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Artificial Brain '10 Years Away' 539

SpuriousLogic writes "A detailed, functional artificial human brain can be built within the next 10 years, a leading scientist has claimed. Henry Markram, director of the Blue Brain Project, has already built elements of a rat brain. He told the TED global conference in Oxford that a synthetic human brain would be of particular use finding treatments for mental illnesses. Around two billion people are thought to suffer some kind of brain impairment, he said. 'It is not impossible to build a human brain and we can do it in 10 years,' he said."
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Artificial Brain '10 Years Away'

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  • Awesome (Score:5, Funny)

    by nicolas.kassis ( 875270 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @12:57AM (#28791675)
    So now we can feed them to the future invasion of zombies? That way we can all co-exists.
    • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Funny)

      by TheSpoom ( 715771 ) * <> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:34AM (#28791929) Homepage Journal

      You know, we'd all be safe from the zombies if I HAD MY GODDAMN FLYING CAR ALREADY!

      I mean, seriously, Jetsons was on, what, 40 years ago? What happened?

      Unless, of course, the zombies can drive, in which case I'm sure we can all agree that we're fucked.

      • Re:Awesome (Score:4, Funny)

        by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:39AM (#28792859) Journal

        Awww screw your damned flying car, where are my holographic discs already!!! I got lots of stuff to back up, you got lots of stuff to back up, we all got tons of stuff to back up people! We got all these big fricking drives and haven't had an affordable optical backup medium since DVD! Don't give me that Blu Ray crap either, as we all know that was Sony's way of pushing lots of DRM. Last i checked you can't even play a burnt BD on a set top BD player, or watch BD movies on your PC! So instead of something made by a media company trying to push their multimedia DRM crap, how about a nice holographic disc made from the start for data like DVD was. Then it will become popular, the media companies will be forced to go with it since BD will end up another Laserdisc, and we can all be happy with nice shiny 400+ holodiscs.

        I mean what good is your fricking flying car if you can't even back up your vids huh? Not very good at all. Besides you know the morons talking on cells would make the sky a giant trainwreck anyway. And the only thing a stupid artificial brain would be good for is if we can light a fire under the Japanese asses with it so they will hurry up and build us our perfect sexbots already! I want the very first Alyson Hannigan [] bot that rolls off the line, and I'll even pay extra for the Vamp Willow [] outfit.

        I mean we can put a man on the moon, but here it is the 21st century and Spoom ain't got his flying car, we all don't have a decent disc to back up our stuff, and I don't have my Alyson Hannigan bot! What the hell good is all this progress for if we can't even get the necessities people!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Unless, of course, the zombies can drive, in which case I'm sure we can all agree that we're fucked.

        You don't do much driving, do you ?

    • Re:Awesome (Score:4, Funny)

      by roger_pasky ( 1429241 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:36AM (#28793123)
      It has already been done!

      Even more, I did it twice, and it was quite pleasing to do both (my wife says so). The two brains came along with arms, legs and a lot of extras.

      They deal with zombies every night they yield "Dadyyyyyyy! Bring me some water..."
  • don't believe it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timpdx ( 1473923 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @12:58AM (#28791683)
    Maybe we can build the *equivalent* of a human brain (number of neural connections in software, silicon or combination), but we don't even know how the thing functionally works as it is. How are we going to model it?
    • Re:don't believe it (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:05AM (#28791735) Journal
      I assume that we'd basically adopt a strategy of "enlightened plagiarism": use our (nontrivial) imaging and structural analysis technology to get the best idea we can of the structure of a real brain(without necessarily understanding what it does, or why it is structured as it is). Simulate that structure. If it acts like a real brain, break out the party hats. If it doesn't, try to figure out why, tweak, and try again.

      Being able to build very complex models, based on what we do know, would be extremely valuable in telling us whether or not we are looking at the right structural details, and whether or not we are missing something(and, if so, the difference between our simulation, and the real thing).
      • by setagllib ( 753300 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:10AM (#28791773)

        A lot of what makes a brain's connections is genetic, and a lot is learned. It wouldn't even begin to function without the genetic component, and it wouldn't survive long or perform any useful task without the learned component. Getting the genetic part right is incredibly difficult (it took evolution millions of years before any organisms could just walk), and fundamentally necessary to get any use out of the brain.

