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The key component of the computer "brain" under development by IBM and the government is the modeling of synapse connections between neurons.  (Source: Science Photo Library)
IBM is trying to develop circuits that mimic the human brain

Think that computer upgrades could one day make the human brain obsolete?  You're not alone.  However, to reach that critical milestone key upgrades in computing will be needed to make computers more brain-like in operation.

To those ends IBM is taking the lead on a major government research endeavor in the field of "cognitive computing" which pairs neurobiologists, computer and materials scientists and psychologists in a $4.9M USD DARPA-grant driven project to develop a computer that behaves like a brain, down to the neuron level.

Dharmendra Modha, the IBM scientist who is heading the collaboration describes, "The mind has an amazing ability to integrate ambiguous information across the senses, and it can effortlessly create the categories of time, space, object, and interrelationship from the sensory data.  There are no computers that can even remotely approach the remarkable feats the mind performs.  The key idea of cognitive computing is to engineer mind-like intelligent machines by reverse engineering the structure, dynamics, function and behavior of the brain."

The project will utilize an IBM supercomputer as its hardware, a field where IBM has long been king of the hill.  Five universities will devote their talents to making this computer behave like a collection of neurons.  The goal is replicate behavior in simulations.  The long term goal is to create a "brain" on the intelligence level of a cat.

The work will draw heavily from neuroscience, which has mapped out simple animal brains and how they respond to stimuli.  Project leader Mr. Modha has some brain-simulating experience of his own -- last year he led a team which used an IBM BlueGene supercomputer to simulate a mouse brain with 55m neurons and some half a trillion synapses.  He describes, "But the real challenge is then to manifest what will be learned from future simulations into real electronic devices - nanotechnology."

Today electronics can be manufactured at as high a density as animal neurons.

The new effort differs from efforts to establish so-called neural networks.  Neural networks, which seek to simulate connections of neurons and can approach learning-like behavior, and artificial intelligence are inherently different from the attempt to create a full brain.  Says Mr. Modha, "The issue with neural networks and artificial intelligence is that they seek to engineer limited cognitive functionalities one at a time. They start with an objective and devise an algorithm to achieve it.  We are attempting a 180 degree shift in perspective: seeking an algorithm first, problems second. We are investigating core micro- and macro-circuits of the brain that can be used for a wide variety of functionalities."

The result is more of a synaptic network than a neural one.  The key component to which the brain owes its flexibility is the synapse.  Synapses connect neurons together in the brain and it is these connections that help us think. 

Experts worldwide are intrigued by the project, but fear that the US government is underfunding it.  Still, says Christian Keysers, director of the neuroimaging center at University Medical Centre Groningen, "It's an interesting effort, and modeling computers after the human brain is promising."

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smart computer...
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 11/21/2008 12:03:16 PM , Rating: 5
Well I'm glad they are making it as smart as a cat and not as dumb as a dog. If it was dumb as a dog the computer would run into the very first pond it came across, bad idea... then you'd have to deal with that wet computer smell. :P

RE: smart computer...
By Mr Perfect on 11/21/2008 12:38:27 PM , Rating: 5
Yes, but now it will steal small files from your Documents folder and bat them around the kitchen floor until they disappear under the fridge.

RE: smart computer...
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 11/21/2008 12:49:25 PM , Rating: 3
Don't forget about giving you that blank look right after batting it under the fridge as you are trying to find that file - like he has no idea what you are looking for or where it is.... sneaky creatures cat are

RE: smart computer...
By S3anister on 11/22/2008 8:59:17 PM , Rating: 3
At least you'll be able to put your computer to sleep easily.

RE: smart computer...
By Gzus666 on 11/21/2008 12:39:45 PM , Rating: 2
Or the damn thing getting sprayed by a skunk. Tomato juice and computer brains don't mix.

