Jason Howard Senior Technical Researcher, Intel Labs
Because we need to get better at organizing the way computers work. The human mind is the most efficient organizational system on the planet, could be in the universe for all we know. But we can put microprocessors together, link them together, have thousands and thousands of computational nodes within that huge, monstrous microprocessor system, but until we figure out how to organize the data movement, organize the data storage, and the computation between those nodes, we can't even begin to come close to the way a human mind works. So, maybe in some very, very specific algorithms, or kernels, if you will, those computers could be as smart as the human mind, but when you start talking just pure intelligence and recall and remembering, emotion, those type of things, I think we're many, many years -- probably 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years -- from even coming close to that.
We all know that computers are better than people are at remembering things exactly and at performing complex numeric calculations with speed. But human brains still beat computers in a number of ways. For one, humans can integrate information from many different variables and stimuli, and they can learn by experience, observation and experimentation. Computers can't easily adapt to changing situations. Sure, they can be programmed to perform outstandingly in a particular field, but they are not able to function in multiple disciplines. Moreover, the things that make humans truly unique (emotion, empathy, self-awareness, ambition) are beyond the capacity of computers.
The overlap between computers and brains is an interesting one. As scientists work on the one hand to try to replicate parts of the human brain that computers and robots lack, such as emotions, others are using computers to help neuroscientists better understand the human brain. The Blue Brain project was begun in 2005 by Switzerland's Henry Markram. Its goal is to reverse-engineer the human brain to help neuroscientists understand it better. The project is developing an electronic brain simulation that will provide information to help neurologists better diagnose and treat various brain conditions and diseases. Doing so requires massive supercomputing -- replicating one of the brain's neurons requires the equivalent of a laptop in computing power [source: Human Brain Project]. And the bran has billions of neurons.
The Blue Brain project is not an attempt at artificial intelligence; rather, it aims to simulate the human brain's makeup to aid in understanding brain function and dysfunction. Markram has partnered with several others on The Human Brain Project to build a computer model of the human brain. The scientists involved are trying to secure funding for the project. Brain emulation -- or mimicking the function of a human brain -- is still a theory in terms of technology, even as the abilities of computers become increasingly sophisticated [source: Sandberg].
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