Dr. Snider and his colleagues at HP have built an integrated hybrid circuit with both transistors and memristors. Memristor crossbars are a very promising technology that can ultimately lead to building very dense hybrid chips, several times denser than synapses in the human cortex. Also, memristors have shown the potential to mimic the learning functions of synapses in neural networks. Memristors will the key technology that HP and its academic partner, Boston University, will leverage in the SyNAPSE grant.
On November 20, 2008, the NY Times has published a short article entitled “Hunting for a Brainy Computer”. Steve Lohr interviews the leader of the IBM team. IBM’s Blue Gene has been used to simulate large-scale neural models (see the Blue Brain Project, led by Henry Markram). However, it is easy to mix supercomputers, IBM, and SyNAPSE in a big pot, thinking that they are the same. In reality, the Blue Gene is the example of how not to simulate the brain. This machine, as large as a room, whose power consumption is the same as the sum of the brains of a small city, can barely simulate a cortical column. As this article does not stress much (unlike other cited in this blog), the hardware problem will be solved (hopefully) by nanotechnologies, in particular by porting to nano the immense number of synapses that will link the millions of neurons implemented in the chip. No comment on “Dorothy looking for the Wizard of Oz” and “Want a really intelligent digital assistant”… It is worth mentioning that even with a chip twice the density and half the power consumption that the one SyNAPSE seeks to have in seven years available TODAY in the hands of the best modelers in the world, it is hard to think that we have the necessary modeling skills to implement that is suggested below.
IEEE Spectrum online. Again, IBM appears all over the news. One of the main misconceptions of SyNAPSE is that, imagining of course the 3 companies involved in SyNAPSE succeed, the resulting chip will automatically result in better “MRAPs, UAVs, Mars Rovers”. This is of course not true. A very dense neural chip is 1/2 of the story. The ingredient that SyNAPSE needs to succeed is having meaningful neural models implemented on the chip. And this is where the other 1/2 of the competition will lie in the long (7 years) program.
IBM Researchers Look to Build ‘Global Brain’ Computer
By Scott Ferguson
IBM researchers and scientists from several major universities, with the aid of a $4.9 million grant from DARPA, will look to use nanoscale technology to create new types of computers capable of cognitive thinking. The goal of the IBM research is to find whether new types of IT infrastructure and computers can not only collect data but use that data to solve problems and make decisions in the same way the human brain solves problems.
While a computer with artificial intelligence such as HAL of “2001: A Space Odyssey” remains the stuff of science fiction, IBM researchers are looking to develop technologies that will bring cognitive abilities to a new class of computers.
IBM researchers, along with scientists from several major universities, have been awarded a $4.9 million grant from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) to see if they can develop computers with the ability to not only collect data but solve problems in much the same way a human brain does.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has posted a new Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), soliciting “innovative research proposals in the area of Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE).” Proposals are due May 22, 2008.
“Over six decades, modern electronics has evolved through a series of major developments (e.g., transistors, integrated circuits, memories, microprocessors) leading to the programmable electronic machines that are ubiquitous today. Owing both to limitations in hardware and architecture, these machines are of limited utility in complex, real-world environments, which demand an intelligence that has not yet been captured in an algorithmic-computational paradigm. As compared to biological systems for example, today’s programmable machines are less efficient by a factor of one million to one billion in complex, real-world environments. The SyNAPSE program seeks to break the programmable machine paradigm and define a new path forward for creating useful, intelligent machines. ”
The following has ben published on Topix. It is one of the few articles around NOT on IBM…. Dr. Narayan Srinivasa talks about the program. HRL has a long and successful track record in modeling complex cognitive inspired architectures, which ultimately will be a great advantage in the SyNAPSE program when it will be the time to actually use the chip to perform meaningful computations. Note the typo in the article “‘The follow-on phases of the project will create a technology that functions like the brain of a cat, which comprises 108 neurons and 1012 synapses,’ Srinivasa said. ‘The human brain has roughly 1011 neurons and 1015 synapses.” The formatting got obviously screwed up… we are talking about 10^11 and 10^15 (otherwise, a cell phone chip will suffice…).
An early announcement by WIRED (February 12, 2008) of the imminent SyNAPSE program sponsored y DARPA.
The Pentagon’s mad science division is in a hurry to start making brains-on-a-chip. According to DARPA’s recently-released budget, the Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) program isn’t set to being until the next fiscal year. But the agency is already ramping up preparation for the program, which promises to “develop a brain inspired electronic ‘chip’ that mimics that function, size, and power consumption of a biological cortex.”
DARPA is holding a workshop next month for potential SyNAPSE researchers. And its providing a preview of just how challenging it’ll be, to piece together a faux brain. The whole article is available here.