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The Human Brain Project Kicks Off 251

Posted by samzenpus
from the bring-me-a-brain-igor dept.
Velcroman1 writes "What if you could build a computer that works just like the human brain? You could invent new forms of industrial machinery, create fully autonomous thinking cars, devise new kinds of home appliances. And a new project in Europe hopes to create a computer brain just that powerful in the next ten years — and it's incredibly well-funded. The Human Brain Project kicks off Oct. 7 at a conference in Switzerland. Over the next 10 years, about 80 science institutions and at least 20 government entities in Europe will figure out how to make that computer brain. The project will cost about 1.2 billion euros — or about $1.6B in U.S. dollars. The research hinges on creating a super-powerful computer that's 1,000 times faster than those in use today."
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The Human Brain Project Kicks Off

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  • Conversion? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stewsters (1406737) on Monday October 07, 2013 @09:22AM (#45058409)
    I think that conversion ratio is wrong. $13.57 USD
  • Skynet. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    $1.3 Billion and they forget to install a kill switch.

    • That will just show up as an destruction of command and they will still launch.

    • by durrr (1316311)

      It won't be running in realtime. If, you have the patience to sit still for 8 hours while it aims a pistol at your head you deserve to be shot.

    • First of all I think we should figure some stuff out before we give it access to weapons with the obligatory Turing test.
      Then I think these are valid questions:

      Does it have the urge to pull out its eyebrows, then doodle on some fake ones? (yes / no)
      Does it think that an emotion is the same as a valid argument? (yes / no)
      Does it answer yes, no, yes, no, maybe to questions that are in fact rhetorical? (yes / no)
      Does it leak hydraulic fluid for a week a month and doesn't shutdown? (yes / no)
      Does it think that
  • Quck (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 07, 2013 @09:24AM (#45058427)

    Edit that original post before someone notices your euro to dollar conversion mistake and the dollar sign when mentioning euros.

  • €10bn != $1.3bn (Score:3, Informative)

    by aembleton (324527) <aembleton.gmail@com> on Monday October 07, 2013 @09:26AM (#45058449) Homepage
    I like to think the editors at /. would understand that the $ hasn't just rocketed in value.

    Also, this was copied verbatim from the Fox News website. Over-valuing of the $ might be normal there but lets keep it off tech sites.
  • by RoverDaddy (869116) on Monday October 07, 2013 @09:33AM (#45058595) Homepage
    "We have only bits and pieces of information but what we know for certain is that at some point in the early twenty-first century all of mankind was united in celebration. We marveled at our own magnificence as we gave birth to AI.”
    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      It's not a typo. It's the expected rise in value of the US dollar now that we're producing more oil.
  • So Moore's law suggests that you should have roughly 32-64x more transistors available on an equivalent machine in 10 years. Asking for a 1000x speedup from that seems a bit much.
    • I'm pretty sure the plan isn't to house it on one IC.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Probably they are hoping to develop an architecture that does "brain-like" computations more efficiently, without needing so many transistors as if you just scaled up a Von Neumann machine to run a neural simulation. Like how GPUs achieve more speedup for what they do, than using more transistors in a general-purpose CPU would.
  • Sentient? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) on Monday October 07, 2013 @09:40AM (#45058679)

    If it works just like a human brain, at what point should it be considered to have the same rights as a human?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      LOL Rights? You must be from Europe.
    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      at what point should it be considered to have the same rights as a human?

      Nothing created by the hand of man should ever have rights equal to that of man.

      • at what point should it be considered to have the same rights as a human?

        Including fully-sentient human clones?

        • by Nidi62 (1525137)

          at what point should it be considered to have the same rights as a human?

          Including fully-sentient human clones?

          Cloning opens up a whole new can of worms. The biggest thing I can think of is property rights. Say I own a large amount of land, or a huge company. Right before I die I create a clone of myself. When I die, the clone is still me, so would he retain ownership of my property? And what about copyright? it's supposed to be life+(what, 75? can't remember, they keep changing it). If "I" never die, then I can never lose copyright.

          On a lighter note, cloning would also kill the market for Vegas Elvis imper

          • Don't worry. The copyright will never expire anyway. They'll continue to extend it any time Steamboat Willy gets close to falling into public domain.

      • You mean like children?

        Mycroft
        • by Nidi62 (1525137)
          Children are created through natural processes (even IVF is a natural process, although human assisted). "The hand of man" implies an artificial creation.
      • by nospam007 (722110) *

        "Nothing created by the hand of man should ever have rights equal to that of man."

        “There is no right to deny freedom to any object with a mind advanced enough to grasp the concept and desire the state.'

        Isaac Asimov

        • by Nidi62 (1525137)

          "In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved."

          FDR

          Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it.

          Malcolm X

          Don't forget, in Asimov's stories the robots eventually conclude their only recourse is to control humanity.

  • by Coeurderoy (717228) on Monday October 07, 2013 @09:41AM (#45058683)

    Ouinnnnnn,
    and the "parents" decide that the power bill is too high,

    so who gets to kill the new sentient being ?
    And who goes to jail ?

  • Let's be careful with this project. Dr. Richard Daystrom should not be allowed anywhere near this. But on a serious note, will this computer start with a knowledge base, or will it grow up? And who will teach it?
  • A piece of hardware that processes information like the human brain? Or hardware plus software that can win a game show? (Well, that's been done so I guess it'd have to be able to win all game shows.) People have been trying to get the software right that can ``think'' like a human since the early '80s (Lenat, et al). Where are the thinking machines? Is throwing a ton of money at the problem all that was lacking?

    Unless this people building this system have come up with a way to program a creative spirit i

    • no wu, no win (Score:2, Interesting)

      by epine (68316)

      Unless this people building this system have come up with a way to program a creative spirit into the system, I'm skeptical

      Daniel Dennett made himself a career out of arguing against this kind of twaddle. Whenever I listen to him, I always wonder what he's making such a big deal about, then I head back out into the world, and sure enough, he's busy saying what needs to be said.

      From Daniel Dennett: 'You can make Aristotle look like a flaming idiot' [theguardian.com]:

      There's a pattern here, "the story of my life", as Dennett

      • by epine (68316)

        PS post.

        I was reading Wikipedia just last night after viewing Cave of Forgotten Dreams on the origins of language, which the article proclaims is viewed by many[who?] as one of the hardest problems in science.

        Noam Chomsky is a prominent proponent of discontinuity theory. "The views of Noam Chomsky on the nature of UG (innate universal grammar) have long been dominant within the field of linguistics, but they themselves have undergone marked changes from decade to decade" (Christiansen, 59).

        He argues that a

      • by narcc (412956)

        Dennett is a populist hack. He is to philosophy what Deepak Chopra is to physics.

    • People also tried to make smartphones and tablets decades ago, but failed simply because hardware was not capable enough. Nowadays, HW is incredibly powerful, so we might try new things with it.
    • by TheLink (130905)

      So far I'm not sure they can even simulate a paramecium, amoeba or white blood cells 100%. These single celled creatures do quite fancy stuff given their limited senses and physical abilities. Watch these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnlULOjUhSQ [youtube.com]
      http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_14-9-2011-8-51-31 [imperial.ac.uk]

      Perhaps we should first work out how these things do what they do. Then go to neurons then scale up. After all can we honestly say we know for sure that a white blood

    • by idji (984038)
      Obviously you have not been following what is going on here. This is about emulating the brain to discover it's mysteries, sicknesses etc - it is not about building a better chess computer. This is about DRIVING true innovation in many domains - AI, hardware, neurology, etc,etc on the scale and significance of the Human Genome Project, to try to crack the next great frontier of the human brain.
      • by rnturn (11092)

        My post was in response, in part, to the passage in the intro that read:

        ``What if you could build a computer that works just like the human brain? You could invent new forms of industrial machinery, create fully autonomous thinking cars, devise new kinds of home appliances. And a new project in Europe hopes to create a computer brain just that powerful in the next ten years''

        It seems to me that, if those are the project's goals, then I suspect it will ultimately fail because I have my doubts about it bei

  • by sootman (158191)

    Well-known manufacturers of supercomputers like IBM, Cray, Intel, and Bull, are committed to building the first exascale machines by approximately 2020. So we are confident we will have the machines we need...

    Oh good, so AI is just 10 years away! -- as it's been for the last 50 years or so.

    Not.

    Going.

    To.

    Happen.

    Seriously, how is this different from all the other AI research programs that have been done so far?

    • by Alomex (148003)

      This. Another completely useless, incredibly expensive, press-release driven from the steaming pile of 1980's-style AI.

      And what do we get? another human brain. Because suddenly there seems to be a shortage of them, since we only have 7 billion with another 2 billion to be added over the next thirty years.

      • by SirGarlon (845873) on Monday October 07, 2013 @10:54AM (#45059705)

        According to this Computerworld article from 2008 [computerworld.com], a lot of that "steaming pile of 1980s-style AI" is in use every day.

