Mark A. Carter
No, IBM hasn't rebuilt my brain ... yet.


To refute Arthur C. Clarke's opinion that machines will never be able to think, world famous Canadian Science Fiction novelist Mark A. Carter has reprinted an article from CNN about the thinking supercomputer brain, the size of a postage stamp, that has just been created by IBM.

IBM builds a brain out of computer chips
By David Goldman
NEW YORK: CNN, August 7, 2014

IBM has built a computer chip that functions like a brain. It can sense, taste, feel, smell, hear, and understand its surroundings.

One day, IBM (IBM, Tech30) says the chips might be used to build a thermometer that can "smell" what disease you have and let you know if you need to see the doctor. Or they could be built into a spherical robot that finds people on search and rescue missions. Or they could be included in glasses for blind people. The glasses might be able to "see" what's in front and speak directions to the person wearing them.

That's up to developers. For IBM's brain-like chips to see the light of day, software and hardware engineers will have to write programs for the chips and build them into devices.

None of those things are possible with today's computer chips. The processors you have in your laptop or smartphone are really good at making lightning-fast computations, but they're really bad at making sense of the world around them. That's because most chips today are capable of making just one calculation at a time.

Our brains don't work like that. They have multiple "cores" making decisions and inferences at the same time. One part of the brain might see blue, another might hear waves crashing, another might smell sea salt, and your brain simultaneously merges those senses to determine that you're at the beach.

That's kind of how IBM's new chip works.

Each chip has 4,096 cores, 1 million "neurons" and 256 million "synapses." That means each core functions at about the scale of a worm brain, and each chip works at about the same level as a bee brain. Put lots of these chips together, and things get really interesting.

Micrograph of IBM's Neurosynaptic computer chip that can feel, hear, sense, smell, and taste like a brain.

Amazingly, the chips are so low-powered, they can easily run on a smartphone battery. But they pack a punch: They're capable of 46 billion synaptic operations per second per watt. That's supercomputer-like.

"It's a supercomputer the size of postage stamp, the weight of a feather and runs on the power of a hearing-aid," said Dharmendra Modha, chief scientist for brain-inspired computing at IBM Research. "It's a genuinely radical innovation."

IBM's research was published in Science magazine Thursday.The chip was the result of 10 years of research from IBM, $53 million in funding from DARPA, and 200 people working on the project.

"Designing this chip was no cakewalk," said Modha. "Many thought it was impossible. The impossible has now become possible. We hope the possible will someday become real."



SyNAPSE 16 chip board. Source: IBM

IBM unveils computer chip that emulates human brain
By Juha Saarinen Aug 8, 2014

Low power cognitive computing.

An IBM project to build a cognitive computer that emulates how the human brain works has produced its first part in the postage stamp-sized TrueNorth chip, which boasts a million programmable neurons and only uses a tiny 70 milliwatts of electricity.

The new chip is the result of a United States Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded project that started six years ago.

IBM said the chip breaks away from the traditional von Neuman architecture that has dominated computing until now, and works in parallel with over 400 million bits of local, on-chip memory to store synapses and neuron parameters.

TrueNorth chips can be tiled seamlessly to build larger systems. As of today, IBM said it has built a board with 16 million neurons and four billion synapses, and Big Blue researchers are setting their sights on an even larger system, with 4096 chips in a single rack.

This would provide four billion neurons and a trillion synapses, with a power draw of 4kw.

In comparison, human brains are estimated to have a hundred billion neurons and a hundred trillion synapses, with a power consumption of just 20 watts.

IBM has long worked on developing artificial intelligence and built the world's first cortical simulation in 1956, with 512 neurons.

It has come along since the SyNAPSE (Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics) project delivered two working neurosynaptic core prototypes in 2011 that featured 256 programmable neurons.

One core had 262,144 programmable synapses and the other 65,536 learning synapses.

Today's second generation chip is substantially more advanced with a million programmable neurons and 256 million synapses, as well as 4096 neurosynaptic cores.

The long-term goal for IBM is to build a neurosynaptic system with ten billion neurons and one hundred trillion synapses, which fits into a container of less than two litres, and draws no more than one kilowatt of power.

IBM said the technology can be used many areas, both reseach and industry, such as public safety, improving vision for blind, home health monitoring and transportation.

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Read: Artificial Super-Intelligence
Can a machine think?
Future War
Hologram Universe
Killer Robots
Robot Takeover
We may exist in a Simulation.

Now you know.

from the imagination of Mark A. Carter - novelist

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