IBM's New Chips Act Like Your Brain

They think on the fly, like you

I'm a little nervous writing this, because if it's sub-par, there will soon be a computer that can do it instead.

IBM says it has computer chips that - like many of our favorite science fiction movies - can act like your brain.  Big Blue, operating out of its Silicon Valley-based Almaden research Center, says its new chips can adjust how they operate, based on new information coming to them.  Very much, apparently, like what we do when faced with new things.

It all sounds a bit scary, but IBM's project head, Dharmendra Modha, says the goal is actually to reverse engineer the brain to do what our brains can do - sort of like taking a new gadget apart to build something, well, a little bit better.  The chips sort of replicate what's going on inside the brain (synapses, etc - the chip is even called syNAPSE), so that the computers can act like we do.

Before you scoff, remember that IBM recently upgraded its "Deep Blue" chess-playing computer as "Watson," and smoked some very smart humans on Jeopardy.  IBM admits the new chips can't change themselves physically, but instead adjust on the fly to new information.

Obviously, this brings up scary scenarios - we've all ready Stephen King (and many other writers) novels where people get chased by washing machines (and many other mechanical things) - but it also may lead to a day when our computers can feel frustration at, say, slow re-boot times, and might be able to adjust its performance.

Who knows?  We all get frustrated with mechanical objects, largely because they can't seem to learn.  Soon, that may change.  Will we welcome our new computer overlords?

Scott isn’t very brainy, but he is on Twitter:   @scottbudman

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