Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cognitive Computing Chips

Advancement in computer chips over the last few decades have been focused on getting things faster and more compact. Fundamentally the chip design hasn't changed over the last 50 years, is still based on Von Neumann architecture of sequential execution of instruction sets.

IBM Research recently announced a new generation of computer chips that are designed to emulate human brain's abilities for perception, action and cognition. Cognitive chips are designed to process large amounts of data using very little power. Unlike traditional computers it does not require any programming rather learns from experiences, finds correlations, creates hypotheses - and learns from - the outcomes, emulating the human brain.

To mimic the cognitive abilities of brain, IBM brought together the disciplines of neuroscience, nanoscience and supercomputing. The digital circuits inspired by neurobiology constitute “neurosynaptic core” with integrated memory (replicated synapses), computation (replicated neurons) and communication (replicated axons). There are two working prototypes - one core contains 262,144 programmable synapses and the other contains 65,536 learning synapses.

Why is this important? Such a system can find wide ranging use. By monitoring the world water supply it can analyze ocean temperature, pressure, wave height and develop a decision model to accurately predict tsunamis. By monitoring financial transactions it can prevent fraud and spurious activity.

This does sound science fiction. Are we closer to building truly intelligent systems that can replace humans? Only time will tell, for now I am excited to be living in such exciting times.

To read more about the technology, click here.

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