Neurosynaptic Chips

As I’m sure many of you are aware, the United States has been investing billions of dollars in R&D projects related to brain simulation.  One of them is taking place at IBM.  They’ve just released their latest neurosynaptic chip.  It’s completely different from a traditional computer chip.

They process information using a hierarchy of “neurons”, following the same sorts of pattern recognition techniques I was mentioning the other day.  Traditional processors aren’t very efficient at hierarchical pattern recognition, so we’re building chips which process information in the same way the brain does.


This is all part of the new cognitive computing revolution.  Right now, we’ve living in an era where computers need to be programmed.  They don’t have any real intelligence.  Using a central processor, software written by a programmer moves data around like a mindless secretary.  That’s all changing.  These new computers will not be programmed.  They will be aware of their environment and self-learning.  They will simply interact with you and learn what you want from them.  This is unlike anything you’ve seen before.

IBM’s goal is to create a giant cloud of these new synaptic computers.  Their goal is to build a stackable array of these chips, and create a cognitive computer as powerful as the human brain within a one liter volume.  How long before they reach human levels of performance?  Right now a single chip can emulate about 46 billion synaptic operations per second.  To compare this to our brain, we do about 100 trillion synaptic operations per second.

Outside of physics, I can’t think of anything more interesting than this stuff.  Unlike theorizing and philosophizing about the mind, we’re now actually building them.  I plan to follow these developments closely.  In twenty to thirty years, I’ll sit next to my computer, which will probably just be a thin sheet of glass on my desk, and I’ll have conversation with it, just like I would any of you.  It will be wired into this giant synaptic-cloud-brain which will have read every scientific document, every history book, and will have watched every video that’s available online.  Unlike search engines today, my computer will actually understand what I say to it, and understand what it reads online.  It will think just like me and my interactions with it will be very natural. It will know everything and, at my command, be able to dynamically prepare a presentation on any topic I ask.  What a dream!

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