IBM Says, Processor Chip Thinks Like a Human Brain Cell

Brain has especially been the most mysterious and hardest to mimic part of the humans and for decades science fiction authors have written about a future in which computers are as smart — or even smarter — than humans.

A collaboration between IBM and DARPA has produced next generation computer chips that adapt well to unexpected inputs due to their structural mimicking of our brain’s neurons. Applications for these “neuro-synaptic chips” include analyzing financial market fluctuations and even predicting tsunamis.

These chips, like human brain, are extremely efficient, to prove the point, these chips run at 10Hz and still beat most modern computers. 10Hz is roughly the same as the frequency of human brain.

The chips represent a significant milestone in a six-year-long project that has involved 100 researchers and some $41 million in funding from the government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. IBM has also committed an undisclosed amount of money.

IBM demoed steering a simulated car through a maze, playing Pong using these chips. The chips’ ability to adapt to types of information that it wasn’t specifically programmed to expect is a key feature.

Dharmendra Modha, project leader for IBM Research, said the new chips have parts that behave like digital “neurons” and “synapses” that make them different than other chips. Each “core,” or processing engine, has computing, communication and memory functions.
“You have to throw out virtually everything we know about how these chips are designed. The key, key, key difference really is the memory and the processor are very closely brought together. There’s a massive, massive amount of parallelism.”
The project is part of the same research that led to IBM‘s announcement in 2009 that it had simulated a cat’s cerebral cortex, the thinking part of the brain, using a massive supercomputer. Using progressively bigger supercomputers, IBM had previously simulated 40 percent of a mouse’s brain in 2006, a rat’s full brain in 2007, and 1 percent of a human’s cerebral cortex in 2009. A computer with the power of the human brain is not yet near.

With these innovations by IBM, what if they decided to create a robot that has all of these functions? Think about it, A Blue Brain equipped with the neurosynaptic chip, add the Blue Gene, then give it a body. IBM could create a cyborg or a Bicentennial Man. I don’t know if this thought is scary or awesome, but it’s not that hard to imagine at this junction in time.