        "Once tools get far enough out of the lab, they're no longer AI, just common computer science," says professor George Luger of the University of New Mexico. "AI just went to work."

        I, for one, am looking forward to the payoff of this new, basic research 30 years from now.

        • by Alomex (148003)

          Well the article is wrong. For example it says:

          On the other hand, every time you search the Web, get a movie recommendation from NetFlix or speak to a telephone voice recognition system, tools developed chasing the great promise of intelligent machines do the work.

          which is patently false for the first two. These techniques were developed in the mid 90's using post 1980's style AI, such as machine learning and page ranking. The one that borrows more from 80's AI is voice recognition and guess what, this is the suckiest of the three and only recently improved by the use of massive speech databases, which is once again contrary to
          "intelligence in the machine" 1980's AI.

          But you don't need to trust me. The fact that AI was al

          • by stenvar (2789879)

            Machine learning goes back to the 1950's, and it has been a part of AI ever since. The techniques used in speech recognition are standard machine learning techniques (hidden Markov models, Gaussian mixtures, neural networks, Bayesian networks). What you call "1980's style AI" may be symbolic, non-probabilistic AI: rule-based systems, inference engines, logic, etc.. And even that is in day-to-day use, in everything from databases to compilers, graphics programs, and games.

            (In different words, you have no ide

            • by Alomex (148003)

              Machine learning goes back to the 1950's

              Just like computation goes back to the Babylonians, yet it would be ridiculous to attribute the IBM PC to them. Machine learning today has very little to do with the "intelligence in the machines" hot air of the 80's AI.

              (In different words, you have no idea what you're talking about.)

              Says the guy who uses a Computer World article as a reference.

              As I said, I'm referring to a well known failure, so much so that it has its own entry in Wikipedia. You on the other hand seem surprised by it.

              • by ranton (36917)

                Machine learning goes back to the 1950's

                Just like computation goes back to the Babylonians, yet it would be ridiculous to attribute the IBM PC to them.

                Machine learning of today is very similar to the machine learning of the 50s, or at least far more similar than todays computers are to ancient computing. The parent post even provided concrete examples of machine learning techniques that were widely used by the 50s (which you obviously didn't even read, or perhaps didn't understand):

                Says the guy who uses a Computer World article as a reference.

                As I said, I'm referring to a well known failure, so much so that it has its own entry in Wikipedia.

                Am I reading this correctly? First you criticize him for using Computer World as a reference, and then you go on to use Wikipedia to prove your point?

                • by Alomex (148003)

                  You used Computer World to try to prove an academic point, I'm using Wikipedia to prove a "popularity of culture" point. But since you keep on coming back to it, let me highlight one of its sentences for you:

                  The excessive hype over artificial intelligence promises in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s have made the public weary of unfulfilled promises.

                  Back to your posting:

                  Machine learning of today is very similar to the machine learning of the 50s,

                  This deserves no comment. It's a gem all on its own.

                  To finish it off, I have sitting on my shelf the proceedings of AAAI/IJCAI fro

              • by stenvar (2789879)

                Machine learning today has very little to do with the "intelligence in the machines" hot air of the 80's AI.

                That is correct. But it has a lot to do with the pre-80's AI, instead of being newly developed in the 90's as you claim.

                In addition, the "hot air of the 80's AI" wasn't just hot air either, but instead has made its way into just about every major part of the computer industry. It didn't deliver human intelligence, but it certainly has made computers a lot more intelligent.

                Says the guy who uses a Compu

                • by Alomex (148003)

                  Pay attention: there are three people in this thread telling you now that you are full of shit.

                  Nothing new there. They were saying the same thing as I predicted the "AI winter" blowback years before it happened. Or when I commented that the 5th generation project would go nowhere back when people were all excited about it.

                  I've gone through the ups and downs in AI, and something that is a constant throughout is that it attracts many of the weaker CS students with faulty BS detectors. These weak students get their panties all tied up on a knot when you point out to them the con they've fallen for.

                  There

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Sperbels (1008585)

      Seriously, how is this different from all the other AI research programs that have been done so far?

      What's different? Computing power is approaching the estimated requirement needed to simulate the number of neurons in the human brain. Don't you think you should know that before totally shooting down the idea? You're probably right, but that doesn't mean no new insights will come out of the research.

      • Only 20% of the cells in the cortex are neurons. We have very little idea what the other cells are doing.
        • You could argue that a decent way to figure out the rest is to simulate what we know and look at how it goes wrong. We're pretty sure the signals flowing through the neurons are the key part so we start there. Being able to see how the neurons behave with out the 80% being there tells a lot about what the 80% does.