        • by Zironic ( 1112127 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:21AM (#28791839)

          What the heck are you talking about? None of this is metaphysical, it's theoretically possible with good enough imaging tools to make a 1:1 copy.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Ichoran ( 106539 )

            It is theoretically possible, but the ~1000 cubic centimeter mass of the brain requires approximately 8*10^21 voxels of (5 nm)^3 imaging data just to get the structure--and that misses all of the proteins that are essential to get it to work, and we don't know how to turn those 80000 exabytes into anything useful for computation without going through by hand.

            For the time being, it is "theoretically possible, practically impossible" to do it that way. And it will remain so for longer than ten years.

          • by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @10:24AM (#28795043) Homepage

            it's theoretically possible with good enough imaging tools to make a 1:1 copy.

            Several problems with that:

            - When you're at the quantum level, you can't image it without changing it.
            - Okay, so you've changed it. You're after general structure not the details of the instant? But what if the old AI guys were right, and the essence of being a mind is in the programming, not the hardware? Shuffling your image of the quantum-level stuff may mean you get a good image of the hardware, and miss getting a functional program for it entirely.
            - Where are you going to store your image? This is not trivial. The human brain is orders of magnitude more complex than any other physical system known. Is there enough storage capacity on the planet to store the complete image details for one moment's slice of one human brain?
            - Once you store something that complex, how in heck are you going to fabricate a duplicate? Over what span of time, with what tools, can you build to that spec?

            Research projects like this are betting that with some drastic simplification you can build something roughly like a human brain, and that this roughest approximation will have useful parallels in operation. But the human brain isn't just electron firings. It's chemical cascades, electromagnetic fields, processing not just across synapses but within them, and quite possibly processing on the quantum level.

            He's going to build something like that? In ten years? Really?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          What makes you think we couldn't offer it stimuli? That would be one way to learn a hell of a lot about how it works. There's your learned component.
          Also, who's to say we couldn't mimic the genetic component too? There is nothing magical about dna that makes it impossible to simulate. Although the whole protein folding thing seems rather difficult atm, there is no reason to say that we couldn't have that problem solved in 10 years.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by master5o1 ( 1068594 )
          Genetics in robots is basically hard-coded or predefined information.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Tubal-Cain ( 1289912 )
          The genetics part of the equation would be the easy part.
        • by Knutsi ( 959723 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:42AM (#28792877)

          I sometimes wonder though, if the component that gives intelligence is not necessarily that complicated. We seem very capable of adapting to new, abstract input, and this indicates to me that intelligence might be a generic mechanism. Allot of organisms are capable of learning, not just us. That's intelligence as far as I see.

          My personal hypothesis (for what it's worth) is that what we will be able to build will be intelligent, but not necessarily very human. Humans have a genetic component, which includes instincts such as social behavior, and I think intelligence is a layer on top of this that helps us achieve the goals these instincts sets out for us. In the end, the instincts dictate what outcome appears good and bad, and reinforces the patterns of behavior that led to those outcomes.

          It might be that once we set out to explore these underlying insticts, and how to replicate them in a brain like system, they might also prove to be surprisingly simple:

          • A smile from a human = good outcome (social) - possible by image analysis
          • Aggressive sounds from a human looking at you (that is stronger than you) = bad outcome - possible by sound/image analysis
          • Spider or snake-like shape near you = bad outcome - image analysis
          • Smell of fruit = good outcome - chemical analysis of air

          Probably it will be somewhat more complex than this, but I think we might be surprised once we get there. We might also find that tweaking instincts will make the brains, and their attached bodies, be human like or very very different. We might be able to create a brain for whom life is ALL about good feedback from humans (these creatures already live amongst us :p), or ones that are merciless killing machines.

          I think no field will yield more knowledge and understanding of ourselves than the brain-builders in the decades to come.

