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Researchers Build Evolving Brain Computer? 114

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the but-can-it-make-pie dept.
destinyland writes "'We have mimicked how neurons behave in the brain,' announces an international research team from Japan and Michigan Tech. They've built an 'evolutionary circuit' in a molecular computer that evolves to solve complex problems, and the molecular computer also exhibits brain-like massive parallel processing. 'The neat part is, approximately 300 molecules talk with each other at a time during information processing,' says physicist Ranjit Pati of Michigan Tech. When viewed with a scanning tunneling microscope, the evolving patterns bear an uncanny resemblance to the human brain as seen by a Functional MRI. Using the electrically charged tip of a tunneling microscope, they've individually set molecules to a desired state, essentially writing data to the system. And while conventional computers are typically built using two-state (0, 1) transistors, the molecular layer is built using a hexagonal molecule, and can switch among four conducting states — 0, 1, 2 and 3, suggesting it may ultimately have more AI potential than quantum computing."
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Researchers Build Evolving Brain Computer?

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  • So... (Score:4, Funny)

    by the_one_wesp (1785252) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @09:34AM (#32192402)
    1. Find complex math problem
    2. Build evolutionary chip to solve the problem
    3. Invent SkyNet
    4. ???
    5. PROFIT!
    • Re:So... (Score:5, Funny)

      by krnpimpsta (906084) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @09:46AM (#32192540)

      1. Find complex math problem
      2. Build evolutionary chip to solve the problem
      3. Invent SkyNet
      4. ???
      5. ENDURE A MILLENIA OF HUMAN ENSLAVEMENT AND FIGHT NEVERENDING ROBOT ARMY IN POST-APOCALYPTIC FUTURE

      fixed that for you

      • Think about this logically... you'll be dead in under a century.

        • Think about this logically... you'll be dead in under a century.

          I'm gonna be dead in less than a century no matter what anyone does or doesn't do. Enjoy your SkyNET, suckers! Don't forget to mock their accents, they just love that.

        • by BlueMonk (101716)

          Three thoughts:
          1. I think the corrected #5 is actually a fill-in for #4, and the word "Neverending" is wrong. Then you profit from getting through that.
          2. I think this could all happen (or rather something at or beyond this technical level) in well under a century.
          3. Because of the accelerating pace of technological development, I think there's a non-trivial chance I'll still be alive more than a century from now.

          In the future I see, computer complexity exceeds that of humans within about 30 years (with th

      • by Phoghat (1288088)
        Or:

        "Mr Data set Course for Orion"

      • by sjinsjca (1782880)
        "ENDURE A MILLENIA OF HUMAN ENSLAVEMENT" At least SkyNet would incorporate built-in spelling-and-grammar checking to avoid mixed cases.
    • by daem0n1x (748565)
      Oh fuck! Now, besides having to deal with slowness, crashing applications, malware and all the usual problems, I'll have to put up with my computer forgetting stuff, showing up late and throwing tantrums?
    • by How2day (1803498)
      A lot of these issues here are totally reachable. I think it is good to expand your brain knowledge, and every time you want some new information visit at http://how2day.wordpress.com/ [wordpress.com]
  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @09:35AM (#32192404)
    Hi, I'm your tunneling microscope programmer. I'm going to need a few new development tools in order to write your Facebook alternative website ... including a tunneling microscope. Your new site is going to give "head in the clouds" a whole new meaning!
  • I'm guessing that there are certain problems you can't solve with FSA so you've got to leverage the more exotic computing that happens in the fabric of reality... or at least that makes nice sounding techno-babble.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      I don't find it exotic.

      I've always imagined that the way to overcome the big step is to make a growing, or self replicating machine that incorporates the newly grown elements to its processing power.

      I've always imagined it as a biological computer that just needs a mesh of feeding and respiration tubes to grow around.

      From that point on, we'd just have to add modules to the tube mesh, wait for the brain to grow and test from time to time if it's "awaken".

      The only remaining question is: will it grow slowly en

    • or at least that makes nice sounding techno-babble.

      Nice sounding techno-babble is the source of continued funding. Don't mock their press release where they throw around relevant and timely buzzwords!

  • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @09:35AM (#32192418)

    can switch among four conducting states

    Hmm, maybe that's why all the memory units in Star Trek are "quads"..... (I've heard it retconned as "quadrillion bits" - but really this fits better).

