Techscream: Singularity Incoming

Science Photo Library

Science Photo Library

IBM has announced it will lead a US government-funded collaboration to make electronic circuits that mimic brains.

IBM will join five US universities in an ambitious effort to integrate what is known from real biological systems with the results of supercomputer simulations of neurons. The team will then aim to produce for the first time an electronic system that behaves as the simulations do.

The fundamental shift toward putting the problem-solving before the problem makes the potential applications for such devices practically limitless.

Free from the constraints of explicitly programmed function, computers could gather together disparate information, weigh it based on experience, form memory independently and arguably begin to solve problems in a way that has so far been the preserve of what we call “thinking”.


Charles Stross wasn’t the first to predict that the capital-letter Future will really begin to kick off when we figure out how to emulate sentience. But he did write it really well in “Accelerando.” He predicted that it would start off with exactly – exactly – this sort of research: a full-scale emulation and simulation of “simple” neural networks. The electronic mimicking of exactly what goes on in our own heads down at the cellular and molecular level, and even beyond that into the atomic scale and farther and farther into the rabbit hole.

Be it software or emergent property, human kind will have solved that most pernicious of riddles: what, exactly, is our soul made of? And having solved that, like Athena from Zeus’s brow, our brilliant mind-childrens will inexorably launch out.

Only, the beautiful and frightening thing about them is that they, too, will understand sentience. And will have never known an existence when sentience was beset by non-scaling hardware limitations. Their existence will be one which self-improvement is an upgrade cycle and download away.

And the smarter they get, the better they get at getting smarter.

Welcome to the future, meatbag. Think you can keep up?


~ by Gonzo Mehum on February 6, 2009.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: