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IBM Scientists Show Blueprints for Brain-like Computing

The announcement builds on IBM’s ongoing projects in cognitive computing. In 2011, the research team released computer chips that use a network of “neurosynaptic cores” to manage information in a way that resembles the functioning of neurons in a brain (see “IBM’s New Chips Compute More Like We Do”). With TrueNorth, the researchers demonstrate a way to use those chips for specific tasks, and they show that the approach could be used to build, among other things, a more efficient biologically inspired artificial retina.

“It doesn’t make sense to take a programming language from the previous era and try to adapt it to a new architecture. It’s like a square peg in a round hole,” said Dharmendra S. Modha, lead researcher. “You have to rethink the very notion of what programming means.”

In a series of three papers released today, Modha’s team details the TrueNorth system and its possible applications.

Most modern computer systems are built on the Von Neumann architecture—with separate units for storing information and processing it sequentially—and they use programming languages designed specifically for that architecture. Instead, TrueNorth stores and processes information in a distributed, parallel way, like the neurons and synapses in a brain.

Modha’s team has also developed software that runs on a conventional supercomputer but simulates the functioning of a massive network of neurosynaptic cores—with 100 trillion virtual synapses and 2 billion neurosynaptic cores.

Each core of the simulated neurosynaptic computer contains its own network of 256 “neurons,” which operate using a new mathematical model. In this model, the digital neurons mimic the independent nature of biological neurons, developing different response times and firing patterns in response to input from neighboring neurons.

“Programs” are written using special blueprints called corelets. Each corelet specifies the basic functioning of a network of neurosynaptic cores. Individual corelets can be linked into more and more complex structures—nested, Modha says, “like Russian dolls.”

http://www.technologyreview.com/news/517876/ibm-scientists-show-blu...

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