I.B.M. researchers have built and tested two demonstration microchips that store and process information in a way that mimics a natural nervous system. The chips use a new processing configuration that requires far less energy than traditional computers and imitates neural circuits in the brain. The American military has taken an interest with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (D.A.R.P.A.) pledging an additional $21 million in funding. The advance has the potential to revolutionize computing.
What’s the Big Idea?
I.B.M.’s supercomputer and Jeopardy! champion Watson required 16 terabytes of memory and some very powerful servers to accomplish what the brain can do with its small size and just 10 watts of power. “[I.B.M.] says these early chips could be the building blocks for something much more ambitious: a computer the size of a shoebox that has about half the complexity of a human brain and consumes just one kilowatt of power.” Instead of using static connections to process information, the new computer chips approximate learning by being more flexible.