Mind & Matter


Brain-Mimicking Chips

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Experimental chips developed by IBM imitate the structure of the human brain


In a 2006 lecture on his recently published book What Technology Wants, Kevin Kelly predicted that the collective intelligence of technology will eventually dwarf that of humanity. Kelly was referring to both the quantity of brainpower unleashed by new computer processors, as well as the sheer quantity of data we have collected.

Recently, IBM researchers have also announced the ability to compete with human intelligence qualitatively, by mimicking the physical structure of the human brain. The company designed a new family of what they call “neurosynaptic computing chips” that emulate the neurological systems of biological organisms. These chips are early experimental prototypes developed in the Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) project.

According to IBM, "The goal of SyNAPSE is to create a system that not only analyzes complex information from multiple sensory modalities at once, but also dynamically rewires itself as it interacts with its environment—all while rivaling the brain's compact size and low power usage." The new chips could enable the creation of computers that are not only much more capable than today’s machines, but which also demand much less power and space.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.