The Future is Here: The Neuromimetic Processor

Neuromorphic-chip-640x353It’s known as mimetic technology, machinery that mimics the function and behavior of organic life. For some time, scientists have been using this philosophy to further develop computing, a process which many believe to be paradoxical. In gleaming inspiration from the organic world to design better computers, scientists are basically creating the machinery that could lead to better organics.

But when it comes to Neuromoprhic processors, computers that mimic the function of the human brain, scientists have been lagging behind sequential computing. For instance, IBM announced this past November that its Blue Gene/Q Sequoia supercomputer could clock 16 quadrillion calculations per second, and could crudely simulate more than 530 billion neurons – roughly five times that of a human brain. However, doing this required 8 megawatts of power, enough to power 1600 homes.

connectomeHowever, Kwabena Boahen, a bioengineering professor at Stanford University recently developed a new computing platform that he calls the “Neurogrid”. Each Neurogrid board, running at only 5 watts, can simulate detailed neuronal activity of one million neurons — and it can now do it in real time. Giving the processing to cost ratio in electricity, this means that his new chip is roughly 100,000 times more efficient than other supercomputer.

What’s more, its likely to mean the wide-scale adoption of processors that mimic human neuronal behavior over traditional computer chips. Whereas sequential computing relies on simulated ion-channels to create software-generated “neurons”, the neuromorphic approach involves the flow of ions through channels in a way that emulates the flow of electrons through transistors. Basically, the difference in emulation is a difference between software that mimics the behavior, and hardware.

AI_picWhat’s more, its likely to be a major stepping stone towards the creation of AI and MMI. That’s Artificial Intelligence and Man-Machine Interface for those who don’t speak geek. With computer chips imitating human brains and achieving a measure of intelligence which can be measured in terms of neurons and connections, the likelihood that they will be able to merge with a person’s brain, and thus augment their intelligence, becomes that much more likely.


The Future is Here: Cyborg Flesh!

My thanks to Futurist Foresight for turning me onto this article. I would have reblogged, but it was just easier to follow the links and post on my own. You may recall some weeks back when the news hit the airwaves, about how researchers at Caltech developed the medusoid, a cybernetic jellyfish that was capable of mimicking the behavior of the original. Well, it turns out bioengineers at Harvard University have gone a step a further.

Merging the neurons, muscle cells, and blood vessels of various rats with nanowires and transistors that can monitor bioelectric impulses, these researchers were able to create the world’s first hybrid living/electronic cells. Much like the medusiod, the cells were controlled through electrical impulses, which allowed them to function like normal cells, except controlled via a computerized interface.

In time, they anticipate that this will lead to the development of nanotechnology that will allow them to make subtle changes in a person’s biochemistry. More than that, they could become the basis of tiny medical machines, such as microscopic pacemakers, or as microcircuits for prosthetics and silicate implants. On top of all that, this research is a big step along the road to the development of nanorobots, machines so tiny that they alter or maintain a person’s health at a cellular level.

“It allows one to effectively blur the boundary between electronic, inorganic systems and organic, biological ones,” said Charles Lieber, the team leader in an interview with New Scientist. And he’s absolutely right. With developments such as these and the boundaries they are pushing, human-machine interface, implant technology, robotic prosthetics and upgrades, and even the merging of our minds with computers could all be on the horizon. For some, this will mean the arrival of the long awaited Homo Superior, the new age man. For others, its a chance to tremble at the specter of a cybernetic future!

Both are fine choices, whatever floats your boat 😉