RE: smart computer...
By bldckstark on 11/21/2008 12:48:06 PM , Rating: 2
At least it won't be an eyesore in the house anymore. The computer will run and hide under the couch every time you look at it wrong.

When you push the start button an MP3 player will play a recording of a can opener looped continuously.

RE: smart computer...
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 11/21/08, Rating: 0
RE: smart computer...
By gmyx on 11/21/2008 1:04:41 PM , Rating: 2
Or annoy you for food and then not touch it. Or head but in the face for attention and then slap you for touching it. Or... Or...

RE: smart computer...
By 91TTZ on 11/21/2008 4:18:41 PM , Rating: 2
Dogs seem to be much smarter than cats. Dogs can actually understand what you're asking and follow commands. Cats just look at you with a blind stare.

Cat lovers will try to convince you that the cats are thinking deeply, but nothing intelligent ever comes of it.

You'll never see a cat act as an assistant like dogs can, and do, every day.

RE: smart computer...
By Gzus666 on 11/21/2008 4:42:05 PM , Rating: 2
Do you always do as your told? I don't call being a servant being intelligent. Cats can be trained, they just tend not to be very easily trained cause they are independent. Dogs on the other hand are pack based, so they always try to follow the leader of the pack. The goal behind dog training is to become the leader and then they do what you ask.

Gauging the intelligence between the two is a little tough as they are completely different in the way they act.

RE: smart computer...
By KCjoker on 11/21/08, Rating: -1
RE: smart computer...
By Gzus666 on 11/21/2008 7:10:32 PM , Rating: 2

Try again. There is no standard intelligence test for animals, so there is no real way to judge. Dolphins were thought to be very smart, a recent study by another scientist disagrees heavily after his findings. It is hard to judge based on silly things like hunting down people with sense of smell, as dog's smell is much more effective than a cat's.

Cats can clear mice out quite effectively, does that mean they are smarter than dogs cause dogs can't do it very well? Dogs eat crap, does that make them smart? You can't judge animals based on human's base of intelligence. Public service jobs like fireman, police officers, ambulance drivers, rescue workers of any type are not usually the highest intelligence people in the world, so your comparison is stupid as hell.

RE: smart computer...
By Oregonian2 on 11/22/2008 1:09:17 PM , Rating: 3
Cats are supposed to have a larger vocabulary than any other animal other than humans. Whats more they think they're smarter than humans. :-)

RE: smart computer...
By masher2 on 11/22/2008 9:22:30 PM , Rating: 5
> "Try again."

Come now. One link from a journalist, another from a cat lover? This clearly isn't meaningful.

Testing (or even defining) animal intelligence is admittedly a slippery task. However, dogs can learn very complex tasks as well as surprisingly large vocabularies:

Most web pages on feline intelligence are no more than a series of cat lovers rationalizing that their pets simply "don't want" to learn complex tasks. Possibly so. Motivating a cat is difficult. However, by the evidence we have on hand, canine intelligence certanly exceeds feline. Dogs beat cats on short-term working memory, categorization, reasoning and problem solving, tool use, and language skills. Cats exceed dogs only in long-term visual memory.

RE: smart computer...
By 91TTZ on 11/23/2008 11:10:24 PM , Rating: 2
Public service jobs like fireman, police officers, ambulance drivers, rescue workers of any type are not usually the highest intelligence people in the world, so your comparison is stupid as hell

Did you just suggest that trained service dogs aren't that smart because the humans they work with (in public service jobs) aren't the smartest? You actually thought that out and decided to post it? Are you honestly that stupid?

We've already seen that dogs are capable of thought and learning. What have you seen cats do to suggest that they're intelligent animals?

RE: smart computer...
By grenableu on 11/24/2008 10:14:45 AM , Rating: 2
My cat can open its carrier cage!

