latter then maybe the 8000 isn't a typo after all?

* Previously mentioned [slashdot.org] on slashdot.

Re:Umm (2, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913059)

It depends on how you simulate the neuron.

If you model it as a black box that sums up inputs and fires if you're over a threshold you can simulate a whole whack of them. If you model it in excruciating detail you might need a supercomputer for each one. If you believe Penrose that quantum mechanical effects are important in neurons then you can't even properly model one with a current supercomputer.

And then there are the connections. Different types of neurons have different numbers of connections. And the connections themselves are quite complex, if you want to get into the gory details.

So the 8000 might be a typo, but they might be doing a simulation of a very different type than Blue Brain.

Thank God (1)

DarkEntity (1089729) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912725)

I thought the University of Nevada would never get even half a brain. Good for them I guess.

Re:Thank God (1)

statikuz (523906) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912943)

And where are YOU from?

very short article (2, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912741)

Near the end they say "Imposing such structures and getting the simulation to do useful work might be a much more difficult task than simply setting up the plumbing".


What did the author mean by that? If they are not simulating any of the actual neural structures in the mouse brain, does it mean they are just simulating a more or less random neural network with eight million neurons? I have seen reports of simulations of actual brain structures in more primitive animals years ago.


Until they can, as they say, "add structures seen in real mouse brains" there's nothing to see here, move along...

Why the BS conclusion? (2, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912745)

There is no connection between the simulation and human mental storage. None at all. Why the nonsensical statement in the article!

Fascinating (1)

AbsoluteXyro (1048620) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912747)

I always thought it was fascinating how nature has been able to "grow" super computers (our closest analog to brains) and we have been unable to build anything even close to emulating their capabilities. Perhaps, there is a limitation to a mind's ability to understand how itself works. I think that if a person were to have absolute knowledge of how his or her own mind worked, it may just drive that person to madness when he or she realizes the mechanics of it reduce his or her thoughts and actions to meaninglessness (that is, thought may just be a huge if/then/else process, completely mathematically predictable).

Re:Fascinating (1)

ardor (673957) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912875)

Hey, pipe down. Those brains evolved in millions of years, we have been pursuing actual research into these fields for less than 80 years.

Re:Fascinating (1)

grikdog (697841) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912923)

There's an unspoken visual hint, a scene involving a topdown view of umbrellas in rain on a Tokyo sidewalk in Hikaru no Go, which suggests that when Monte Carlo methods finally apply to Go on the large, 19x19 goban (as they do on the 13x13 board, see MoGo [www.lri.fr] ), we resourceful humans will simply sidestep the issue by introducing color to the game. First red, yellow, blue, green, then as computers get uppitier than ever, chartreuse, plum, turquoise, peridot and champagne. It ain't thought until you can change the rules in midstream.

Re:Fascinating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18912933)

I believe that my mind and consciousness are made out of billions of tiny deterministic robots obeying the laws of chemistry. I believe I am a deterministic machine with no conscious free will, only the illusion of free will. Probably evolved as you said to prevent us from going insane. Yet I'm not insane, it doesn't even bother me one bit.

The brain can be understood eventually by a sufficient number of other brains all working on neuroscience long enough. Just like nobody can know all of modern medicine, nobody could know the entire brain. So rest assured nobody will be plagued with such burdensome knowledge.

Re:Fascinating (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913091)

We also haven't been able to build a proper wing that flaps or a system that can metabolize organic material to power itself, or even self replicate, never mind do all of those together.

The brain might be special but we can't say so until we figure out how to do those other things and simulating a brain STILL eludes us.

Oblig THGTTG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18912751)

It's very clever and subtle, you see the mouse brains are really simulating us.

The inevitable... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18912757)

In Soviet Russia, computer operates mouse !!

Now what about a politicians? (5, Funny)

apathy maybe (922212) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912761)

If they can simulate half a mouse's brain, then they can surely simulate a politicians. Now we can start rounding up those scum and replacing them with computers ...

Re:Now what about a politicians? (1)

k3vlar (979024) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912927)

While nobody is disputing politician intelligence levels, replacing people who make decisions for society with computers is just ASKING for a robot uprising.

Re:Now what about a politicians? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18912953)

I believe that this was already suggested in one of the final chapters in 'I, Robot' (the book, not that POS they called a movie).

Too late. (1)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913093)

For the last ten years, you've really been electing a bunch of PET 3032s, Apple Is and ZX-80s. The speech synthesis was by Superior Software and the suits by US Gold. Sometime in the next few months, we are due to be attacked by a large number of mutant camels, the road system already having degenerated into a maze of twisty passages, all alike.