      • Re:don't believe it (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Jurily ( 900488 ) <jurily@g m a i l . com> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:42AM (#28791969)

        The brain is a self-modifying learning machine. Until you can build a self-modifying learning machine, you can have all the structure you want, it won't be functionally equivalent to a human brain.

        • Re:don't believe it (Score:4, Informative)

          by lee1026 ( 876806 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @03:47AM (#28792631)

          You don't have to build a self-modifying learning machine. You can emulate one of those via a machine that is not self-modifying. See:Turing completeness.

        • Depends (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Namarrgon ( 105036 )

          Depends on what you mean by "functionally equivalent". A neural net is a simple self-modifying learning machine, and any detailed simulation of a network of actual neurons like the one TFA describes would certainly qualify.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by marqs ( 774373 )
        Revers engineering the brain seams all fun and games until Evolution/God/Xenu files a lawsuit for patent infringement.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mcvos ( 645701 )

        I assume that we'd basically adopt a strategy of "enlightened plagiarism": use our (nontrivial) imaging and structural analysis technology to get the best idea we can of the structure of a real brain(without necessarily understanding what it does, or why it is structured as it is).

        I'm not convinced our imaging technology is going to be good enough for that in 10 years, though.

        Every decade somebody claims we'll be able to simulate the human brain or build a human-level AI within 10 years, and always they're wrong, because they're only focusing on their own tiny aspect of the human brain or human intelligence, and ignore the complexity of other aspects or the complexity of how all those parts fit together. This overconfidence goes back to the 1950.

        In other words: I'll believe it when I

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When can I put my ghost in a shell?

  • by PhrostyMcByte ( 589271 ) <> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @12:59AM (#28791697) Homepage
    It is some supercomputer software to simulate a brain. Still cool!
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:00AM (#28791703) Journal
    I'd be pretty concerned about the ethics of experimenting on an artficial brain complex enough to reasonably simulate a human one. "Human rights" aren't terribly well grounded, theoretically; but to the degree that they are, mental complexity seems to be a vital factor(given that we don't generally execute retarded people, it isn't the only one, but it is a big one). Being made of meat isn't obviously a salient factor, nor is being born to human parents.

    An artificial brain of that complexity would be, in effect, a moral person. If you are willing to experiment on one, you might as well just use hobos and orphans and not have to wait a decade for fancy computers(though a simulation would have the huge advantage of read system state out of memory, no mucking around with FMRIs and stuff).
    • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:29AM (#28791883)

      While I 100% agree with the need to protect sapient rights regardless of species or construction material you do have to approach this one slightly differently since the stakes are different.

      If I was a silicon brain you could just back me up. As long as you disabled my pain processors you could do whatever you wanted to me. I would even be proud to be helping so many of my organic cousins at nothing but inconvenience. And since I'm a silicon brain with no where to go yet I wouldn't really have anything else to do except be retarded or schizophrenic from time to time.

      • by twostix ( 1277166 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @02:27AM (#28792227)

        And if this silicon brain decides that it's had enough of being experimented on?

        And what if they don't turn your "pain receptors" off? What if they specifically want to experiment on you to see how much pain you can endure? If you think that medical scientists don't often do brutally unethical experimentation on "lesser" humans you'd be very very wrong (though since the 90's it's gotten much better in the west). As if they're going to care about a brain that they *created*. In fact I can see that as a selling point "see we can do these horrid experiments on this artifical brain so that we don't have to do it on orphans, prisoners and the institutionalised - like we used to".

        Then again if you were regarded as a sentient being would they then have to keep you alive for the rest of eternity lest they be charged with murder if they turn you off or delete you?

        If you create a sentient being you have a responsibility to that being and no you can't just kill it if you get bored with it or it just doesn't meet your expectations, otherwise there would be a hell of a lot more infanticide.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        If I was a silicon brain you could just back me up.

        But how does it help you if there happens to be some copy of you somewhere? If you were killed and that copy was restored, would it be you? Or would it just be a copy that resembles you? The scary thing about this question is that to all the observers (including the copy), the copy is you, and no harm has been done, even though the original "you" is dead.

