Brave New World: Scientists Simulate Brain Activity on Computer

In science fiction movies, artificial intelligence (AI) entities are typically seen as the next step in human evolution. The movies, however, typically tell a narrative of AI taking over the world in some doomsday scenario. Scientists have been working for decades on simulating the brain, if for nothing else, just to get better understanding of the way it works and we may be one step closer to figuring out how to make that a reality.

Japanese and German scientists have run one of the largest simulations of brain activity ever, enabling them to simulate one second of brain activity, albeit taking 40 minutes to do so.

According to

“The simulation involved 1.73 billion virtual nerve cells connected by 10.4 trillion synapses and was run on Japan’s K computer, which was ranked the fastest in the world in 2011.

“It took the Fujitsu-built K about 40 minutes to complete a simulation of one second of neuronal network activity in real time, according to Japanese research institute RIKEN, which runs the machine.”

Those are very large numbers, but the important takeaway is that a big step has been made in the AI world. However, while the simulation was quite impressive, it only shows us what’s possible, as opposed to a deeper understanding of the brain. As stated on

“The research team freely admit this work was about showing what could be done with today’s technology – their simulations as of yet don’t actually address any significant questions about how our brains think. It’s a bit like building a super-connected motorway network, populated with simulated cars, but not yet looking at how that road network reacts to the holiday road rush.”

Yet the scientists are certain they can expand upon this information fairly quickly, claiming they should be able to simulate the entire brain within a decade. As also reported in the article:

“If petascale computers like the K computer are capable of representing 1 percent of the network of a human brain today, then we know that simulating the whole brain at the level of the individual nerve cell and its synapses will be possible with exascale computers hopefully available within the next decade,’ Markus Diesmann of the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine at Germany’s Forschungszentrum Julich said in the release.”

So within ten years, we’ll be able to simulate the entire brain and make science fiction a reality. The implication of something of this nature would be phenomenal, and we can’t wait to see where it may take us.





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