Re:Now what about a politicians? (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913173)

Just machines that make big decisions
programmed by fellows with compassion and vision...
  -- Donald Fagen, I.G.Y., from the marvellous LP 'The Nightfly' (1982)

You see the problem? You replace one human with another.

Finally more free neurons ! (1)

HW_Hack (1031622) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912765)

This is GREAT !! Finally I can "off-load" all those old sit-com theme songs, latent memories from crappy college classes, and useless images from the evening news. Thus making free space for "potentially important" new crap while still having the old crap available in some neuro-implant. Hell - I'd be happy if they could just run something like GParted on my noggin and wipe the "Bushisms" and the Bush-Years ... what relief that would bring.

"The land of the brave and the home of the free - where the less you know the better off you'll be ..." Warren Zevon - RIP

Re:Finally more free neurons ! (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913189)

Call the neuro-implant 'pensieve' and you have a business!

Well actually..... (1)

Yonsen (866784) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912771)

...I for one welcome our mentally-stimulated mice overlords.

Humans? (1)

MrPsycho (939714) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912779)

Now they finally have a place to put Walt Disney's brain. Imagine if they hooked him up to Maya, the kind of glorious animated movies he would churn out.

Cheese? (2, Funny)

fluch (126140) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912847)

Did it think "Cheese!" .. or was that the other half of the brain?
- Martin

The essentials (4, Informative)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912855)

If you like the fancy terms, here's the (only 1 page and a cover sheet) pdf the Research report [modha.org] or, better yet here's Modha's blog [hostingprod.com] with about the same info.

For more information on the Blue Brain Project [bluebrain.epfl.ch] which appears to be the same, or atleast a strikingly similar project but from switzerland, click...err, that link I just placed! Here also [spiegel.de] is a good article to learn more about blue brain. It seems much more detailed than the BBC's snippit.

Groups of neurons started becoming attuned to one another until they were firing in rhythm. "It happened entirely on its own," says Markram. "Spontaneously."
Insights like these are absolutly amazing. It's all such facinating research, but I can help feel a twinge of sorrow for the poor thing.

the main purpose of the artificial brain, say its creators, is to make new types of experiments possible. For example, what happens when damage is inflicted on certain types of cells whose function still isn't determined? How many cells can be switched off until the behavior of the surviving cells around them becomes erratic, or the entire circuit breaks down?
The poor thing is just circuits and reactions, I know, but I feel sorry that it's literally being torn apart and rebuilt all the time. It's odd, I don't feel this way in similar experiments with real mice; I guess I have a soft spot for computers...

Re:The essentials (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913181)

I just found and read the actual paper, too; now I don't have to post the link. (It ought to be a Slashdot requirement that when you post a story about something, you have to link to the real source, not just some news site or blog link.)

This isn't really about simulating a mouse brain. This is more like running a synthetic benchmark to demonstrate that if they had the wiring diagram for a mouse brain, IBM Almaden has enough CPU power on hand to simulate it. But they don't have a mouse brain wiring diagram; they're just exercising the simulator with some random set of connections.

Just a neuron simulation (1)

dircha (893383) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912901)

This isn't really anything dramatic. It appears to only differ from what they were already doing with Blue Gene I think a year ago in that now they've made some optimizations to their firing/communication algorithms to be less resource intensive (and correspond less directly to what occurs physically), allowing for simulation of more neurons and firings.

They don't seem to be simulating any neuroanatomy beyond interconnected neurons, and the initial interconnection pattern is just artificially generated.

So while this is cool, and their resources are very impressive, this is no way warrants the article title "Mouse Brain Simulated Via Computer".

But the submitter also asks about this implying a coming "system for human mental storage." I think we've all seen that ST:TNG episode too :) But at this point I think that is more a question for philosophers and linguists than for serious AI researchers if that is what you are getting at.

I see what they're really up to... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18912947)

"What are we going to do today, BlueGene?" ...

"Try to take over the world!"

Now we need a way to read data... (2, Interesting)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912957)

It's cool that we can create the basic scale of the infrastructure of a (half) mouse brain - but if we're really going to simulate a brain, we need the ability to read the contents of a real one in order to verify our simulation. Otherwise, we have little basis for saying that input X gives the sensation of movement, and would have effect/output Y in terms of changed state/response.

I wonder what the current state of neuron state reading is - would we ever theoretically be able to read the state of a brain beyond the external outputs? Could we ever get a sinlgle state that would be the 'ROM' of a person's memories and mental state, that you could place in a simulation and have that person's memories 'wake up' in a simulation? I wonder how close we could get.

