The new address is www.neurdon.com
see you there!
Humans are remarkably good at identifying the same face across illuminations, positions, deformations, and depths. The same face can even be identified through fences, glass, and water. The possible number of contexts for a face to appear in are infinite, yet we can identify it instantaneously. For whatever reason, we are really good at identifying objects, but researchers have struggled to make computers even semi-competent at it. One of the more valiant efforts is Yann LeCun’s use of convolutional nets, but its primary successes are in controlled situations. Any reasonable person in the field would agree that any human can wipe the floor with even the best algorithm running on the best supercomputer (programmed by the best programmer in the best department in the best state in the best country!). So what gives?
In december 2008, a video post has been published on Abovetopsecret.com with the title “DARPA & IBM building a “global brain” “cognitive computer” for “monitoring people”. In this video, the leader of the IBM SyNAPSE project, Dharmendra Modha, talks about SyNAPSE.
SyNAPSE is not a project DARPA undertook lightly. Many attempts at large-scale neuromorphic engineering have been made in the past. None met their goals. As such, SyNAPSE owes its existence to a number of recent game-changing developments. From HP Labs, the discovery of the memristor was one such keystone innovation. It took Greg Snider’s 2007 work in Nanotechnology, however, to establish memristors as a viable platform for the implementation of self-organizing recurrent neural networks.
After running through the Businessweek article posted by Max, I am equally excited and nervous. Anyone has to be excited over the prospect of a new computing paradigm, though honestly I’m not sure what that looks like yet. These sorts of articles claim that computers will look more like brains, which is all well and good, because brains tend to do dominate the “competition”, i.e. computers, at messy things like object recognition and speech recognition. Conversely (and obviously), computers tend to dominate tasks amenable to decomposition into easily formalizable sequential steps, e.g. chess or even eye surgery. So, maybe we know what Deep Blue looks like, but what on Earth would a computer expert in messy things, a messy computer if you’ll excuse the phrase, even look like? We all agree that computers stink at these messy things, and if they didn’t stink at them it would be a huge boon to, well, humankind. So let’s make the computers more like brains so they can do what brains do so well! But how do we make computers, both in terms of hardware and software, more like brains?
Dharmendra S Modha is the Principal Investigator in one of the three DARPA SyNAPSE grants, the one awarded to IBM. Modha is the Manager of the Cognitive Computing facility at IBM. Here is the full article from his blog.
Making Computers Based on the Human Brain
How the biology of gray matter is having an increasing influence on computer design