RE: smart computer...
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 11/21/2008 4:54:55 PM , Rating: 2
You don't know cats very well.... Dogs are followers, Cats are leaders. Need prof?
1) ask a dog to roll over, he will. As a cat the same question, he'll say "I could but no thanks"
2) When a dog and a cat are running around in the yard, Who's almost always in Front??
3) Dogs like to be petted... Cats demand that you pet them.
4) Cats can be trained to do the same thing as dog - play fetch, role over, walk on back legs (guessing no on drug sniffing).... I've trained several cats when I was a kid. Cats just hold out for much higher pay then dogs. Dogs do it because you ask and they want to make you happy and knows he'll get a treat here and there.... Cats want to see the food first.

RE: smart computer...
By Gzus666 on 11/21/2008 5:39:24 PM , Rating: 2
That and I have seen cats open doors and flush toilets after using it, haven't seen dogs do this.

RE: smart computer...
By gmyx on 11/21/2008 7:06:33 PM , Rating: 2
That and I have seen cats open doors

My dog learned that trick from the cat! The dog would just stare at the door and wait. The cat: get out of my way, I'm going in.

RE: smart computer...
By dragonbif on 11/21/2008 8:08:01 PM , Rating: 5
My cat and dog would team up on my dad. At first my cat would sit on top of an open door and jump on my dads head then run away. Next thing you know my dog joined in the fun by hiding behind the door and they both would jump out at the same time. It was funny as hell to watch.
My cat could open doors, my dog could open the zipper on a tent but they both would forget to close them~. They both are dead now, dog died after 15 years and the cat died right after because he got depressed at the loss. I got them about the same time when I was younger.
I have found that just like us not all cats and dogs are made the same. One dog can be smarter then another just like one cat can be smarter then another. I hate it when people use one cat or dog to stereo type all the rest of them.

RE: smart computer...
By Gzus666 on 11/22/2008 4:13:03 PM , Rating: 2
Ha, that is hilarious. My parents cat would try to wake my mom up early in the morning. When she wouldn't pay attention to her, the cat would knock her glasses on the floor. When I was younger we had a mutt and a tabby and they would scheme often.

Dogs and cats are usually hilarious together. Very true though, breed and specific animal makes a big difference in everything.

RE: smart computer...
By frobizzle on 11/24/2008 12:09:08 PM , Rating: 2
Cats rule and dogs drool!

RE: smart computer...
By phxfreddy on 11/21/08, Rating: 0
RE: smart computer...
By StevoLincolnite on 11/22/2008 1:51:24 AM , Rating: 2
Kick a dog and it will come back, kick a cat and it will walk away with it's rear pointed towards you. - Unfortunately there is no 3D mark of animal intellect as of yet.

By amanojaku on 11/21/2008 11:43:50 AM , Rating: 5
I'm a geek and keen on making something unreal real. You know what I mean, a talking, thinking (thinking BEFORE talking!) computer. But then I got to thinking...

Animals are pretty dumb, but their lives are placid. Until they get eaten.
Humans are pretty intelligent, but we do stupid stuff and create our own anxieties.
A $10 Million artificial intelligence might just decide it's depressed and not boot up today...

By Gzus666 on 11/21/2008 11:51:07 AM , Rating: 2
Ha, this is assuming they engineer emotional portions. The brain is segregated into sections that function for different things. One would assume it would be rather simple to leave any sort of emotion out. Also when engineering something rather than letting it happen by chance like with animals and people, less chance of a problem occurring.

By poundsmack on 11/21/2008 12:03:58 PM , Rating: 3
frankly, as an IT admin, we have enough problems getting machines that have no ability to think for themselves to work as they are suposed to/do what we want them to...

By amanojaku on 11/21/2008 12:42:27 PM , Rating: 2
Um... This sounds like a PEBKAC problem, or an ID10T error. Both are best solved quickly.

By Ratinator on 11/21/2008 12:53:23 PM , Rating: 2
Kind of like our own homemade Vulcan. Live long and prosper.

