Your Big Blue Brain on a Silicon Chip

The new experimental "brain chips" developed by researchers at IBM and DARPA represent a fundamental breakthrough in computing power. If these brain chips are ever commercialized, they would make possible what are essentially thinking, artificial brains

The new experimental "brain chips" developed by researchers at IBM and DARPA represent a fundamental breakthrough in computing power. If these brain chips are ever commercialized, they would make possible what are essentially thinking, artificial brains. Just as the human brain is capable of building and re-wiring synapses as part of an evolutionary learning process, these IBM brain chips are able to form, re-form and strengthen artificial synapses, giving them the ability to take on tasks related to sentient beings. Instead of being mere calculators, the new era of computers would be able to "sense, perceive, interact and recognize" in the same way that humans can.

In short, the machines are alive.

What exactly are these new brain chips capable of doing? Venture Beat highlighted a number of different computing tasks that had previously been beyond reach of even the most powerful supercomputers:

"As a hypothetical application, IBM said that a cognitive computer could monitor the world’s water supply via a network of sensors and tiny motors that constantly record and report data such as temperature, pressure, wave height, acoustics, and ocean tide. It could then issue tsunami warnings in case of an earthquake. Or, a grocer stocking shelves could use an instrumented glove that monitors sights, smells, texture and temperature to flag contaminated produce. Or a computer could absorb data and flag unsafe intersections that are prone to traffic accidents."

Alan_Turing What is perhaps most exciting is that we may soon have a computer that is capable of passing the Turing Test, which has long been the Holy Grail of computing. Quite simply, the Turing Test, first proposed more than 50 years ago by computer science legend Alan Turing, is a test of whether a machine has the ability to exhibit intelligent behavior. While there have been computer programs such as ELIZA that have been able to imitate intelligent human behavior, as well as non-intelligent behaviors (like making typos), these programs were not "thinking" in the sense of a sentient being. True "thinking" requires learning and reasoning, and that requires the ability to re-create the way the human brain rewires its synapses. The IBM brain chips solve for this problem by actually creating a computer that is wired like the human brain.

Making all this possible is a paradigm shift in the way that we think about computing and computing architecture. The Golden Age of artificial intelligence may be closer than we think. It’s not just IBM and its Big Blue brain chips. Stanford’s new online Artificial Intelligence class, taught by Silicon Valley legends Peter Norvig and Sebastien Thrun, has already signed up 58,000 people worldwide to participate in a first-of-its-kind online learning experiment this fall. The dream of creating a sentient, thinking machine is almost a reality -- and there are now tens of thousands of people around the globe who are ready to take artificial intelligence to the next level. Ray Kurzweil predicted that machine intelligence and human intelligence would merge at some point within the next two decades, giving birth to The Singularity. It appears that he was right.

Related Articles

Why Japan's hikikomori isolate themselves from others for years

These modern-day hermits can sometimes spend decades without ever leaving their apartments.

700,000 Japanese people are thought to be hikikomori, modern-day hermits who never leave their apartments (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images).
Mind & Brain
  • A hikikomori is a type of person in Japan who locks themselves away in their bedrooms, sometimes for years.
  • This is a relatively new phenomenon in Japan, likely due to rigid social customs and high expectations for academic and business success.
  • Many believe hikikomori to be a result of how Japan interprets and handles mental health issues.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less