Blue Brain project combines neuroscience with computers to simulate brain activity

Ever since I first read I, Robot by Isaac Asimov I have been interested in robotics and AI. Back in 1996 or so I had no idea that simulation of a brain might be possible in my lifetime. John Lehrer with Seed Magazine has written a very interesting article, “Out of the Blue“, which covers the Blue Brain project led by Henry Markram. One of the biggest challenges was determining how exactly a neuron is supposed to behave. Without that information, it would be impossible to simulate it. One of the freaky things about this project is that they have a robot conducting experiments and recording data 24/7. This robot is more efficient than 10 experienced lab technicians combined. I would assume that this robot only has enough programming to complete these experiments, but what if robots become sentient? What would keep them from creating other more capable robots? The current project aims to first simulate the brain of a 2 week old rat, which would then be transferred to a robot body to see how it develops.

With the current progression of technology, Markram suggests, “In ten years, this computer will be talking to us.” That seem a bit crazy, but who would have thought 10 years ago that there would technology capable of simulating 10,000 neurons and 30 million synaptic connections? That currently only represents a small slice of a 2 week old rat brain, but given how fast computing power is growing, I can’t see why Markram’s prediction would be impossible. If not 10 years from now, why not 20, or 30? I think that it is just a matter of time. I highly recommend reading the full article, especially if you have any interest in robotics or AI.

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Humans to become immortal cyborgs within 20 years?Humans to become immortal cyborgs within 20 years?

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He goes on to describe a number of medical advancements that seem unbelievable.  He doesn’t really expand on how many people, or rather WHO will have access to this technology.  We can’t very well have billions of immortal cyborgs running around for eternity, now can we? I think that those denied immortality, or at least extended life-spans, would wage war against those that would keep the technology for themselves.

Credit: Telegraph via Geekologie

Note: For those of you not familiar with Geekolgie, be sure to check that blog out.  I added it to my newsreader about 2 months ago and it keeps me entertained every day!

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I would be interested to see a rematch in a year but with only inputs into Watson be voice and video of the Jeopardy board. After all, Deep Blue was given a second chance versus Garry Kasparov, so why not give the humans a second chance on more equal footing? It is quite possible that programming algorithms over the year would improve enough so that Watson still would win, despite the reliance of voice recognition and OCR. In that case, the victory would mean that much more. Even if you know the outcome already, I still recommend watching the matches. I already saw the Nova special, so I skipped through most of the background stuff from the IBM folks. Here is a link to my YouTube  playlist that has the three episodes broken into 6 videos. Check it out! Then you can tell your grandchildren how you watched a computer beat humans in Jeopardy for the first time. Then they’ll ask, “Humans were allowed to play Jeopardy back then?”

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