Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Markram Speaks On Simulating the Brain

Henry Markram, director of the Blue Brain project, (relatively recently) gave a speech at TED about simulating neuron activity of the entire brain. This will require a supercomputer, in this case supplied by IBM, since the brain has some 1011 neurons. So far, they've replicated a rat's neocortical column, which comprises some 104 neurons, and Markram anticipates being able to fully model the human brain within 10 years.

One of the curious things that I found in the early part of his talk was how he kept saying "decisions" to refer to activity over which we have no direct control, such as the processing that goes into scaling object size based on distance. I'm not fond of that choice of words, since it seems to suggest that we, as conscious entities, could actually decide to perceive things differently from how we do -- something which should appeal to fans of neo-mystical idealism. For that reason, I think it would be better to avoid that kind of terminology to avoid a similar confusion as that which resulted from physicists' choice of the term "observe" to describe a particular type of interaction in quantum mechanics. They (physicists) also started the use of "God particle" to refer to the Higgs boson, which is again misleading to the general public, although I think the media has been more responsible for propagating that usage than any actual scientists.

Curious things, words.

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