Ryan Fenton

Re:Now we need a way to read data... (1)

Gabrill (556503) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913051)

You're jumping ahead of us. You'd have to emulate sensory organs in order to sense "movement".

Re:Now we need a way to read data... (1)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913291)

>>You're jumping ahead of us. You'd have to emulate sensory organs in order to sense "movement".

Actually, you just need to be able to read the outputs from a sensory organ. There's no rule against testing a simulated brain with a real eye's outputs. You can either record the outputs and send them through to the simulation later, or have realtime IO to a real eye. Same with equalibrium, and other data sources. Oddly enough, it's likely many, many, many orders of magnitude simpler for us to provide a world of inputs for a brain to sense for the sake of testing than it is to develop the processing algorithms for the brain itself. We've got a LOT of experience mocking up fake world inputs, and processing the signals of real sensory organ outputs.

Ryan Fenton

Not a real brain (1)

arrrrrpirates (1008235) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912967)

Unfortunately, there is no current way to model a real brain. The connections are too complex and numerous to even begin to do so. Among individuals the connections also differ significantly, which makes a consensus model even harder. We might be able someday certain to mimic certain structures, as a research in California is trying to mimic the hippocampus using circuitboards. The hippocampus is one of the major targets affected by Alzheimer's disease, so replacing it with a circuit would be one potential way to alleviate memory loss from the disease. It is a huge task still, but apparently he has had success. Probably the most difficult part will to be to copy an individual's connections (essentially copying their memory), as everything differs from person to person (nobody has the same memory).

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18912975)

does that mean a single mouse brain can simulate two super computers?

Simulations are cheap. Validated ones are gold. (2, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 7 years ago | (#18912999)

Developing simulations involves using abstractions and simplifications to deal with the fact that we can't handle the computational complexity of quantum-level simulation of an entire mouse brain.

I've seen far too many papers where people make a "simulator" for a system, without demonstrating that the simulator has any real connection to reality, and then make grandiose claims about the real system that they're simulating, based on simulation results.

Call me a cranky old computer scientist, but someone simulating a brain isn't particularly noteworthy. Showing that the simulator is accurate enough to shed light on the ways that brains work, or that the simulated mouse brain can achieve things that we have difficulty achieving with traditional computer software, and I'll be excited.

Unfortunately (1)

Phi Bootis (1094631) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913011)

Down here in the Slow Zone, half a mouse brain is about all we can expect.

We've almost reached the limit of silicon transistors. None of the new technologies on the horizon are particularly promising: optical computers still rely on silicon parts and have been going nowhere for years; quantum computers still struggle with decoherence with only a handful of qubits and no one knows how to program them anyway; and as for nano-scale diamond rod logic? Maybe when someone comes up with a universal assembler (not likely).

Of course I'm optimistic about computing technology in general, but with breakthroughs like this my optimism is getting a little strained. Someone prove me wrong here.

Mouse? (1)

Assassin bug (835070) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913019)

Mouse, whatever... Wake me up when computer scientists can model an insect [umd.edu] brain!

Obligatory...too scary! (3, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913055)

Researchers from the IBM Almaden research lab and the University of Nevada have created a simulation of half a mouse brain on the BlueGene L supercomputer.

I would imagine a Beowulf Cluster of these, but I want to be able to sleep tonight...

I, for one, welcome our half-brained overlords... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18913149)

Oh, and this simulated mouse story is pretty interesting too.

The Whole Mouse...Not! (1)

number1scatterbrain (976838) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913167)


      They were afraid that if they had simulated a whole mouse, the boys at Apple would steal it.

Well maybe (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913233)

They could do the whole brain if they would just run a dual core processor.

Not even close (5, Informative)

quizzicus (891184) | more than 7 years ago | (#18913305)

The subject on this story is a bit misleading. According to the article, the simulation:
  • Simulated only half a mouse brain
  • Ran at about 1/10 the speed of a real mouse brain
  • Only ran for 10 seconds
  • Only simulated generic tissue (didn't contain brain structures found in real mice)
From the article:

Imposing such structures and getting the simulation to do useful work might be a much more difficult task than simply setting up the plumbing.

For future tests the team aims to speed up the simulation, make it more neurobiologically faithful, add structures seen in real mouse brains and make the responses of neurons and synapses more detailed.

It's not that this isn't noteworthy, it's that mammalian brains are incredibly complex. I would be curious to see if they could faithfully reproduce a fish or reptile brain at this point.

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