So now there’s an EC-backed Human Brain Project, led by the Swiss research institute EPFL to bring together everything we know, and all we can learn, about the workings of brain molecules, cells and connections.
Contributing will be the Neuro-Electronics Research Flanders (NERF) laboratories inaugurated this week on the Imec campus in Leuven.
The aim of the whole thing is make biologically accurate and detailed simulations of the human brain with the aid of informatics, modelling and supercomputing.
Simulating the brain is one of those projects which scientists always seem to think is something worth working on, but never seems to get anywhere.
Twenty years ago there used to be a BT futurologist who went around saying we’d be having artificial brain add-ons in about 20 years time; in the 80s there was a rash of VC-funded start-ups making neural network IC which were supposed to deliver brain-like computing, and the 80s also brought forth a spate of ‘Artificial Intelligence’ gurus peddling brain-like programmes.
In the 1990s, a Sun co-founder even wrote to the President of the USA warning of the consequences of machines becoming brainier than humans.
Without any particular reason for embarking on it now, this new Human Brain Project sounds like one of those perennial Techno-Ponzi schemes – good for extracting money from managements, investors and governments but not for much else.