Research and Technology

Brain Science Research

The BRAIN Initiative

In April 2013, President Obama announced the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Technologies (BRAIN) Initiative with the goal of supporting innovative technologies for understanding brain function at the neuron level.

In addition to discovering the reasons for brain disorders that could lead to treatments, BRAIN has the potential for a deep understanding of the brain and mind, which in turn could revolutionize the capabilities of intelligent machines. The BRAIN Initiative has been joined by the agencies NIH, NSF, DARPA, IARPA, and FDA plus universities and private organizations.

Hybrid Intelligent Systems

In recent decades, the field of artificial intelligence has increasingly found the value of integrating single technologies into systems that are more powerful than the sum of the parts. Hybrid Intelligent Systems for computation have combined techniques such as expert systems, artificial neural networks, and fuzzy logic for useful practical applications.

This approach also models the brain’s remarkable intelligent system of biological components. In the same spirit, the current and projected blending of humans and machines can be viewed as the development of Hybrid Intelligent Systems and help our understanding of the relationships and potentialities.
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Neuronal Hardware

Software implementation of machine intelligence has been the dominate mode and is powerful for non-embodied systems (e.g., IBM’s Watson). Hardware technology advances allow focus on modular building blocks for architectures such as spiking neural networks (SNN). This modular hardware approach could help mimic biological functions such as pattern recognition and learning for compact embedding in applications including humanoid robots.
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The Human Brain Project

The Human Brain Project is a 10 year research program primarily spearheaded by the European Union with a goal to simulate the human brain on a supercomputer.

The results will help scientists discover the mechanisms of neuropathologies, simulate drug treatments, and develop new computing technology based on the efficiency of the brain.

AI Enhanced Humans

Services like Google Now, Siri, and Cortana allow direct access to the internet without the need to touch a computer. These services allow us to be more efficient in our daily lives. As the technology that powers them becomes more powerful and smaller, they can begin to be integrated into the human body. Scientists like Professor Kevin Warwick have already started experimenting with direct brain to computer interfaces. These technologies are in their infancy, but they hold enormous potential to more quickly access information.

Enabling Technologies

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The Blue Brain Project

The Blue Brain Project is an initiative led by Henry Markram to simulate a human brain on a computer. Using an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer and NEURON, software for biological realistic neuronal models, the researchers intend for the simulations to shed light on the mysteries of consciousness.

Humanoid Robotics

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Collaborative AI Systems

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SyNAPSE

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) created Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) to develop computing systems with the size and power efficiency of biological brains.

IBM, HRL Laboratories, and Hewlett-Packard began working on SyNAPSE chips in 2008. IBM's latest chip contains 5.4 billion transistors and has 4,086 neurosynaptic cores while running on only 70mW of power. In Comparison, the human brain has 80 billion neurons with 100 trillion synapses while only using 100mW.

Non-embodied Intelligence

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Synthetic Skin

Synthetic skin is no longer a science fiction concept. Researchers at Seoul National University have developed flexible artificial skin that stretches over a prosthesis. In addition, the skin has embedded pressure sensors allowing the user to pick up items appropriately. Currently artificial skin is reserved for medical applications, but as it becomes cheaper will people be able to replace their biological skin? Follow and discuss the advancements here...

The Allen Institute

The Allen Institute for Brain Science: Fueling Discovery was established to answer some of the most pressing questions in neuroscience, inspired by our quest to uncover the essence of what makes us human.

The mission is to accelerate the understanding of how the human brain works in health and disease. Using a big science approach, we generate useful public resources, drive technological and analytical advances, and discover fundamental brain properties through integration of experiments modeling and theory.

Conscious Machines

The possibility for conscious machines to exist is not an idea just for science fiction plots. Artificial Intelligence and Brain Science research is expanding at an exponential rate, making this idea more believable in our society. Many machines today have amazing intelligence capacities but this doesn’t mean that they have consciousness that makes them aware of or sentient in the world. For Conscious Machines to be created, a theory of consciousness needs to be established. Scientists and philosophers have been working to determine the nature of consciousness from as early as the 17th century. Christof Koch, the chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science said “The answer to these questions may lie in the fabric of the universe itself. Consciousness is an intrinsic property of matter, just like mass or energy. Organize matter in just the right way, as in the mammalian brain, and voilà, you can feel.” While the thought of this future technological advancement is fascinating, Koch and other scientists are very vocal about the ethical and moral questions that are raised with AI and Conscious Machinery: If the technology available is capable of creating a conscious machine, does that make it just to create these machines? What is the inherent danger of creating a computer is that can equal or surpass human capabilities?
Maxine Lesaux
The George Washington University

Further Reading:
What-it-will-take-for-computers-to-be-conscious
Movie-transcendence
Plato -- Stanford

Emotion in AI Systems

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