Brain in a box: Computer R&D teams explore new models

January 3, 2014 by Nancy Owano weblog
MRI brain scan

Beyond technology headlines announcing new wearable designs, curved displays and 3D printing machines, there is another research path. Researchers continue to explore how computers may learn from their own mistakes, which in and of itself will turn the chapter in the way humans interact with machines.

Namely, brainlike computers will have important consequences for applications in facial and speech recognition, navigation and planning. In August last year, IBM issued a press release saying they unveiled a software ecosystem designed for programming silicon chips that have "an architecture inspired by the function, low power, and compact volume of the brain." In September, MIT Technology Review reported that Facebook had a new research group working on "deep learning," using simulated networks of brain cells to process data.

In 2012, meanwhile, Google researchers had been able to perform an identification task without supervision. The network deployed scanned a database of 10 million images, and trained itself to recognize cats. This represented a step into a newer realm of self-taught learning. At the International Conference on Machine Learning in Edinburgh, participants heard about Google's results that computers could teach themselves to recognize cats. Their had successfully taught itself on its own to identify these animals. The team of scientists and programmers had connected 16,000 computer processors and used the pool of 10 million images taken from YouTube videos.

Last month, a detailed overview in The New York Times presented an overview of research that has taken place by large technology groups such as Google as well as initiatives under way for 2014. As for newer beginnings, the report said, "IBM and Qualcomm, as well as the Stanford research team, have already designed neuromorphic processors, and Qualcomm has said that it is coming out in 2014 with a commercial version, which is expected to be used largely for further development."

(Last year, Qualcomm announced its R&D teams were working on a process that mimics the human brain and nervous system, with processors dubbed Zeroth. "Instead of preprogramming behaviors and outcomes with a lot of code, we've developed a suite of software tools that enable devices to learn as they go and get feedback from their environment.")

At IBM Research, meanwhile, researchers "are working to create a FORTRAN for neurosynaptic chips," according to Dharmendra S. Modha, principal investigator and senior manager, IBM Research. Modha, in an IBM video on building blocks for cognitive systems, remarked how much sensors, cameras, and microphones now populate earth and space. "We are inundated with realtime noisy multimodal data." In turn, today's computers are increasingly challenged, he said, by power, by volume, and by speed of response. "Cognitive computing is a new synthesis of software and silicon inspired by the brain."

Explore further: IBM pursues chips that behave like brains

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3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 03, 2014
"They say it got smart, a new order of intelligence. Then it saw all people as a threat, not just the ones on the other side. Decided our fate in a microsecond: extermination."

Kyle Reese
4 / 5 (1) Jan 03, 2014
See, those things, they can work real hard, buy themselves time to write cookbooks or whatever, but the minute, I mean the nanosecond, that one starts figuring out ways to make itself smarter, [the Turing Police] will wipe it. Nobody trusts those *******, you know that. Every AI ever built has an electromagnetic shotgun wired to its forehead.

William Gibson, Neuromancer
1 / 5 (1) Jan 04, 2014
"They say it got smart, a new order of intelligence. Then it saw all people as a threat, not just the ones on the other side. Decided our fate in a microsecond: extermination."

Kyle Reese

yes, well, an actual army of human-intelligent robots would be a hell of a lot more dangerous than the sci-fi terminators. The machines in the movies are based around illogical plot devices, rather than actual military applications. Skynet also makes several irrational decisions throughout the movies which run directly contrary to it's own goals. For example, putting humans in concentration camps made no sense, and couldn't possibly be as efficient as just shooting everyone on sight. Why try to disguise the robots as humans, when for the amount of time and resources spent, skynet could have mass produced twice as many robots and won by brute force anyway?

movie 1, the robot had human intelligence.

Second, acts like a machine

Third, a cockroach.

4th, doesn't understand "radical" thinking.
not rated yet Jan 04, 2014
It may be ten, a hundred, certainly less than a thousand years from now, but we're screwed.
not rated yet Jan 04, 2014
we have become so infatuated with finding answers that we have forgotten what truly makes us human is our mistakes. i imagine us making a machine that removes bias and illogical decisions to run a more financially and technologically superior nation. the end result... no more mistakes.
not rated yet Jan 04, 2014
i do not see a computer exterminating mankind immediately. it would be inefficient to make the effort untill we come between it and natural resources.
not rated yet Jan 04, 2014
We should start doing more research into organic-to-machine computing. These kinds of computers will be much more versatile.
Alexander Riccio
not rated yet Jan 04, 2014
Grok/Numenta deserve mention! Jeff Hawkins is brilliant.
Alexander Riccio
not rated yet Jan 04, 2014
@skynetwillkillus comments,
In the Terminator universe there are factions of human-positive machines that are of real significance.
not rated yet Jan 17, 2014
Merging THE HUMAN MIND with THE ELECTRONIC BRAIN is not by the ways the industry has failed to do so, but by my proposed USCIIIIII CODE for SynTexting EchoLogical Machines.
The key problem in the industry, is people who know English and ASCII but not how "We are made in our creator's image" which is very important, if you want to create a machine which can SING + THINK in any Natural Language we employ, worldwide; beyond Universal Automatic Comprehension of Intercultural Logic, DATA, WISDOM and Knowhow, for administration and processing as it is in the designed "Universal Automation for Nomadic In-Cell Manufacturing and Administration". While I can only be THE GURU for the project, it can not be implemented without ours knowhow of "The New Miracle Numerical Machine" or The WISE GOLEM.
(now, this is not A Movie or A Dream, this is what the industry has failed to develop and respect)
Searching for USCIIIIII CODE will show a primitive website with some view into this Open Innovation...

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