  • The Matrix (Score:3, Informative)

    by d3ac0n (715594) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @09:36AM (#32192430)

    Isn't that how the Matrix supposedly started? Humans invented computers complex and "organic" enough to develop AI?

    So should we kill it now before it enslaves us all, or what?

  • approximately 300 molecules talk with each other at a time

    Timothy Leary might have prior art on that.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @09:40AM (#32192482)

    "How do I escape from this lab . . . ?"

    • by d3ac0n (715594)

      Too bad SC2 is such a complete joke. I haven't been able to get the SP missions to work yet. Is Brackman even IN SC2?

      Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen a game so utterly betrayed in it's follow-up as Supreme Commander was.

      The worst part about it? Part of the reason for the whole "shrink" of the scope of SC2 was slowdowns and playability issues with SC1 and it's expansion pack. Ironically, SC2 plays WORSE on my machine than SC1 EVER did.

      So sad.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by sexconker (1179573)

        Protip: Supreme Commander is SupCom.
        SC is reserved for StarCraft.

        • Ha! SC2 always was StarControl 2 and nothing else! All this modern "StarCraft" thing is too young to have it's own acronym yet.

          Now, what was that phrase about my lawn? Eh, it's hard to follow trends in this millenia...
  • The easiest way to create AI is to model the neuron inside of a computer, slice up someone's brain into lots of thin slices, and then recreate their brain in the computer. Mapping the inputs is the hard part.
    • The easiest way to create AI is to model the neuron inside of a computer, slice up someone's brain into lots of thin slices, and then recreate their brain in the computer. Mapping the inputs is the hard part.

      "Getting the brain out was the easy part. The hard part was getting the brain out."

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Thanshin (1188877)

      The easiest way to create AI is to model the neuron inside of a computer, slice up someone's brain into lots of thin slices, and then recreate their brain in the computer. Mapping the inputs is the hard part.

      You know that now, once the AI reaches consciousness, the answer to its first question "How do I become even smarter" will be to slice all human brains into slices.

      And it will all be your fault.

      • by tomhudson (43916)

        once the AI reaches consciousness, the answer to its first question "How do I become even smarter"

        Why? There are plenty of humans who take great pride in "don't wanna know that sh*t - I'm keeping it 'real'"!

        • by Thanshin (1188877)

          once the AI reaches consciousness, the answer to its first question "How do I become even smarter"

          Why? There are plenty of humans who take great pride in "don't wanna know that sh*t - I'm keeping it 'real'"!

          Sorry, you're right. I should've stated that my definition of consciousness implied surpassing farm animals, tamagotchis and those specimens you speak of.

    • by mOdQuArK! (87332)

      That's the easiest way to simulate a human brain, not necessarily the easiest way to create an AI.

    • Re:IMHO (Score:5, Insightful)

      by OneAhead (1495535) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:09AM (#32192836)

      Modeling neurons inside the computer is how people have been doing it until now. And while it has made steady progress, it hasn't proven terribly successful; since the advent of the computer age, these AIs have evolved from being equivalent to a flatworm to being equivalent to a guppy (and I'm being optimistic here). Trying to model a massively parallel process inside a serial computer is not terribly advantageous - scientific computations such as CFD (computational fluid dynamics) and MD (molecular dynamics) are plagued by the same limit. What we really need for these kind of processes is a computer made out of very simple, small and fast elements that do exactly the task you want them to do and that are all connected. There have been steps in this direction (earth simulator, GPU computing,...) but I feel the current approach can easily trump them all - at least for the purpose of creating AI. Scientific calculations will be another ball game, because there, the desired properties of the system are very rigidly defined.

      This is not to say there is no room for classical computers - some problems are inherently discreet and serial, and there, our serial processors rule. At least until quantum computing becomes more mature ;)

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "What we really need for these kind of processes is a computer made out of very simple, small and fast elements that do exactly the task you want them to do and that are all connected."

        aka an analog computer...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by daveime (1253762)

        And while it has made steady progress, it hasn't proven terribly successful; since the advent of the computer age, these AIs have evolved from being equivalent to a flatworm to being equivalent to a guppy (and I'm being optimistic here).

