The human brain is one of the most complex organic constructs ever to grace this world. It contains 100 billion neurons connected by 100 thousand billion synapses all in a little 3lb wet package. And now, a group of European scientist are going to recreate it using silicon chips and Cat5e cables.
With $1.6B in funding secured and 80 European institutions on board, the Human Brain Project (HBP) plans to spend the next decade building a viable simulation of the human brain and its processes. The goals of the project are two-fold – first is to understand and simulate how the brain works down to the synapse level, and second is to leverage the knowledge gained to make better and more adaptive computers. Is this the beginning of our end? Will the HBP be the harbinger of the Singularity? My magic eightball says “all signs point to yes.”
This project is widely being compared to Europe’s other large scientific project, the Large Hadron Collider. Despite the Eurozone’s economic troubles, their scientific community seems to have no trouble tackling large, innovative projects across borders. Hopefully these efforts can be an example to scientists and governments worldwide.
This neuroscience project hopes to establish a new foundation to explore and understand the brain. The HBP is taking the radical approach of simulating all the brain’s pieces within a supercomputer to overcome the current limitations researchers are facing when attempting to parse how every sector and piece works together as a cohesive whole. The first steps of the project will be to collect and collate all the current knowledge on brain function, then the scientists will incorporate these findings into their massive simulation. The resulting model of the brain aims to be the most accurate picture of our processing center ever produced.
Once the medical teams have simulated the brain’s functions, computer scientists and engineers then hope to leverage this learning to create advanced computing technologies and revolutionize our current systems using “neuromorphic computing.” The project has kicked off to much fan-fare and is being referred to as the Cern for the brain. We can now only sit back and wait for our robot overlords to tell us their bidding.