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I, For One, Welcome Our New Post-Singularity Overlords
Jamais Cascio, 27 Jul 05

Well, not quite yet, but I'm practicing saying it nonetheless. IBM will be spending the next two-to-three years retooling one of its "Blue Gene" supercomputer -- in this case, the 8th fastest in the world, operating at over 22 teraflops -- to function as a mammal brain simulator. The "Blue Brain" project will simulate a single "neo-cortical column" down to a molecular level; the neo-cortical column is considered the key difference between mammalian brains and reptilian brains. Each neo-cortical column -- there are millions in a human brain -- has about 10,000 neurons and 10,000 synapses. This will be used to gain a better understanding of brain function, with the dual goals of improving artificial intelligence research and reducing the need for live animal brain research.

As FutureWire notes, however, the Japanese government is now developing a supercomputer that will be 73 times faster than Blue Gene, operational by 2011 and working at 10 petaflops -- around the estimated computing speed of the human brain.

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If speed is not really an issue, maybe the software they write to do this can be packaged in a manner similar to SETI@home and passed out as a screen saver to millions of computational biology enthusiasts. There's your billion cortical columns right there!

Of course I realize that it isn't as simple as this. Aside from the surface of the neo-cortex there is huge number of other suborgans in the brain that need to be added to simulation as well.

It will be very interesting, to say the least, to learn what these simulators will teach us about mammalian brains.

Posted by: Pace Arko on 27 Jul 05



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