        And how many millenia did it take for the biological process to create a guppy from a flatworm ?

        Considering everything we've achieved in the last 50 years, I think the next 50 will be even more revolutionary for the AI overlords using us as 9 volt batteries.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by RockoTDF (1042780)
        Most computational neuroscientists are not interested in whole brain simulation. So while those that are have some good stabs at modeling various invertebrates and insects, it isn't fair to talk about modeling neurons in terms of a complete nervous system. Most models are very small scale (one or two neurons) for learning about ion channels, neurochemistry, etc or large scale, such as the visual system. With these models, you can make predictions about the effects of drugs (at the synapse) or about large
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by blincoln (592401)

        What we really need for these kind of processes is a computer made out of very simple, small and fast elements that do exactly the task you want them to do and that are all connected.

        I believe Thinking Machines beat you to it, but almost no one was interested in writing software for the architecture.

  • Sigh... now knowing how to count in 10 bases wont be enough anymore.
  • At what point can turning off a brain-like computer be no longer called 'shutdown', but instead be called 'death'?
  • Goddamnit, no. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IICV (652597) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @09:46AM (#32192544)

    And while conventional computers are typically built using two-state (0, 1) transistors, the molecular layer is built using a hexagonal molecule, and can switch among four conducting states -- 0, 1, 2 and 3, suggesting it may ultimately have more AI potential than quantum computing."

    Goddamnit, that is not how it works. Even if each molecule has four different states, you can easily map them onto a small, finite number of bits - you just represent each molecule with two bits in a computer, and there's your equivalency. You don't get anything out of more states per unit except higher density. Seriously, TFA doesn't make this mistake; why did you have to add some useless speculation to a perfectly reasonable article?

    • by Shrike82 (1471633)
      Thankyou, I was hoping someone else spotted this. The fact that this 4-state business is chemical in nature means that a quantum computer, hell even a fast electronic model off the shelf today, could probably emulate a 4-state molecule faster than the actual molecule itself. The breaking and making of chemical bonds isn't an instantaneous thing. Controlling these state transitions probably isn't childs-play either (read as it will take additional time).
      • Well to be fair that's modelling a single molecule, not millions or billions of molecules.

        But yes I thought claiming that it would be more powerful than a quantum computer was very off too. Quantum computers don't just operate with a different base number for basic storage, they operate on completely different paradigm. It's not about having more possible states, it's about your system effectively being in all possible states at one moment in time, so if you design it correctly you can work out an answer ba

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Shrike82 (1471633)

          The whole thing is completely counter-intuitive and I have to read up on it every year or so just to make sure I don't get too sane.

          I do the same and to this day I can still safely say that I don't have a damn clue about most things prefixed by the word "Quantum". Like the man said:

          Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood a single word - Niels Bohr

          I remain simply confused. Looking forward to the day I graduate to "shocked".

    • by jadin (65295) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:01AM (#32192724) Homepage

      Two states ought to be enough for everybody?

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by tomhudson (43916)

        Two states ought to be enough for everybody?

        ... only if you're in the Tea Party. And if getting rid of you means having only 48 states, it might be worth it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Dersaidin (954402)
        What is 'two'? 10 states is enough for everybody.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Nadaka (224565)

          Funny thing is. That joke works for every base.

          There are 10 states in base 10.
          There are 10 states in base 2.
          There are 10 states in base 367.

      • by Mantis8 (876944)
        Yeah, its called bipolar!
      • by dougmwne (958276)
        As a matter of fact, it is enough for anyone who's calculations are Turning complete!
      • Re:Goddamnit, no. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by somersault (912633) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @11:25AM (#32193864) Homepage Journal

        Apparently this is obligatory [xkcd.com], so I'd better post it

      • by raddan (519638) *
        I know you're being funny, but actually, that's true. A Turing machine with a tape alphabet consisting of two symbols is equivalent to a Turing machine that has four. As OP noted, the only thing you're getting is higher density, not more computational power. The beauty of binary computer is that they can do a lot with very little: two states. This makes building them MUCH easier.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by IICV (652597)

        Four states good, two states better!

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by sorak (246725)

        Two states ought to be enough for everybody?

        As long as they're not Texas and Arizona.

    • by daveime (1253762)

      And neither is expecting the 4 states to signify absolute quantities.

