Sunday, February 3, 2013

Will Hal Arrive?

Visualization of a DTI measurement of a human ...
Visualization of a DTI measurement of a human brain. Depicted are reconstructed fiber tracts that run through the mid-sagittal plane. Especially prominent are the U-shaped fibers that connect the two hemispheres through the corpus callosum (the fibers come out of the image plane and consequently bend towards the top) and the fiber tracts that descend toward the spine (blue, within the image plane) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In what is the largest and most significant effort to re-create the human brain to date, an international group of researchers has secured $1.6 billion to fund the incredibly ambitious Human Brain Project. For the next ten years, scientists from various disciplines will seek to understand and map the network of over a hundred billion neuronal connections that illicit emotions, volitional thought, and even consciousness itself. And to do so, the researchers will be using a progressively scaled-up multilayered simulation running on a supercomputer.
And indeed, the project organizers are not thinking small. The entire team will consist of over 200 individual researchers in 80 different institutions across the globe. They're even comparing it the Large Hadron Colllider in terms of scope and ambition, describing the Human Brain Project as "Cern for the brain." The project, which will be based in Lausanne, Switzerland, is an initiative of the European Commission.
According to scientists working on the project, HBP will build new platforms for "neuromorphic computing" and "neurorobotics," allowing researchers to develop new computing systems and robots based on the architecture and circuitry of the brain. The researchers will attempt to reconstruct the human brain piece-by-piece, and gradually bring these cognitive components into an overarching supercomputer.
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