Mindworks’ Weblog

Thinking Matters

IBM to build brain-like computer, but…

Posted by Andrew Cooper on November 22, 2008

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In 1967 Marvin Minsky, one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence, said that “within a

Or this?

Or this?

generation … the problem of creating artificial intelligence will be substantially ‘solved”.  He was wrong, of course, as were others who made similarly optimistic predictions.  These included Arthur C Clarke who I’m sure expected that machines very like HAL, the star of his film 2001, would be up and running by the turn of the century.

According to BBC News, IBM have set up a team to have another crack at the problem.  According to the BBC News article if the project is successful it will result in ‘…computers could gather together disparate information, weigh it based on experience, form memory independently and arguably begin to solve problems in a way that has so far been the preserve of what we call “thinking”‘

But there’s a but.  The IBM team is aiming to build a circuit ‘…with the complexity of a cat’s brain’.

Based on my obersvation of our own cat, Sheba, and other members of her species, I would say her ability to gather together disparate information, form memories and so on is fairly limited.  I don’t want to be labelled a cynic: replicating a cat’s brain would be an amazing achievement.  But if the machines behaviour patterns were also similar to those of cats it would spend much of its time asleep and would divide the remainder between finding the warmest possible place to sleep, defending its territory and persuading gullible humans to feed it.  Opening and closing pod-bay doors, let alone piloting a space ship to Jupiter would, I think I can say quite confidently, be well beyond Sheba’s capabilities.

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