Supercomputer achieves “intelligence” equivalent to that of cats

Via the Independent:

[T]his week researchers from IBM are reporting that they’ve simulated a cat’s cerebral cortex, the thinking part of the brain, using a massive supercomputer.  The computer has 147,456 processors (most modern PCs have just one or two processors) and 144 terabytes of main memory – 100,000 times as much as your computer has.

The scientists had previously simulated 40 per cent of a mouse’s brain in 2006, a rat’s full brain in 2007, and 1 per cent of a human’s cerebral cortex this year, using progressively bigger supercomputers.

 The latest feat, being presented at a supercomputing conference in Portland, Oregon, doesn’t mean the computer thinks like a cat, or that it is the progenitor of a race of robo-cats.  The simulation, which runs 100 times slower than an actual cat’s brain, is more about watching how thoughts are formed in the brain and how the roughly one billion neurons and 10 trillion synapses in a cat’s brain work together. The researchers created a program that told the supercomputer, which is in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, to behave how a brain is believed to behave.

 The computer was shown images of corporate logos, including IBM’s, and scientists watched as different parts of the simulated brain worked together to figure out what the image was. Dharmendra Modha, manager of cognitive computing for IBM Research and senior author of the paper, called it a “truly unprecedented scale of simulation.” Researchers at Stanford University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory were also part of the project.

 Modha says the research could lead to computers that rely less on “structured” data, such the input 2 plus 2 equals 4, and can handle ambiguity better, like identifying the corporate logo even if the image is blurry. Or such computers could incorporate senses like sight, touch and hearing into the decisions they make.

Who's a pretty kitty? Who's a pretty kitty?

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4 Responses

  1. so what you’re trying to say is the smartest computer is not that smart.

    • Let’s just say I’m not holding my breath for The Singularity.
      Which is not to downplay the significance of this accomplishment. This is still a big step forward I only used “intelligence” in quotemarks because I wasn’t sure of phil-of-mind people like you would call me out on using it incorrectly. I wasn’t sure if some term other than “intelligence” was apt in this situation.

      • yeah intelligence is a tricky word for things that aren’t conscious… Daniel Dennett has a great book, Brainchildren, where he talks all about A.I.

  2. So we can expect this computer to start purring in a week in an attempt to gain human favor?

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