Every once in a while, there's news which reminds us that we're living in the age of accelerating change. This is one of those times:
A new project has been announced in which scientists at the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex are hoping to create the first accurate computer simulation of a honey bee brain — and then upload it into an autonomous flying robot.
This is obviously a huge win for science — but it could also save the world. The researchers hope a robotic insect could supplement or replace the shrinking population of honey bees that pollinate essential plant life.
Powerful and affordable
Now, while this might sound like some kind of outlandish futurist joke, there are some serious players — and money — involved. Called the "Green Brain Project," it was recently given £1 million (USD $1,614,700) by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), as well as hardware donations from the NVIDIA corporation.
Specifically, NVIDIA will provide them with high-performance graphical processing units called GPU accelerators. This will allow the researchers to simulate aspects of a honey bee's brain by using massively paralleled desktop PCs. While this will certainly work to promote the NVIDIA brand, it will also allow the researchers to conduct their project inexpensively (supercomputer clusters aren't cheap).
And indeed, the researchers are going to need all the computational power they can get; it may appear that insects have simple minds — but their brains can be extremely complex.