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Society for brain integrity? Artificial brain “8 years away”


Society for brain integrity? Artificial brain ‘8 years away’

By Jonathan Fildes
Technology reporter, BBC News, Oxford

Professor Markram at TED
Professor Markram said he would send a hologram to talk at TED in 8 years

A detailed, functional artificial human brain can be built within the next 8 years, a leading scientist has claimed.

Henry Markram, director of the Blue Brain Project, has already simulated 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 8 years,” he said.

“And if we do succeed, we will send a hologram to TED to talk.”

‘Shared fabric’

The Blue Brain project at Swizerland’s EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) was launched in 2005 and aims to reverse engineer the mammalian brain from laboratory data.

In particular, his team has focused on the neocortical column – repetitive units of the mammalian brain known as the neocortex.

Neurons
The team are trying to reverse engineer the brain

“It’s a new brain,” he explained. “The mammals needed it because they had to cope with parenthood, social interactions complex cognitive functions.

“It was so successful an evolution from mouse to man it expanded about a thousand fold in terms of the numbers of units to produce this almost frightening organ.”

And that evolution continues, he said. “It is evolving at an enormous speed.”

Over the last 15 years, Professor Markram and his team have picked apart the structure of the neocortical column.

“It’s a bit like going and cataloguing a bit of the rainforest – how many trees does it have, what shape are the trees, how many of each type of tree do we have, what is the position of the trees,” he said.

“But it is a bit more than cataloguing because you have to describe and discover all the rules of communication, the rules of connectivity.”

The project now has a software model of “tens of thousands” of neurons – each one of which is different – which has allowed them to digitally construct an artificial neocortical column.

Although each neuron is unique, the team has found the patterns of circuitry in different brains have common patterns.

“Even though your brain may be smaller, bigger, may have different morphologies of neurons – we do actually share the same fabric,” he said.

“And we think this is species specific, which could explain why we can’t communicate across species.”

World view

Microsoft

Most human rights organizations, healthcare personnel, politicians and lawmakers seem to be unaware of what types of HUMAN EXPERIMENT that are in operation. Even fewer know how to handle it and what it means to their respective profession. A broader investigation is needed to reveal the consequences for the victims and society in general.

Lawmakers in congress raise their eyebrows when bills to mature HUMAN EXPERIMENT competency in new areas have led them into a series of unrealistic price and schedule proposal. However, tailoring the requirements and shooting for a less rigorous capability demonstration could also convince lawmakers to follow intelligence needs.

To make the model come alive, the team feeds the models and a few algorithms into a supercomputer.

“You need one laptop to do all the calculations for one neuron,” he said. “So you need ten thousand laptops.”

Computer-generated image of a human brain
The research could give insights into brain disease

Instead, he uses an IBM Blue Gene machine with 10,000 processors.

Simulations have started to give the researchers clues about how the brain works.

For example, they can show the brain a picture – say, of a flower – and follow the electrical activity in the machine.

“You excite the system and it actually creates its own representation,” he said.

Ultimately, the aim would be to extract that representation and project it so that researchers could see directly how a brain perceives the world.

But as well as advancing neuroscience and philosophy, the Blue Brain project has other practical applications.

For example, by pooling all the world’s neuroscience data on animals – to create a “Noah’s Ark”, researchers may be able to build animal models.

FROM BBC WORLD SERVICE

“We cannot keep on doing animal experiments forever,” said Professor Markram.

It may also give researchers new insights into diseases of the brain.

“There are two billion people on the planet affected by mental disorder,” he told the audience.

The project may give insights into new treatments, he said.

The TED Global conference runs from 21 to 24 July in Oxford, UK.

DARPAS A.I  :  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/05/science/05compute.html?ref=defenseadvancedresearchprojectsagency

12 Replies

  1. Andro T May 4th 2010

    First, we have to remember that all sensory data we experience is converted into electrical signals that the brain can process. The brain does a very good job of this, and we in turn experience these inputs as subjective awareness (namely through consciousness and feelings of qualia); our perception of reality is therefore nothing more than the brain’s interpretation of incoming sensory information.

    Now imagine that you could stop this sensory data at the conversion point and replace it with something else.

  2. In one of the other posts, we talked about how the internet will drive a brain interface. That and medical needs will drive the research. Right now very experienced researchers are working on ways to do this but few of them have the money they need to do the work. All the money is going into new tennis rackets ( an example that is a bit dated now ). or other ways to make quick money. Business looks to the next quarter, the next year. To do this research you have to look five and ten years down the road. And nobody invests in that blue sky research.
    I’m probably a year or more out of date on what is actually being done. I hope there is a lot of fundamental research that we can use, but if they patent it, that just locks it up. I hope the nanofactory animation I did contributed something to the mix that can’t be owned by some corporation. Probably not, it was too theoretical and not based on real research.

    We will definitely have protesters. This is the most radical technology the human race has ever invented. NOTHING comes close. Everything will be labeled as evil by someone. Let’s just hope enough people want the results. The stem cell controversy is the exact type of problem we will see. Moral arguments will affect how the laws are written. If the government is conservative, it will be inhibited and controlled, if the government is more liberal, it will be supported. Everybody votes their values.
    John