Shopping? Check out our latest product comparisons

Scientist predicts functional artificial brain in 10 years

By

July 29, 2009

Professor Markram presents at TEDGlobal 2009

Professor Markram presents at TEDGlobal 2009

The jury is out on whether scientific and technological advancement will ultimately sound the death-knell for the human race, but such concerns have not stopped Henry Markram, director of the Blue Brain Project, from enthusing about the potential benefits of a synthetic human brain at TED Global 2009.

The project, based at Switzerland’s EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) was launched in 2005 and since then it has already succeeded in simulating elements of a rat’s brain. The next stage in reverse engineering a mammalian brain will focus on the neocortical column, an area that, evolutionarily speaking, has seen rapid and widespread development among species due to an increasing need for its primary function – coping with parenthood, social interaction and cognitive function.

Over the last 15 years the structure of this area has been analyzed and recreated in much the same way. As Markram puts it: "It's a bit like going and cataloging a bit of the rainforest - how many trees does it have, what shape are the trees, how many of each type of tree do we have, what is the position of the trees. But it is a bit more than cataloging because you have to describe and discover all the rules of communication, the rules of connectivity."

Speaking at this year’s TED Global conference in Oxford, England, he goes on to predict that a functional human brain would be possible within the next 10 years. To give you an idea of exactly what this might entail, a single laptop would be required for each neuron in the model, which would require a total of 10,000 working in perfect harmony.

IBM’s Blue Gene has instead been roped in to do the legwork and has already started to yield some interesting discoveries. Simulations are giving the researchers clues about how the brain works. For example, they can show the brain a picture of a flower and follow the electrical activity in the machine. "You excite the system and it actually creates its own representation," said Markram.

The ultimate goal for such a project would be to better understand how the brain perceives the world and to offer insights into brain disease, from which around two billion people suffer, in one form or another, worldwide.

Via TED.

Tags
4 Comments

Does this mean we can replace Congress in 10 years? Oh, wait, they would probably program the brains to be just as prejudiced as they are now. Never mind.

Carol Yates Wilkerson
29th July, 2009 @ 09:35 am PDT

If one laptop is required per neuron then modeling a whole human brain would require 100 billion laptops, not 10,000 as stated.

Moreover, to usefully model the brain you must connect it to the environment via a body; a task nearly as monumental as modeling the brain itself.

This whole idea is as much pie in the sky now as it was when people first said it 60 years ago.

Facebook User
30th July, 2009 @ 12:19 am PDT

To replace congress you just need a random number generator. Actually the random number generator would be more decisive.

Gunther R Jones
31st July, 2009 @ 01:24 am PDT

With the advances going on with Quantum processing, and now this, I think such a brain won't need to physically interact using a body as the whole knowledge of mankind everyday is moving into the Internet, and massive data warehouses where many more mining processes being done all over the world all the time. Yet that on the intellectual part of the brain being receptive, the challenge goes on the fact of interacting back to stimulation. I would like to see that happening one day.

Abdulrahman Al Qayed
31st July, 2009 @ 01:12 pm PDT
Post a Comment

Login with your gizmag account:

Or Login with Facebook:


Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our 28,293 articles