Printed: 2020-09-18

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies





IEET Link: https://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/cascio20091120

I Can Has Singularity?

Jamais Cascio


Fast Company


http://www.fastcompany.com/user/jamais-cascio

November 20, 2009

IBM’s new cat brain simulation is both more—and less—than it seems.

IBM Moves Closer to Creating Computer Based on Insights from the Brain

Scientists perform cat-scale cortical simulations and map the human brain in effort to build advanced chip technology

A real-time computer-simulated cat brain? Could IBM have come up with a project more likely to trigger Internet excitement?




For the handful of you who missed the news, IBM’s Almaden Research Center announced this week that it had produced a “cortical simulation” of the scale and complexity of a cat brain. This simulation ran on one of IBM’s “Blue Gene” supercomputers, in this case at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). (An aside: LLNL is best known as the center for ongoing research into advanced nuclear weapons and related projects; if the lab is now turning its attention to brain simulations, I don’t know whether to be happy that it’s moving away from weapons or worried that it will try to weaponize AI.)

Worries about the Robopocalypse may be only partially tongue-in-cheek, but it’s worth taking a moment to examine what exactly has happened here. This is what the IBM press release says about the simulation:

Scientists, at IBM Research - Almaden, in collaboration with colleagues from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, have performed the first near real-time cortical simulation of the brain that exceeds the scale of a cat cortex and contains 1 billion spiking neurons and 10 trillion individual learning synapses.



This isn’t a simulation of a cat brain, it’s a simulation of a brain structure that has the scale and connection complexity of a cat brain. It doesn’t include the actual structures of a cat brain, nor its actual connections; the various experiments in the project filled the memory of the cortical simulation with a bunch of data, and let the system create its own signals and connections. Put simply, it’s not an artificial (feline) intelligence, it’s a platform upon which an A(F)I could conceivably be built.


Read the rest here


Jamais Cascio is a Senior Fellow of the IEET, and a professional futurist. He writes the popular blog Open the Future.

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