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IBM Produces Computer Chip That Acts Like A Brain August 19, 2011

Posted by Metabiological in Synthetic Intelligence.
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One of the more interesting aspects of the human brain is its ability to rewire itself.  Indeed the ability of our neurons to form new connections with each other is the basis of both our memory and our ability to learn new skills.  Its also something that separates us from current machine intelligence.  Well IBM may have taken a step closer to bridging that gap with the development of a microprocessor which behaves like a human brain.

In humans and animals, synaptic connections between brain cells physically connect themselves depending on our experience of the world. The process of learning is essentially the forming and strengthening of connections.

A machine cannot solder and de-solder its electrical tracks. However, it can simulate such a system by “turning up the volume” on important input signals, and paying less attention to others…

Instead of stronger and weaker links, such a system would simply remember how much “attention” to pay to each signal and alter that depending on new experiences.

Interesting certainly, but let’s keep things in perspective.  This does not signal the development of a “machine brain”.  While coming closer to the hardware is a nice step the real challenge is going to be figuring out the software (i.e. consciousness) which still presents a host of both engineering and philosophical problems.

The other issue of course is that not everyone agrees that building a machine in the likeness of the human brain is the best way to achieve synthetic intelligence.  More than a few actually think that reverse engineering the brain is precisely the wrong way to go about, being difficult, time-consuming and in their view unnecessary.  I admit to being only an interested observer in the realm of machine intelligence and therefore have to rely on what the experts in the field tell me.  That being said it strikes me as intuitive that an intelligence that is built on the same foundations as our own, with thoughts and information exchanged in a similar thought obviously not identical manner, might be easier for us to relate to and understand (and perhaps more importantly predict) than an intelligence whose very structure is totally alien to our own.

That’s merely a personal opinion but the question may be an important one.  A similar situation can be found in the realm of animal intelligence, specifically the intelligence of creatures like cephalopods whose evolution and brain structure is vastly different from our own.  Whether or not such things matter in how w being perceives and acts is an open question, one I’m sure will be answered sooner than we think.

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