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Quote of the day

When seen through the lens of technology, few resources are truly scarce; they’re mainly inaccessible. 

 

Peter Diamandis

Are efforts at total brain simulation putting the cart before the horse?

RATE THIS! +46
Posted in Science on 26th Oct, 2014 09:10 PM by AlexMuller

Since it was awarded a one billion euro, decade-long research grant last year, the Human Brain Project has been the center of extreme excitement and heavy criticism. The project aims to simulate the human brain in silicon on a yet-to-be-assembled supercomputer of massive computational power. The goal? Understanding.

 
In a recent paper (more below), HBP researchers write, “The ultimate prime aim is to imitate and understand the native computations, algorithms, states, actions, and emergent behavior of the brain, as well as promote brain-inspired technology.”
 
The prospect is mind numbingly self-reflexive, the human brain folds its faculties of analysis in on themselves to understand and reproduce itself. An awe-inspiring idea in its seeming impossibility. And maybe that’s partly why the project has been a magnet for early condemnation.
 
The problem, according to critics, is that our limited empirical and theoretical understanding isn’t yet at the level needed for even a simple human brain simulation, and that resources, therefore, would be better allocated on basic research for now.
 
Further, in an open letter with almost 800 signatures, a group of neuroscientists warns the HBP is veering from an endeavor of simulation dependent on and informed by empirical neuroscience to a venture that favors technology over scientific rigor.
 
So, is the HBP putting the billion-euro cart before the horse? The letter was published in July. The same month, the Human Brain Project’s co-executive director, Richard Frackowiak, wrote a spirited defense of the project.
 
Frackowiak compared the criticism to a similar missive written in 1990, the first year of the Human Genome Project. That earlier letter accused the Human Genome Project of “mediocre science, terrible science policy”, criticism the project later rose above by successfully sequencing the first complete human genome in 2003.

Tags: brainHuman Brain Projectbrain simulationneuroscienceneurons

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Comments

Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-10-27
+2
Human Brain Project has been heavily criticised and indeed other similar project usually include some experimental laboratory component to parallel and verify computation - this could better way
1 Replies
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-10-27
+1
The reason that the HBP is intentionally heavy on computing in the beginning is the aim to attempt to unite and organise resources, including nearly 100,000 annual neuroscience papers and patient data out of hospitals. This early work willis devise an effective digital approach to organizing existing data. They hope to have a number of specialized databases up and running by 2016. Reply
Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-10-27
+1
The problem with this approach is that we do have some data, but not enough data. Not yet. Further, we don’t have enough high level theory either. We have known unknowns—but likely lots of undiscovered unknowns too.
1 Replies
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-10-27
+0
As critics also state lacking solid benchmarks and top-down theory “may lead much effort astray.” And our “gaps in understanding” may or may not be acceptable depending on the level of expected explanatory power. How far can we trust an incomplete simulation? Can it ever be complete?
Reply
Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-10-27
+1
The HBP is a giant undertaking likely to evolve in the coming years. As for the controversy, that too will probably continue in parallel Reply


 

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