Today, Financial Times carried a story on AI. They nicely covered IBM’s pioneering role in the field. They covered my group’s work (but referred to much older numbers — we are now able to carry out rat-scale simulations with 55 million neurons and 440 billion synapses in near real-time on 32,768 processor BlueGene/L machine):
IBM was a pioneer in the field and today continues to invest heavily in AI research. Dharmendra Modha, a scientist in the company’s California research laboratory is working on cognitive computing, which he defines as a computer model that simultaneously exhibits characteristics seated in the human brain, including perception and emotion.
His aim is to discover how the brain works, not how the mind works, he is quick to emphasise. Last year, his group achieved a milestone by managing to simulate the operation of a mouse brain on an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer. He notes: “We deployed the simulator on a 4096 processor Blue Gene/L supercomputer with 256 megabytes of memory per processor. We were able to represent 8m neurons and 6,300 synapses (connections) per neuron in the one terabyte main memory of the system.” There will be, of course, a considerable time lag before the benefits of this research are seen in actual products.
Mr Modha thinks it could be 10 years before cognitive computing of the kind he is working on makes its debut in productivity and security systems. It is, however, a giant leap from 1956 when an IBM supercomputer of the day simulated the firing of a mere 512 neurons.
As Mr Modha of IBM says of his work in cognitive computing, the technology will manifest itself in ways which today we cannot even begin to imagine.