Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"It is not impossible to build a human brain, and we can do it in ten years." -- Henry Markham (2005)

Henry Markham is the leader of Blue Brain, and he claimed he could build a human brain in silico in a decade.  It has been five years now, and they are just finishing the feasibility stage. 

Markham claims to have modeled a network of 10,000 neurons, or 10^4. The human brain has 10^11 neurons, so it just needs 10^7 more. In fairness, if you could get the small scale brain right, duplicating it is not that hard.

 IBM has a human brain simulator project running, and it has the number of neurons as in a cat's brain. It is called C2, and it runs on a supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. The computer runs 83 times slower than a cat brain, taking 83 seconds to process what takes a cat only one second. A human brain is about 20 times larger than a cat brain.

C2 also sucks electricity. The computer takes 1.4 MW, and a human version would be 28 MW -- which is the size of a small industrial-scale power plant or a medium sized hydropower project.

IBM is designing chips to make this faster and more efficient. This is funded by our defense department -- who wants brain-like chips to make smarter devices. IBM has also release Blue Matter, which is a language for programing artificial brains. 

Programing artificial brains would be about the coolest job ever.