Modeling the Brain Within Reach Say Scientists

By Nicole Hemsoth

August 17, 2010

Intelligence augmentation used to be something people accomplished with old-fashioned schooling, that is, until Ray (The Singularity is Near) Kurzweil came along. If you buy into his vision of the future, human intelligence will soon be vastly accelerated with technology plug-ins in which people become computer-corporeal hybrids. All the scientists need to do is model the human brain, scale it up with computer technology, and then figure out how to interface it to our own gray matter.

The Singularity Summit in San Francisco this week covered this very topic (among others), with most of the press coverage focusing on our chances of simulating the workings of the brain inside a computer.

The hardware itself should be relatively staightforward. Priya Ganapati’s article in Gizmodo reports that Kurzweil believes we will need a computer with 3.2 petabytes of memory and at least 36.8 petaflops of performance to simulate the human brain. A supercomputer of that size is probably just three to four years away.

The tough part is the software, which will have to encapsulate how the mind processes information. “The objective is not necessarily to build a grand simulation – the real objective is to understand the principle of operation of the brain,” said Kurzweil. He goes on to say that only a million lines of code or so will be required to implement this.

Writes Ganapati:

Here’s how that maths works, Kurzweil explains: The design of the brain is in the genome. The human genome has three billion base pairs or six billion bits, which is about 800 million bytes before compression, he says. Eliminating redundancies and applying loss-less compression, that information can be compressed into about 50 million bytes, according to Kurzweil… About half of that is the brain, which comes down to 25 million bytes, or a million lines of code.

Simple, no?
 

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