        I often think about this issue in terms of "Star Trek"-style transportation. That is, a person

    • by twostix ( 1277166 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @02:03AM (#28792101)

      If you are willing to experiment on one, you might as well just use hobos and orphans and not have to wait a decade for fancy computers(though a simulation would have the huge advantage of read system state out of memory, no mucking around with FMRIs and stuff).

      Using orphans, prisoners the military and even middle and lower class children as unknowing guinea pigs was never a problem for many scientists and DRs until the '70s.

      Sorry scratch that for many it still isn't [].

      One thing to notice is that various government departments are up to their arms in it as well.

      Some choice examples:

      (1957) "In order to study how blood flows through children's brains, researchers at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia perform the following experiment on healthy children, ranging in age from three to 11: They insert needles into each child's femoral artery (thigh) and jugular vein (neck), bringing the blood down from the brain. Then, they force each child to inhale gas through a facemask. In their subsequent Journal of Clinical Investigation article on this study, the researchers note that, in order to perform the experiment, they had to restrain some of the child test subjects by bandaging them to boards (Goliszek). "

      (1962) New York University researcher Saul Krugman promises parents with mentally disabled children definite enrollment into the Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, N.Y., a resident mental institution for mentally retarded children, in exchange for their signatures on a consent form for procedures presented as "vaccinations." In reality, the procedures involve deliberately infecting children with viral hepatitis by feeding them an extract made from the feces of infected patients, so that Krugman can study the course of viral hepatitis as well the effectiveness of a hepatitis vaccine

      Researchers at the Laurel Children's Center in Maryland test experimental acne antibiotics on children and continue their tests even after half of the young test subjects develop severe liver damage because of the experimental medication (Goliszek).

      Researchers at the University of Washington directly irradiate the testes of 232 prison inmates in order to determine radiation's effects on testicular function. When these inmates later leave prison and have children, at least four have babies born with birth defects. The exact number is unknown because researchers never follow up on the men to see the long-term effects of their experiment (Goliszek).


      Researchers paralyze 64 prison inmates in California with a neuromuscular compound called succinylcholine, which produces suppressed breathing that feels similar to drowning. When five prisoners refuse to participate in the medical experiment, the prison's special treatment board gives researchers permission to inject the prisoners with the drug against their will

      Planned Parenthood of San Antonio and South Central Texas and the Southwest Foundation for Research and Education begin an oral contraceptive study on 70 poverty-stricken Mexican-American women, giving only half the oral contraceptives they think they are receiving and the other half a placebo. When the results of this study are released a few years later, it stirs tremendous controversy among Mexican-Americans

      The CDC and Kaiser Pharmaceuticals of Southern California inject 1,500 six-month-old black and Hispanic babies in Los Angeles with an "experimental" measles vaccine that had never been licensed for use in the United States. Adding to the risk, children less than a year old may not have an adequate amount of myelin around their nerves, possibly resulting in impaired neural development because of the vaccine. The CDC later admits that parents were never informed that the vaccine being injected into their children was experimental (Goliszek).

      I wonder how many here will defend these scientists and their experiments?

  • 10 years? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Saija ( 1114681 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:01AM (#28791713) Journal
    I've been listening "in 10 years we'll have X awesome technology", but time come and go and nothing has changed, so, i'll be expecting this artificial brain so i could drive my flying car(you know, that 3D driving thingie) to arrive at the entrance of the spacial elevator so i could bang some lunar chicks.
    Btw 10 years and i still have some bad english
    • Re:10 years? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by setagllib ( 753300 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:15AM (#28791801)

      It's very simple to see why this happens. When you start a project, or even just a stage of a project, you have some list of problems and you may even have some idea of the solutions. You can use good judgement to estimate the time it takes (at least to some order of magnitude), and rounding off to 10 years makes for good press.

      But when you actually begin the work, every problem you solve illuminates a whole new set of problems to solve. If each solution opens up more than one new problem, you've "increased" the amount of work left to be done. So either you cut back on some of the goals (to reduce the list of problems) or you admit it wasn't as simple as you thought and announce a new project to tackle some subset of the new set of problems.

    • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:20AM (#28791831) Journal

      Translation: How long before no one will remember or care what sensationalist claim I made. Hopefully I'm outta here by then. I know. 10 years!

      It's like the 100 and 1000 year longevity of CDs. Those companies are counting on the fact that they won't be around to sue!

    • I think that the problem you describe is a mixture of the fact that futurists aren't actually all that good at predicting technological shifts(along with the fact that familiarity breeds indifference) and the fact that a lot of "futuristic" predictions are really more about economics than technology.

      The flying car, for instance, is usually thought of as a technological hope; but it might be more accurate to say that it is, rather, a dream of a future where the middle class can afford helicopters, or the
    • Re:10 years? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:39AM (#28791957) Journal

      I've been listening "in 10 years we'll have X awesome technology", but time come and go and nothing has changed, so, i'll be expecting this artificial brain so i could drive my flying car(you know, that 3D driving thingie) to arrive at the entrance of the spacial elevator so i could bang some lunar chicks.

      Not everything predicted has come true, to be sure. But think about it: you are leaving a post on a computer located hundreds or thousands of miles away, along with hundreds of other people, and I, hundreds or thousands of miles away, am replying. Neither of us pays much at all for this service, which is nearly ubiquitous.

      You can casually watch television shows on demand, on your phone. Which, BTW, is roughly analogous to the pocket communicators on the original series of "Star Trek", except that they couldn't watch shows or take video/pictures or blog or play solitaire on them.

      There is sufficient storage in your computer to track every single man, woman, and child on earth, many times over. The price of photovoltaic solar cells has followed a consistent, exponential drop in price (half price every 5-ish years) and is now close to parity with coal.

      Cars are many, many, many times safer than they used to be - most accidents now result in basically no significant injuries, even when the car is totalled, thanks to crumple zones. Flat panel TVs are commonplace, with resolutions that rival photographic paper. Flexbile, folding displays are available, if (still) expensive.

      I'm not sure what kind of changes you would expect, but these are just a few of the awesome technologies that I've seen unfold in my 30-something years. I mean, what do you want?!?!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      "The future is already here - it is just unevenly distributed. " -- William Gibson
      People are still awaiting ubiquitous computing to come, but for some countries (Singapure, Korea), it is already here. G Bell []

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tom ( 822 )

      That's mostly because the media isn't reporting science stuff very well.

      AI researcher says: "We're working on a pattern-matching system based on the way the human brain functions, and we think we will have a working prototype within five to ten years."

      Mainstream media headline: "Intelligent robots will conquer the world five years from now."

      We did make a huge progress in AI, for example. The people who really thought a computer would have human intelligence within their life were always in the minority. But

  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:02AM (#28791723)

    Then you won't have to listen to the cliche that an artificial brain will always be 10 years away. No one would use eleven years in a cliche.

  • Yeah. RIght. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:04AM (#28791731)
    In 10 years we will have artificial brain, in 50 we will have fusion. In 20 we will have true AI and cyborg. And in 5 years the date estimate for the 3 above will probably not have changed by much (I say probably as we could do leap and bound forward, but at the moment I don't see that as probable).
    • Seriously. People have been saying we'd have AI that was indistinguishable from humans in X years (where X is 5, 10, 20, or some other number) for the last few decades. Or that graphics would advance to the level of reality within Y years. Or that Z game would make us someone's bitch. Heck, there was a guy claiming we'd have the whole aging thing figured out within 20 years. Of course, that was about 10 years ago, so I suppose he has another 10 years to go, but I kinda don't see it happening...
      • Re:Yeah. RIght. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anpheus ( 908711 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:24AM (#28791855)

        This is different from AI, and is coming from someone whose expertise on the subject is demonstrable. He's not talking about AI, he's talking about simulating all of the tissue in a human brain and providing it with stimuli to determine reactions.

        He's not saying it'll necessarily be a good ol' buddy ol' pal right off the bat. Probably not. Probably won't even be capable of simple arithmetic for years. On the other hand, we could simulate things like lesions effecting far away parts of the brain, various known "paths" that signals travel in the brain and ways to alter those paths or correct flaws, etc.

