IBM pursues computer chips that behave more like brains


“You have to throw out virtually everything we know about how these chips are designed,” he said. “The key, key, key difference really is the memory and the processor are very closely brought together. There’s a massive, massive amount of parallelism.”

The project is part of the same research that led to IBM’s announcement in 2009 that it had simulated a cat’s cerebral cortex, the thinking part of the brain, using a massive supercomputer.

Using progressively bigger supercomputers, IBM had previously simulated 40 percent of a mouse’s brain in 2006, a rat’s full brain in 2007, and 1 percent of a human’s cerebral cortex in 2009.

A computer with the power of the human brain is not yet near. But Modha said the latest development is an important step.

“It really changes the perspective from ‘What if?’ to ‘What now?'” Modha said. “Today we proved it was possible. There have been many skeptics, and there will be more, but this completes in a certain sense our first round of innovation.”