By dragonbif on 11/21/2008 8:11:20 PM , Rating: 3
Even if you left something out the point of making it like this is for it to learn and it would learn that emotion. If you engineer it not to then it is just like an other computer out there no matter how fast it is.

RE: I don't think artificial intelligence is a good idea
By Rev1 on 11/22/2008 9:33:49 AM , Rating: 2
It would be dangerous to leave emotion's out because they provide the checks and balance's to our behavior.

By Gzus666 on 11/22/2008 4:18:17 PM , Rating: 2
If you say so. Most bad decisions and screw ups are caused by emotion. Losing a fight, starting a fight, any dumb decision made while sad, etc. etc. are all made cause of emotion. Think of all the piss poor decisions you have made while mad, sad, overly happy, etc.

Emotion is great for socializing with others, not so much for making decisions.

By Gzus666 on 11/21/2008 11:33:51 AM , Rating: 4
Hey Brain, what are we gonna do tonight? The same thing we do every night, try to TAKE OVER THE WORLD!...with a computer cat brain.

By Seemonkeyscanfly on 11/21/2008 11:59:47 AM , Rating: 3
Pink! are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Yes Brain, but I do not know where I can find a pair of leather chaps that will fit me.

By Gzus666 on 11/21/2008 12:17:07 PM , Rating: 2
I love that one. My favorite was probably Bubba Bo Bob Brain.

By Seemonkeyscanfly on 11/21/2008 12:20:46 PM , Rating: 2
Good stuff.... I'm guessing someone added something to the brownies when they created that show.

By Army1156 on 11/24/2008 12:49:23 PM , Rating: 2

The 20 dollar question
By ipay on 11/21/2008 3:08:35 PM , Rating: 5
Will it support a mouse?


Cat Brain?
By hduser on 11/21/2008 6:20:24 PM , Rating: 3
Hmm, build a computer that's smart enough to ignore my commands. That's brilliant.

RE: Cat Brain?
By hduser on 11/21/2008 6:25:19 PM , Rating: 2
At least it might be smart and small enough to jump on my lap when I'm siting down. I guess that would make a Cat-Laptop or a Lap-Cattop. If it's a Mainframe, then that's gonna hurt.

By Spivonious on 11/21/2008 12:05:18 PM , Rating: 2
Is Brent Spiner involved in the project?

RE: Data
By BladeVenom on 11/21/2008 1:50:16 PM , Rating: 2
No, but Spot is. :)

When UAC asks for permission
By arazok on 11/21/2008 12:09:22 PM , Rating: 4
I’m going to spray my computer with a water bottle.

By poundsmack on 11/21/2008 11:57:00 AM , Rating: 3
while the risk of AI is fairly real if they could (and thats a big could) create this to only (hard limit) be as smart as a cat, then cool it makes for a good science project. here is where things could go wrong. If you create something that has its own AI and give it the ability to build opon what it already knows and can process (learn) then you have to either put in hard limits as to how much it can learn or be aware that anything you give enough intelegence to make decisions, even ssimple ones, can (again without hard limits in the circitry) evolve on those base instints/actions to form more complex thought processes or judgements.

when we begin to play god, we start to understand why doing things because we can isnt the same as doing things because we should.

RE: hmmm
By Gzus666 on 11/21/08, Rating: -1
Dr Evil's hairless **$#@
By PandaBear on 11/21/2008 12:03:09 PM , Rating: 2
Dr Evil: Has anyone seen my hairless pussy?
No 2: Yeah, we trade it in for a newer model.

By Performance Fanboi on 11/21/2008 12:09:22 PM , Rating: 2
4.9m for a computer that trashes the furniture and sleeps 23.5 hours a day - great.

Godo old IBM playing cat & mouse
By kontorotsui on 11/21/2008 12:39:46 PM , Rating: 2
After simulating a mouse brain, now they make a cat brain to hunt for the former. Logic.
I bet next move will be a dog brain to hunt for the cat.