        As well, we could simulate the effect of various drugs on large-scale phenomena in the brain to help try and understand (a.) what a drug will do before it undergoes testing, and (b.) why exactly it is that makes these drugs work so well. Both questions are currently unanswerable. We know what a drug does, but rarely do we understand the full extent of why a particular drug helps certain conditions.

  • by basementman ( 1475159 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:05AM (#28791733) Homepage

    I'm still waiting on the scores of cancer cures that have been promised over the past decade. Talk is cheap.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:51AM (#28792025) Journal
      Cancer cures have been pretty underwhelming; but 5 and 10 year survival rates for many flavors of cancer have been heading steadily in the right direction. The efficacy of pain control, anti-emetics, and other ancillary stuff has seen some improvement as well(unsexy; but not puking your guts up, as much, during treatment is definitely worth something). Also, there has been some interesting work in cancer prevention which is even better. The HPV vaccines, for instance, show a great deal of promise in preventing a substantial percentage of cervical, anal, and penile cancers, while reductions in smoking should reduce lung cancer incidence rather nicely.

      Talk is generally PR hype; but sometimes the PR department is attached to people who do real work.
  • Might be easier and more practical to build an artificial human body that would accept a living human brain. It would likely solve a lot more debilitating illnesses than the opposite approach. Frankly, I would get into the queue right now.

    Still, I am sure building a simulation of a human brain must be challenging.

  • I'm not sure if humanity is ready to handle the issues with creating a human brain in an electronic test tube. What do you do when it comes time to turn the experiment off and it yells "Don't do that! I don't want to die!"?

    Or, on a more pragmatic level, creating a brain is great and fine. Creating all the data that your eyes, ears, nose, and nerve endings create, or to basically make its own artificial world, would be insane. And even if you could, you wouldn't get a true human mind, because they wouldn't
    • Given how poorly humans take even garden variety isolation, which still entails large amounts of stimuli(even if those stimuli are just the feeling of sitting in a blank white room), a simulation of a human brain without access to stimuli would probably only be useful if you were interested in what full-on hallucinatory madness looks like...
  • by jlar ( 584848 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:20AM (#28791835)

    "Around two billion people are thought to suffer some kind of brain impairment, he said."

    Only two billion? Sounds kind of low. My estimate is more in the neighborhood of 6-7 billion.

    • "Around two billion people are thought to suffer some kind of brain impairment, he said."

      Most of those do not have a real brain impairment. It's just that so many people waste so much time on /. they're as productive as the average coma-patient.

  • TED (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Has TED always been about giving nutjobs a platform for performance art?

  • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @01:27AM (#28791875)

    Just what do they mean by a model of the brain? I really don't think they mean anything that would actually think.

    Especially if you believe the few numbers given. If it takes a laptop's computing power to completely model a single neuron then there won't be enough computing power on the planet in ten years to model an entire human brain. There aren't even enough IPv4 addresses for that. We would be talking a cluster that needs IPv6 to talk between it's nodes.

    And that wouldn't account for the computing needed to simulate the I/O signals to make a simulated brain able to do anything useful.

  • Thank god this guy presented his findings at a conference instead of through peer-reviewed journal papers. Could you imagine how hard it would be to find research money going through those stuffy old channels?

  • they're talking about this on Coast-to-Coast with George Noory

  • We currently have no clue how the brain works and we are just starting to try to figure it out. Just look at when Theoretical Neuroscience began and how much they actually know. Let's just say it's new. As in, we know next to nothing about what goes on in the brain.

    Still need convincing? Well, just look at any of the pysch meds out there. The thought is that mental issues are brain chemistry. Well, the drugs change the brain chemistry as soon as they are in the system. Yet, it can take weeks (or mont

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @03:17AM (#28792507) Homepage

    It probably is within reach to build a hardware equivalent of a human brain. We don't know how to architect it, but building enough custom ICs and interconnecting them is probably within reach. The right architecture for simulating neurons probably involves some huge number of fast processors with limited memory, like a graphics board.

