IBM researchers are working on a new computing device that could process massive data sets while using very little energy. It would also be able to quickly learn and remember patterns, which might make it able to “issue tsunami warnings in case of an earthquake” or calculate the likelihood of contaminated produce on grocers’ shelves.1

The inspiration for their prototype? The human brain.

The project—funded by IBM—is called SyNAPSE (Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics). Its principal investigator, Dharmendra Modha of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, told the technology news organization VentureBeat:

The computers we have today are more like calculators. We want to make something like the brain. It is a sharp departure from the past.1

Thus, “neurosynaptic computing chips” have been engineered as the first stage in building a more brain-like computer.

Core differences separate even the most powerful modern computers from the enormously more powerful human brain. In today’s computers, memory devices are separate from processors, so the two are connected by a channel called a “bus.” The size of the bus often determines the flow rate of information, and this can impact the computer’s processing capabilities. But processing and memory in brains, as far as researchers know, operate in the same place and time. This increased efficiency in internal connections has the side benefit of requiring much less energy….

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