New Software Mimics Human Brain

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A new kind of programming language modelled on the functions of the human brain is being created by IBM’s Silicon Valley researchers led by computer scientist Dharmendra Modha.
Still in it’s early stages the project’s focus is on recreating biological
intelligence. The software enables computers to perceive and understand their
surroundings in sophisticated ways such as identifying colour and distinguishing
between sounds. The applications allow computers to discern subtleties and
respond instantly.

To support the software IBM have begun work on a new kind of hardware based on the structure of the human brain. The current hardware structure comprising a central processor, memory system and storage has been discarded by the company in favour of a structure modeled on the human brain. The new chip, named the neurosynaptic core, integrates processor, memory and communications, mimicking the neurons and synapses in the brain.

The team
foresees the technology being used to provide headsets for the blind or
visually impaired. The headsets will use sensors to detect obstacles and aid
the wearer in navigating their surroundings. It could also be employed as a solar-powered
device floating on the sea and detecting oil spills. In business, it could
offer enhanced decision-making capabilities, helping to solve difficult

Until now, computing capabilities have been significantly
stronger than humans in terms of methodical processing handling large amounts
of data. However the human capacity for creative and adaptive thinkinghas not
been matched in the technological realm. Peter Cochrane, a futurologist and analyst at
Cochrane Associates observes that “We are trying to deal with an increasingly
complex and chaotic world with biological brains that are fundamentally
unsuited to the task. We can only deal with three to five variable/topics/tasks
at a time – yet we live in a world where we are often faced with hundreds."

The new systems created at IBM could offer essential assistance in
dealing with our increasingly fast-paced and evolving environment. However they
do not possess defining biological qualities such as instinct, intuition and
emotion states. Cochrane suggests that for
us to cope in the changing modern landscape and to prosper as we enter the
future and evolve then we need to create a seamless and complementary
relationship with our machines.


Image by tellatic courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

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