The Man who is Building a Brain - Steve Furber

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MEET THE MAN WHO IS BUILDING A BRAIN

Professor Steve Furber

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“For a full-scale computer model of the human brain, we’d be looking at a machine that would need to be housed in an aircraft hangar and consume tens of megawatts,” Professor Steve Furber, ICL Professor of Computer Engineering.

There are times in life when people have to really understand the magnitude of what someone is doing, On the outside it may seem really simple to build a brain, with the vastness of our technology available, building a brain can be very straight forward right. I mean 50 years ago we were putting astronauts on the moon.

But this task is something much more larger, the workings on the human brain are so delicate that it is natures ultimate form of creation, even the slightest damage can completely hamper your life. It is the source of control, in understanding language, creating music, listening and dissecting information, controlling the whole workings of the body.

So how can mankind compete with millions of years of evolution design, well it takes the mind of a really smart man called Professor Steve Furber and of course we use the best computer we can build and throw tons of money at the project.

(From the Manchester.ac website) The newly formed million-processor-core ‘Spiking Neural Network Architecture’ or ‘SpiNNaker’ machine is capable of completing more than 200 million million actions per second, with each of its chips having 100 million transistors.

The SpiNNaker machine, which was designed and built in The University of Manchester’s School of Computer Science, can model more biological neurons in real time than any other machine on the planet.

Biological neurons are basic brain cells present in the nervous system that communicate primarily by emitting ‘spikes’ of pure electro-chemical energy. Neuromorphic computing uses large scale computer systems containing electronic circuits to mimic these spikes in a machine.

SpiNNaker is unique because, unlike traditional computers, it doesn’t communicate by sending large amounts of information from point A to B via a standard network. Instead it mimics the massively parallel communication architecture of the brain, sending billions of small amounts of information simultaneously to thousands of different destinations.

The true essence of building a brain, isn’t just to awaken consciousness but its to create a whole new form of understanding in the brain. There is a saying that they can take man to the moon, the top of a mountain, bottom of the see but never to the depths of the mind. Well ladies and gentlemen today maybe that day.

“Artificial intelligence would be the ultimate version of Google. The ultimate search engine that would understand everything on the web. It would understand exactly what you wanted, and it would give you the right thing. We're nowhere near doing that now. However, we can get incrementally closer to that, and that is basically what we work on.”Larry Page



MEET STEVEN

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Steve Furber is the ICL Professor of Computer Engineering in the School of Computer Science at the University of Manchester. He received his B.A. degree in Mathematics in 1974 and his Ph.D. in Aerodynamics in 1980 from the University of Cambridge, England. From 1981 to 1990 he worked in the hardware development group within the R&D department at Acorn Computers Ltd, and was a principal designer of the BBC Microcomputer and the ARM 32-bit RISC microprocessor, both of which earned Acorn Computers a Queen's Award for Technology. Upon moving to the University of Manchester in 1990 he established the Amulet research group which has interests in asynchronous logic design and power-efficient computing, and which merged with the Parallel Architectures and Languages group in 2000 to form the Advanced Processor Technologies group. From 2003 to 2008 the APT group was supported by an EPSRC Portfolio Partnership Award.

Steve served as Head of the Department of Computer Science in the Victoria University of Manchester from 2001 up to the merger with UMIST in 2004.


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