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05.11.2014 admin
A new kind of information processing technology inspired by chemical processes in living systems is being developed by researchers at the University of Southampton.
The project, entitled Artificial Wet Neuronal Networks from Compartmentalised Excitable Chemical Material, which is being co-ordinated by Friedrich Schiller University Jena with other project partners, the University of the West of England, Bristol and the Institute of Physical Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, will run for three years and involves three complementary objectives. The first is to engineer lipid-coated water droplets, inspired by biological cells, containing an excitable chemical medium and then to connect the droplets into networks in which they can communicate through chemical signals. But to become better than a human programmer, a computer should compete with very powerful processing machine – our brains. Output of one neuron can be transmitted to tens of thousands of other neurons via tiny structures called synapses.
Neurons can produce brief spikes of voltage in their outer membranes – hundreds of electrical pulses per second. The electrical signal travels along specialized extension called axon and converted to a chemical one. There are other possible information couriers: glial cells (10 times as common as neurons), other kinds of signaling mechanisms between cells (gases and peptides), and the biochemical cascades that take place inside cells. 100 different neural networks in the human brain are performing specialized function: vision, smell, goal setting, speech, prediction, and hundreds of other tasks. There is no special anatomical location in the brain where information from all the different systems converges. Hans Moravec estimated that computer processing power should be around 100 million MIPS (100 TFLOPS) to match human brains. Today super computers exceed minimal estimation: Blue Gene has 360 TFLOPS, MDGRAPE-3 (4,808 processors) achieves more than one PetaFLOP (1,000 TFLOPS).


Based on Moore’s Law and present trends affordable computer could achieve human brain processing power by 2020. We achieve one Human Brain capability (2 * 1016 cps or 10 PetaFLOPS) for $1,000 around the year 2023.
We achieve one Human Brain capability (2 * 1016 cps) for one cent around the year 2037. This estimation relies on generalized interpretation of Moore’s law, with assumption that other technologies could overcome limitations of integrated semiconductor complexity. Programmer’s brain has hundred billions neurons and one hundred trillion neural connections each operating at few hundred analog calculations per second. There are technical challenges like improving computers parallel and distributed processing and algorithms. The second objective is to design information-processing architectures based on the droplets and to demonstrate purposeful information processing in droplet architectures. Deep Blue beat the human best chess champion Garry Kasparov, it is not possible to win checkers against computers, they create drugs, carry 70 % of foreign currency trades and will do 50% of stock trades in 2010. Chemical signal is transmitted across the synapse, to the next neuron using small molecules called neurotransmitters (such as dopamine, serotonin and acetylcholine). The pattern and strength of the connections is constantly changing and no two brains are alike. Despite their different functions, these systems work together seamlessly and it is surprising that the brain coordinates its systems so rapidly. The specialized areas all interconnect with one another, forming a network of parallel and recurring links.


However, most of processing is dedicated to life support functions, not information processing. But the main challenge is that computers should become intelligent to write programs – understand problem space, people and come up with solutions.
Humans, Thoughts: Remember or Forget?Human Forces and Software CreatorsProgrammers are lazy capricious pseudo-intellectuals. The third objective is to establish and explore the potential and limitations of droplet architectures. The slow speed of spikes (they travel about one foot per second in axons) is one hundred-millionth the speed of signal transmission in digital computers. Somehow, our integrated image of the world emerges from this complex network of brain structures.
A quantum computer system of 500 qubits could be the equivalent of performing some operations on a classical super computer with ~10150 separate processors.
Human neural networks are much slower than modern digital processors, but have an amazing efficiency for parallel processing, aggregating and deciding upon results. Yet a human can recognize a friend almost instantaneously, while digital computers are slow—and usually unsuccessful—at face recognition. Molecular computers could do massive parallel processing – in 2002 a programmable molecular computing machine composed of enzymes and DNA molecules performed 330 TFLOPS.



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