Researching supercomputers, with a view to learning more about technologies of the future- a theme that longer-term readers of this blog may be familiar with- I just found an interesting article about a team’s achievement in mimicking, if not actually simulating, part of a mouse’s brain using a ‘Blue Gene’ super-computer- the world’s fastest. When you consider just how complex this is, even not working at full-speed, you start to realise what an amazing, if slightly disturbing, achievement it is-
SF concepts of robots thinking like humans or brain-like functioning computers have just made their first steps.
A team has managed to simulate half of the complicated way of functioning of a mouse brain cortex on a supercomputer. The "cortical simulator" was achieved with the BlueGene L supercomputer.
Previous smaller simulations enabled the researchers to assess thought patterns how they form in real mouse brains, but the new simulation is faster and more realistic.
However, mimicking brain tissue is extremely complicated due to its complexity, huge numbers of neurons and the astronomic potential interactions they can form.
There are about 8 billion neurons in half of a mouse’s brain (in humans, over 50), and each neuron forms up to 8,000 connections with others. Imitating this gives way to "tremendous constraints on computation, communication and memory capacity of any computing platform", noticed the team made of investigators James Frye, Rajagopal Ananthanarayanan, and Dharmendra S Modha from the IBM Almaden Research Lab and the University of Nevada.
The BlueGene L supercomputer has 4,096 processors, each one possessing 256MB of memory.
The virtual mouse brain mimicked 8 billion neurons that made up to 6,300 synapses each.
So from now, all we need is a fast enough computer and to map out the human brain on it (preferably that of an Einstein type). Then, we speed that up by various factors and leave it in a room from which it can make all the important decisions for us, whilst the human race lounges around drinking cocktails on beaches. Um… wait a minute, what if it decides we’re no longer useful at that point?! Scratch that idea!