We care about brain stuff
blogged by a 2nd year PhD student in neuroscience
At least Henry Markram does. Henry Markram is the director of Blue Brain project, which attempted to bring engineering to neuroscience to the largest extent, building up an artificial brain in 10 years.
Is it completely insane? Absolutely not. We have witnessed how much progress supercomputer has made during the past decades, how many human brains are successfully challenged by those robots. We should believe a possibility that those computer can simulate the brain activity.
Wait, it’s kind of tricky. They didn’t say it was necessarily a human brain. That’s right, what they started off is rat’s neocortical column, which contains roughly 10,000 neurons, a lot less complicated than others.
However, during a talk given in TED conference in 2009, Henry confirmed that the long-term goal was to build a detailed, functional stimulation of the physiological processes in the human brain.
“It’s far more about running the model, looking at a phenomenon, looking at where the vulnerabilities are and looking for diseases rather than running a model that somehow is going to be magically intelligent,” he said.
One of their key selling points is that their project can help improve our use of existing knowledge. There are currently about 200,000 neuroscientists worldwide, who have produced millions of scientific articles. “The knowledge is fragmented,” says Markram. “It’s time to bring these pieces together.”
If we are positive about this, we can actually take use of the artificial brain to accelerate and expand our current understanding of human brain and untangle some neurological diseases. However, not long ago, it was the human genome project, which also raises high expectation — turns out to be a disappointment to patients. Alzheimer’s continues to plague mankind, as do Parkinson’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
At this point, science makes no difference with entertainment. You come up with an idea, everyone buys it. Then you can carry it on. It’s always good to have an ambitious goal and some tempting selling points. The truth is, this project has already raised almost 1.5 billion dollars for 10 years, and will collaborate with geneticist, molecule biologist, electrical and computer engineer, and neuroscientists in 9 universities. Apparently, there are enough talents that believe they can achieve such a goal and plenty of resources available. Just like what Henry said, we are just 6 seconds in the history of evolution.
What will happen in the next second?