      Perhaps the schema is something like :-

      0 = Firm No
      1 = Probably Not
      2 = Probably Yes
      3 = Firm Yes

      And the inputs from millions of other neurons with this kind of basis form a decision making process that more closely emulates our own. WE don't make fixed decisions, we weight all the inputs and outcomes and work out the one that is probably best for us. The world is not binary, we should not expect AI to behave like that either.

      • by IICV (652597)

        That schema is entirely equivalent to:

        00 = Firm no
        01 = Probably not
        10 = Probably yes
        11 = Firm yes

        Four fundamental states provides no computational benefit over two fundamental states. Any finite number of states can be simulated with two states; like I said, the only potential benefit is greater density. This is, in fact, why quantum computing is so interesting - there's no real way to map a qbit onto any number of deterministic bits.

        There may be some computationally useful side-effects of these chemical re

  • I'm pretty sure that this was how Mother brain got started. I'd think we'd better stop until we hear news of an orphan girl adopted by advanced alien beings.
  • by iconic999 (1295483) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @09:52AM (#32192628)
    Intelligently designed to evolve. I love it!
    • by raddan (519638) *
      Strangely, people like to see results during their lifetimes. The nerve.
    • by dudpixel (1429789)

      according to the AI itself, the researchers dont exist, and it believes it came into being by mere freak chance.

  • > "The neat part is, approximately 300 molecules talk with each other at a time during information processing," 640k limit anyone?
  • "My CPU is a neural net processor--a learning computer."
  • I don't believe in 2.

  • by axeldot (1462719)

    I'll bet the DoD can't wait to get one of these...

    "Goddammit, I'd piss on a spark plug if I thought it'd do any good!"

  • blowing my mind, man!
  • Haven't any of these people ever seen "Colossus, the Forbin Project?"

  • I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords

  • by joeyblades (785896) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @01:48PM (#32196266)

    says Physicist Ranjit Pati of Michigan Tech. “We have mimicked how neurons behave in the brain.”

    I always love quotes like this... as if this guy (or anyone) knows how neurons actually behave in the brain. So far we're still at the simple model phase... to fire or not to fire, that is the question (apologies to Shakespeare).

    Ptolemy thought he understood gravity, then Newton proved him wrong. Newton thought he understood gravity, then Einstein proved him wrong. Einstein thought he understood gravity, but folks like Penrose, Ashtekar, Smolin, and the Loop Quantum Gravity guys are about to overturn Einstein... When it comes to our understanding of how neurons work, we have more in common with Ptolemy than Einstein...

    • as if this guy (or anyone) knows how neurons actually behave in the brain

      Speak for yourself, troll. Models don't have to be perfect to be useful. Ptolemy's model could predict solar eclipses with very good accuracy. People have been studying and modeling neurons for decades now, they are definitely getting better at it.

      • Speak for yourself, troll

        Well, I would but you're doing such a fine job of putting words in my mouth...

        I made no comment about how useful a model might be. My point is that the statement I quoted made it sound like the model is more advanced than it is.

  • by hoggoth (414195) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @01:51PM (#32196318) Journal

    I am going to make a computer with FIVE states!
    That will be much better than a quantum computer because it has FIVE, you see.
    And it will be an AI because it has FIVE states, and normal computers only have two.

    Actually, I will have EIGHT states just to make sure the competition can't catch up to me.

    I will be implementing my EIGHT states as 3 binary bits, but that's not important right now.

  • Unfortunately I dont have a link, but an interesting show on NPR talked about a computer that arrived at F = ma from watching a pendulum, and having never been given that as information. This same program was used on a dual pendulum (pendulum on the end of a pendulum) as was able to determine the physics behind this (a previously unsolved physical model) Ultimately it was used to figure out the relationship between different ions in a cell and how the concentrations of each relate to each other.....resear
  • People have been over hyping AI for as long as it has been around. In this case all the researchers have managed to do is create a 2D cellular automata like structure using a chemical bi-layer. A nice piece of work but they have no idea how to use a 2D cellular automata to create intelligence either! What you use to implement it isn't the issue. Using words like self organising, healing and showing scans of the brain against scans of the chemical layer is simply misleading. AI needs this sort of work - but

Real computer scientists don't comment their code. The identifiers are so long they can't afford the disk space.

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