    I'm encouraged that this guy is trying to model a mouse brain. About twenty years ago, I was at a seminar by Rod Brooks. He was talking about trying to jump from insect-level AI, where he'd made some progress, to human-level AI. I asked him why he was trying to make such a big jump; a mouse brain might be within reach. He said "Because I don't want to go down in history as the person who created the world's greatest robot mouse". So instead, Brooks did Cog, a stationary robot with head and arms which tries to fake acting human and didn't really lead anywhere. Taking a smaller step might work better.

    Reaching for mouse-level AI is promising. Mice and humans have about 85% DNA commonality. All the mammals seem to have have roughly similar brain components, although the size ratios of the different sections vary widely. Humans have about 1000x the brain mass of a mouse. So if we can get a solid simulation of a mouse brain, it may be mostly a scaleup from there.

    The classic mistake in AI is that someone comes up with a reasonable idea, and then thinks they're one step from human-level AI. That's approaching the problem as if it were easy. Fifty years in, we can now conclude it is hard. So taking smaller bites is indicated.

    When we build an artificial brain, it will be rack-mounted in 19 inch racks.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @03:24AM (#28792535)

    I mean, fusion power has been 10 years away for the last 40some years...

  • by ZeroExistenZ ( 721849 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:00AM (#28793195)

    How do you define one's psyche and how is "mental health" or "mental illness" defined, and on what set of values?

    Say I'm a chronic masturbator (to be in tune with the slashdot mentality) and it's considered "defective behavior" even though my body rewards me to do continue that habit.

    So, he would build a synthetic copy of my brain, emulate my current state and that's it.

    Now, my brain is in constant evolution, I have eroding neurons, I learn new things making new neuron-paths, which his machine wouldn't be able to the way I imagine it.

    Would he allow the brain to rewrite and rewire itself? And if so, how? Are these processes well understood enough?

    If they would be understood, and able to emulate, will they write "virtual medication" to influence the virtual brain to test side-effects or the propagation of a certain chemical interacting with the brain?

    If the last is possible, will we end up with sentien beings who are stuck in the same state for an eternity? Wouldn't that be sortof agonizing?

  • Hopefully (Score:4, Funny)

    by Cornwallis ( 1188489 ) * on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:32AM (#28793323)
    members of Congress can wait that long to get one.
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:40AM (#28793349) Homepage

    What most neuroscience appears to be missing is that the brain isn't an electrical system, but an electro-chemical system. To my knowledge, no one has done anything to simulate how the chemical interactions work with the signal passing and processing aspects of neurology. I think it is quite apparent that there are a great many connections between the chemical balance of the human body and how well things are working in various parts of the human body work. We already have some clues in observing how stuff like lithium helps to dampen activities in the brain preventing or suppressing many results of "mental disease." So if chemical influence can have such a profound affect, I find it is more than reasonable that chemical influence can also be a profound cause.

    It would appear that scientists are trying to "memory map" the brain as a computer which is simply the wrong approach I believe. Sure there will be some improvement in understanding of how some aspects of things work, but I think they will quickly reach a plateau with this approach.

  • by spage ( 73271 ) <spage&skierpage,com> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @07:08AM (#28793449)

    Go re-read Neuromancer to see how all this turns out. Every time you turn the damn artificial brain on it's the same deadpan backseat driver.

    It was disturbing to think of the Flatline as a construct, a hardwired ROM cassette replicating a dead man's skills, obsessions, kneejerk responses. ...

    He slotted some ice, connected the construct, and jacked in.
    It was exactly the sensation of someone reading over his shoulder.
    He coughed. "Dix? McCoy? That you man?" His throat was tight.
    "Hey, bro," said a directionless voice.
    "It's Case, man. Remember?"
    "Miami, joeboy, quick study."
    "What's the last thing you remember before I spoke to you, Dix?"
    "Hang on." He disconnected the construct. The presence was gone. He reconnected it. "Dix? Who am I?"
    "You got me hung, Jack. Who the fuck are you?"

Matter cannot be created or destroyed, nor can it be returned without a receipt.