Although the hype around my pet fandom project, the LHC, may have died down. There are plenty of cool things happening in science.
Earlier today, I explained [to the best of my abilities] to my coworkers that scientists were able to build the largest artificial brain which happens to be the size of a cat's brain. Naturally we joked about how artificial cat brains could eventually enslave us all and relegate all of our puny shopping needs to Fancy Feast and Catnip.
Now that I have had time to sit down and think about the ramifications of such a feat, you really have to wonder, "Is it worth it?"
That video is from earlier this year. And before anyone jumps ugly with me condoning the testing on animals as a means of scientific advancement, know this: I love animals and I love science. Put animals and science and animal brains together ... kismet!
In all seriousness, IBM BlueMatter has been conducting this Blue Gene project for quite some time now. They have been building small little neuron processors by the millions connecting said neurons with trillions of synapses [exactly 1.6 billion neurons and 9 trillion synapses].
They do this with the hopes of putting these cells, or eventually this brain inside something like the Mars Rover or any programming computing device. Why? Well if you can put a brain inside of a robot, there is a chance that it may be able to feel, touch, smell or even discover new senses man is not capable of comprehending in our flesh bags.
For something like this to happen, not the dinosaurs with lasers strapped to their heads ... I just put that there because its cool to look at. For the 'cat brain' to learn or any other collection of man-made neuron bundles, it has to participate in something the neuroscientist at the University of Sussex, Anil Seth, coined "embodied learning".
"Seth demonstrated this principle while at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego using a brain simulation called Darwin. He embodied Darwin's 50,000 virtual neurons (about equal to the brain of a pond snail, or one-quarter of a fruit fly) in a wheeled robot. As Darwin wandered around, its virtual neurons rewired their connections to produce so-called hippocampal "place cells"—similar to neurons found in mammals—which helped it navigate. Scientists don't know how to program these place cells, but with embodied learning the cells emerge on their own. "
This is were you can partially freak out. As humans, an evolving creature limited to its environment [air, land and water] our cells over time changed as we learned that fire was hot and polka dots on an overweight person is fairly amusing. What is cool, and horrifying is that if a robot, which can be built to NOT be limited to things that mammals and such are, what new sells could they create?
What if our friend Anil does his Darwin brain experiment again, but instead of the robot learning where not to go in a spacial capacity, it learns that humans are mean to each other? What cell or reaction could be had from that?
Far reaching I know, but I want to leave you with what the future experiments will be in regards to this pretty cool issue.
"Paul Maglio, a cognitive scientist at Almaden, has similar plans for Modha's cortical simulation. He's building a virtual world for it to inhabit using software from the video shootout game 'Unreal Tournament' and data from Mars. Besides topographic maps and aerial photos, Maglio plans to use rover-level imagery to create terrain with lifelike boulders and craters.
The video-game software provides a pallet of several dozen robotic bodies for Modha's virtual cortex. Initially, it will use a simple wheeled robot to explore its world, driven by fundamental desires such as sustenance and survival. 'It's got to like some things and not like other things,' Maglio says. 'Ultimately, it's going to want not to roll off the edges of cliffs. '"
Source: Popular Mechanics