IBM-Swiss scientists to create artifical human brain by 2015

March 05 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: 2015   Rating: 8

By Dick Pelletier

Director Henry Markram of the IBM-Swiss Blue Brain project believes that his team of up to 125 researchers is on target to create the world’s first artificial brain by as early as 2015.

In June 2005, IBM and the Swiss Brain Mind Institute announced a plan to create a digital 3D replica of the human brain. Named after the IBM Blue Gene supercomputer, the Blue Brain Project has started modeling, in precise detail, the cellular infrastructure of the cerebral neocortex.

Although Markram expects his creation may eventually learn to speak, he is not holding his breath waiting for consciousness to rise from its brain. What he is after is something far more useful than a talking machine. By creating a better understanding of how human brains perform, doctors will learn more about why our brains fail.

Disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, and dementia are the price we pay for having complicated brains. “We don’t understand what goes wrong inside those circuits,” says Markram. “We’re still in empirical medicine. If a drug works; great. If not, we try another one.”

Blue Brain will accelerate today’s slow drug approval system of animal testing and human clinical trials by providing scientists with an immediate and accurate brain response to new drugs.

Computer giant IBM provides the machinery for this ambitious project. Already a major supplier of supercomputers to the lucrative science market, company researchers saw a rare chance to raise technology standards by partnering with the Brain Mind Institute in this daunting challenge.

Although today’s supercomputer Blue Gene/L performs 18.7 trillion calculations per second, it cannot capture the quadrillions of interactions of 100 billion human brain cells communicating with each other, which is required to complete the project by 2015. But with computer power doubling every two years, Markram is confident that sufficient computing capacity will arrive in time.

Experts wonder if this virtual brain will think on its own. Markram isn’t counting on it, but he will be watching to see if it starts to make decisions. If this happens, consciousness may not be far behind.

Markram again stresses that Blue Brain’s goal is not to build an artificial intelligence system, nor create a conscious machine. But others believe that if stimulated properly, this artificial brain will learn to imitate human behavior. If it thinks and acts like us, and later develops a human voice, would we consider it to be conscious? Experts say we would.

However, putting the consciousness potential aside, the Blue Brain Project will help find a cure for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and most brain diseases. It will also help patients regain lost sight and hearing, and even restore mobility to paraplegics.

Now imagine observing billions of neuron interactions when a drug is ingested. We could watch the brain as it receives messages from the drug and directs our body to heal. Here’s a thought – what if our brain could instruct the body to heal itself without medicine? Forward-thinkers believe that one day, this miracle could happen.

Some may find creating an artificial brain unsettling, but the desire to find cures for the millions who suffer from brain diseases will drive this “magical future” forward.

How might this technology impact with humanity?

or Show Results

Comment Thread (0 Responses)