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Reverse-Engineering the Brain: IBM’s New Chip

IBM’s New Chip Replicates Your Brain

Scientists at IBM have created a chip which mimics the learning processes used by our own brains.

IBM’s new SyNAPSE chip is a special piece of engineering: It has the ability to “rewire” the connections within its virtual neurosynaptic centers, allowing it to learn in almost exactly the same way that we fumbling humans do. The process of learning in the human brain is essentially the creation of links between neural areas, which isn’t an easy task – but this new chip can replicate it by either ignoring or strengthening established links.

IBM project leader Dharmendra Modha said that by “reverse-engineering the brain,” the company hopes to recreate human learning patterns, emotion, and, well, most of what makes humans feel human. It is hoped that “cognitive computers” based on the kind of technology being developed by the SyNAPSE team could one day be used to monitor our own behavior (if they call this part “Skynet”, I’m out) or our environment.

While news like this might seem to point to a future where cognitive computers are possible, Dr. Mark Bishop, Professor of Cognitive Computing at Goldsmiths, reminds us that he “understands cognition to be something over and above a process simulated by the execution of mere computations,” which is reassuring. Less reassuring is the fact that the project is now being partly funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

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