mannerisms

Ruminations on the electronics industry from David Manners, Senior Components Editor on Electronics Weekly.

EU Backs Techno-Ponzi Brain Scheme

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.

Tags: co founder, gurus, leuven, neuro, swiss research

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8 Comments

  1. Robtronics
    May 25, 2011 17:51

    It’s all the same really. Von Neuman machines with micro-managed firm/soft ware or a cranky artificial intelligence with diode problems.
    We humans do have a penchant for ever decreasing circles and similar pontless activities. Can’t wait for quantum computing, har.

  2. David Manners
    May 24, 2011 19:46

    Sorry George, our IT people have tried very hard to elimiate this sort of thing.

  3. georgegrimes
    May 24, 2011 14:12

    Sigh. The first time I tried to post, I got an error message so I thought it did not get posted and I did it again. Thus the double posting.

  4. georgegrimes
    May 24, 2011 14:09

    Dr. Bob, are you talking about the story “The Last Question” by Isaac Asimov?

  5. Dr Bob
    May 18, 2011 15:07

    Terry, if I read this right I think you are suggesting we might end up with a real Marvin

  6. David Manners
    May 18, 2011 14:30

    Ha Ha, Dr Bob. I will look around for ‘The Answer’. I think this artificial brain thing has been the subject of as many SF writings/films as Techno-Ponzi schemes.

  7. Dr Bob
    May 18, 2011 13:51

    This one sounds like a bit of a no-brainer!
    A long time ago someone wrote an SF short story about such an experiment. Called ‘The Answer’ I believe.

  8. Terry
    May 18, 2011 11:26

    If this project does produce anything useful I think it will be a contribution to neurological research rather than a breakthrough in computing technology.
    Our flying machines didn’t get anywhere until they stopped trying to directly emulate birds. Likewise neural computing hasn’t lived up to the hype but what did we expect and what do we actually want from it?
    If we really can mimic the brain then perhaps computers could become more creative but they’d also become forgetful and unpredictable and prone to neuroses. The training of neural computers is time consuming and the results can be unpredictable. And we think Windows is troublesome, imagine dealing with a computer that’s easily bored. Who’d want a neural computer in charge of anything safety-critical?
    There seems to be little added value in making computers copy the brain. Better to use machine and human intelligence together with each doing what it does best. But as a piece of pure research this looks very interesting.