New IBM chips use silicon to mimic human brain

Usually, we celebrate when new processors raise the bar with faster clock speeds and higher benchmark scores. IBM’s latest prototypes are far from high-performance designs, but they’re nonetheless worthy of note because of a unique architecture patterned after the human brain. That’s a rather big departure from traditional CPUs, as MIT’s Technology Review explains.

Inside the brain, information is processed in parallel, and computation and memory are entwined. Each neuron is connected to many others, and the strength of these connections changes constantly as the brain learns. These dynamics are thought to be crucial to learning and memory, and they are what the researchers sought to mimic in silicon. Conventional chips, by contrast, process one bit after another and shunt information between a discrete processor and memory components. The bigger a problem is, the larger the number of bits that must be shuffled around.

The IBM chips in question represent relatively simple brains, such as the ones found in earthworms—or, perhaps, Jersey Shore cast members. They’re pretty nifty, though. 45-nm transistors are laid down on top of a memory array, replicating the close proximity of computation and storage found inside a biological brain. Software is tasked with managing connections between the two. Like in a neural network, those connections are dynamic; they can be strengthened or weakened, created or destroyed.

Ultimately, IBM intends to build a shoebox-sized silicon brain with about half the complexity of a human one. The company is shooting for power consumption of 1000W, which is a couple orders of magnitude above the 10W power consumption Stanford bioengineering professor Kwabena Boahen attributes to the lump of gray matter lurking in our skulls. One kilowatt is a heck of a lot less power than is consumed by IBM’s Jeopardy-winning Watson supercomputer, though. Ken Jennings might have a better shot against half a brain.

Comments closed
    • WhatMeWorry
    • 8 years ago

    Is this thing programmable?

    • Anarchist
    • 8 years ago

    I would really like to see parallel processing analog computer … that might have some chance of mimicking the biological system.

    • CuttinHobo
    • 8 years ago

    The earthworms are rallying together to demand an apology for your insensitive comparison to Jersey Shore cast members.

    • dashbarron
    • 8 years ago

    How exactly do they make these connections “dynamic?” When I think of the brain, neurons and connections continually physically grow, shrink, change, and adapt.

    • Krogoth
    • 8 years ago

    [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOFZ5fv_pb8[/url<] obligatory

    • ALiLPinkMonster
    • 8 years ago

    First we bring the data pad into reality, now we are working on AI’s. I wonder how long it will be before we figure out faster than light travel.

      • dpaus
      • 8 years ago

      Screw that that, when are we getting holodecks?

        • SHOES
        • 8 years ago

        +1 bring on the bat’leth competitions!

      • shank15217
      • 8 years ago

      Yea well we haven’t even made it back to the moon so we have some time to go.

    • flip-mode
    • 8 years ago

    The last thing we need is computers acting like idiots.

    • cybot_x1024
    • 8 years ago

    Hellooo SkyNet..

      • Jigar
      • 8 years ago

      Now i am really scared, i hope they have big switch to turn this thing off, just in case if this thing goes out of control.

        • wira020
        • 8 years ago

        In the movies, theres always only 1 switch.

          • Deanjo
          • 8 years ago

          And it usually never works.

          • dpaus
          • 8 years ago

          Not in [i<]The Forbin Project[/i<] - anyone remember that?

      • ALiLPinkMonster
      • 8 years ago

      It could also go the way of the Geth.

      • dashbarron
      • 8 years ago

      Per Hollywood style, all it takes is one curious IBM engineer to try and replicate a serial killer’s brain, to you know, figure out why they kill. Next thing you know we have a rampaging 1990 shell-white computer case bludgeoning people in the head with old CTR. Que the blockbuster and popcorn.

        • 5150
        • 8 years ago

        At least that would be an original plot, something Hollywood recently has shunned away from.

        Can’t we just remake Terminator?

          • Voldenuit
          • 8 years ago

          [i<]Virtuosity[/i<] (1995) has an AI that models a criminal psyche (using serial killers and mass murderers) that it uses to train policemen, which then escapes into the real world.

        • RAMBO
        • 8 years ago

        SID 6.7? Hey Parker, this one’s for you!

      • Johnny5
      • 8 years ago

      I wonder if the head engineer has a good home security system.
      Engineer: What would you recommend to someone looking to defend against escaped mental patients, and robots from the future?
      Home security guy: o_0

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 8 years ago

        Plasma rifle with 40 watt range

      • ClickClick5
      • 8 years ago

      Heh, Skynet is the name we have for our new server. The backup server is called Johnny5.

    • wingless
    • 8 years ago

    I hope they build in the fail safes the human brain has that keep us from becoming psychotic. We have a bunch of glands and structures that keep us from doing things like deciding the fate of mankind in a microsecond and launching nukes. Stuff like that kinda matters…

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This