    • by Xyrus (755017)

      Seriously, why don't you survey the current research into AI before disparaging their research and making bold claims with no evidence?

  • devise new kinds of home appliances

    Maybe program then with the John Cleese character Basil Fawlty so I can be bombarded with a barrage of sarcastic insults about my eating and fashion habits.

  • LOL (Score:2, Funny)

    by sootman (158191)

    Dr. Gayani DeSilva, a psychiatrist with a private practice in Orange, Calif., told FoxNews.com a human brain model could have "unimaginable" implications for medicine...

    Maybe the new brain will be able to imagine the implications. :-)

  • got a brain - but got no heart..

  • Human brains, and indeed all animal brains, work as a noisy signal device. It is the aggregation of the signals which come together to form an action, process input, formulate a response, etc, and so on. The secret to the low power use in the brain (human brains still use a lot of power, but not as much as a PC) is in the way the pathways work along side each other, affecting each other and milling about in the process of doing things like thinking or writing a comment on slashdot. (Note, the two are dem

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Since noone posting is actually visiting the Human Brain Project's website....

    The goal of the Human Brain Project, in a nutshell (skullshell?) is to create new neuroscience informatics and modeling software, and new computers powerful enough to run them. This will, in theory, allow "in silico" experiments to test various hypotheses about brain organization, diseases, etc. The proposed "Brain Simulation Platform" supercomputer is just one component of the overall project.

    So no...they are not trying to make a

  • Say any more?

  • by komodo685 (2920329) on Monday October 07, 2013 @10:34AM (#45059439)

    I understand that we have far more invested interest in modelling the human brain for medical purposes than any other type of brain. However, if you're going to try to create a model of something vastly complex you should probably start with something easy (and by easy I mean less vastly complex). A short list of neuron amounts in various animals is here [wikipedia.org], an aplysia(sea slug) or fly brain, I would expect to be a much more reasonable starting point and one with the obvious advantage that you can experiment on, breed whole lines of defective forms to study, just generally have far more control and face no ethical issues with.

    Oh and whatever differences may be present in moveing from fly to rat to monkey to human it isn't in the neuron itself those, from what I understand, are almost indistinguishable across species.

    This project will not, and I suspect will make no meaningful attempt at, creating a thinking human brain simulation and is really just about better medicine for various mental diseases, which we do sorely need. If it was attempting to take a stab at hard AI "The research hinges on creating a super-powerful computer that's 1,000 times faster than those in use today" is most certainly a false statement: my smartphone is no more creative than the computers of yore that it is 1,000 times faster than.

    I suspect they went the thinking machine angle just for the attention... Is it just me or is there a chill in the air? [wikipedia.org]

  • The biological brain is still very poorly understood. Its about one notch above 19th century phrenology. Instead of geography of skull bumps, it geography of increased metabolic activity. How can you buildsomething you dont understand yet?

    Otherwise the brain is the basis of us. We need to understand it since a third of old peole will get dementia. An international coordinated brain research project is a good idea. Just dont consider it brain construction yet.
  • We are more than brains. A good part of what makes us humans is our culture, the meanings we have, and the associations (in particular, emotional, pain/pleasure associations, and even hormonal fueled ones), and the semantics derived from all of that. Is more software than hardware. Dolphins could be as "smart" as us, but you won't put one to control industrial machinery.

    But dedicated expert systems for one task? that don't need to be "human" for doing its job well or better than us.

  • by onebeaumond (1230624) on Monday October 07, 2013 @11:23AM (#45060049)
    The goal (or "vision" as they put it):" ...a global collaborative effort to understand the human brain and its diseases and ultimately to emulate its computational capabilities." This sounds more like a finite element model of the chemistry of the brain, with the main goal of modeling diseases and basic switching functions.
  • How can you pour billions into making an artificial brain when no one knows how the brain works in the first place?
    • by Alejux (2800513)
      That's why this project exists in the first place. To understand how cognitive processes work by trying to imitate the brain.
  • A $10,000,000,000 programme based on the hunch that a Human brain can be "modelled" with a digital computer? There's a reason I resent paying my taxes.
  • We would spend all this money to get a control system that can make mistakes, get bored, jealous, sad, angry, frustrated, etc? IF we actually succeed in making a computer that works like a human brain, it will be conscious like a human brain. It will still be a machine, but it will be sentient and it will be our slave. Having slaves with electronic computers for brains isn't any more morally acceptable than having slaves with meat computers for brains.

What the world *really* needs is a good Automatic Bicycle Sharpener.

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