Back to the Future
By nah on 11/21/2008 12:50:38 PM , Rating: 2
From the general philosophical standpoint, it is of interest to compare the the most complicated machine we can make with the machines we observe in nature, such as the human central nervous system. Warren McCullough of the University of Illinois Medical School has done this in very entertaining terms. He finds that the Eniac computer, containing about 10,000 basic-on-or-off elements, is a million times less complex than the brain, which has 10,000 million neurons. The Eniac, indeed, has about the complexity of the nervous system of the flatworm. It has one advantage : its unit operations are accomplished about a thousand times faster than are the unit operations of the brain. Thus if we made a sort of figure of merit for comparing the competence of man-made and natural machines, taking into account both complexity and speed, we should find the Eniac---for those operations fitted to its very low complexity--only about a thousand times less competent than the human brain.

McCullough remarks that if we made a vacuum-tube computer as complex as the brain,it would require a skyscraper to house it, the power of Niagara to operate it and the full flow of water over the falls to keep it cool. This is altogether a criticism of vacuum tubes.If, as seems reasonable to suppose, the use of transistors will permit a further hundred-fold increase in the complexity of our machines, we shall be able to build, in no greater space and with smaller power requirements than are needed now for vacuum-tube computers, a device only 10,000 times less complicated than the brain. Since it will work a thousand times faster, such a transistor device may be, for those jobs to which its low complexity suits it, as much as one-tenth as competent as the human brain.

This is an exciting prospect,but it has not yet been achieved.Curiously, its achievement seems to rest on the elimination from electronics of the vacuum tubes which gave electronics birth.

--Louis N. Ridenour Scientific American ( August 1951)

By spread on 11/21/2008 2:07:45 PM , Rating: 2
Put it in a giant robot body, then they'll have something.

Bad pie
By Randomblame on 11/22/2008 12:38:51 AM , Rating: 2
I just hope it doesn't end up like my old Dawson's Creek trapper keeper futura S 2000

cat vs. computer
By vladio on 11/22/2008 1:45:12 AM , Rating: 2
"The long term goal is to create a "brain" on the intelligence level of a cat".
Sorry DARPA people, but you are as smart as cat.
Start with somethink more realistic, like...virus or bacteria.
"think" "analyze" "reproduce" "hunt"
"socialize" "compromize"...etc.
To achieve that...
well, for start, will need much smarter people at DARPA,
second; It will take more than just more-more-CPU computer
even if you call it SUPER-Computer, it's just as dammmm (but fast) calculator.
and 3rd...well, step-by-step, we will come to that but NOT today.

By Indianapolis on 11/22/2008 9:20:19 AM , Rating: 2
I, for one, welcome our new robotic-cat overlords.

By InfantryRocks on 11/23/2008 1:20:38 PM , Rating: 2
So they create a computer that can get stuck on the roof and spend three hours running from edge to edge...

Second place
By HostileEffect on 11/23/2008 2:35:29 PM , Rating: 2
IMHO, computers are the future and the sooner we get A.I, the better. No one said their had to be a great terminator war.
We have divided land up before, if or when the time comes, I'm sure we can do it again.

I personally think humanity as we know it is scared of being second place. It must be possible to "upgrade" the human body, we might look exactly the same or we might take on a totally different physical form but I guess you got to keep up with the times, I'm looking forward to it.

Johnny massacre's human upgrade and tweak shop? Uhh, two corners down, 277 levels up, there are some older rides around the corner that will give you a lift if you got money.

Issue with the kitty computer
By fillinwood on 11/24/2008 1:33:26 PM , Rating: 2
Oh great, am I going to have to clean up my computer's vomit now?

By sirius4k on 11/25/2008 8:01:30 AM , Rating: 2
It's a future- tech article and it ended up being a Cats vs. Dogs fight =D
Very few comments are actually related to the article somehow.

Anyway... Cats FTW ! ^.^

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