Documenting the Coming Singularity

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Simulating a human brain with smartphone chips

NewScientist - 5.4.10 (by Paul Marks)

IF YOU have a smartphone, you probably have a slice of Steve Furber's brain in your pocket. By the time you read this, his 1-billion-neuron silicon brain will be in production at a microchip plant in Taiwan.

Computer engineers have long wanted to copy the compact power of biological brains. But the best mimics so far have been impractical, being simulations running on supercomputers.

Furber, a computer scientist at the University of Manchester, UK, says that if we want to use computers with even a fraction of a brain's flexibility, we need to start with affordable, practical, low-power components.

"We're using bog-standard, off-the-shelf processors of fairly modest performance," he says.

Furber won't come close to copying every property of real neurons, says Henry Markram, head of Blue Brain. This is IBM's attempt to simulate a brain with unsurpassed accuracy on a Blue Gene supercomputer at the Swiss Institute for Technology, Lausanne. "It's a worthy aim, but brain-inspired chips can only produce brain-like functions," he says.

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