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A Mind Made From Memristors 320

Posted by Soulskill
from the fully-functional dept.
Csiko writes "Researchers at Boston University's department of cognitive and neural systems are working on an artificial brain implemented with memristors. 'A memristor is a two-terminal device whose resistance changes depending on the amount, direction, and duration of voltage that's applied to it. But here's the really interesting thing about a memristor: Whatever its past state, or resistance, it freezes that state until another voltage is applied to change it. Maintaining that state requires no power.' Also theoretically described, solid state versions of memristors have not been implemented until recently. Now researchers in Boston claim that memristors are the new key technology to implement highly integrated, powerful artificial brains on cheap and widely available hardware within five years."
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A Mind Made From Memristors

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  • by InsaneProcessor (869563) on Friday December 03, 2010 @03:59PM (#34436132)
    This is nothing like the cognitive human brain. This is only a variable memory device.
  • Re:Quick question (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fava (513118) on Friday December 03, 2010 @04:04PM (#34436210)

    You can read it by applying AC to it, the state changes cancel each other out.

  • by dreamchaser (49529) on Friday December 03, 2010 @04:04PM (#34436218) Homepage Journal

    Ever notice that anytime some cool sounding new development is announced the people behind it say 'we see this having applications in/within/in about five years?

    Call me when you actually have something to show us.

  • by mikael_j (106439) on Friday December 03, 2010 @04:12PM (#34436338)

    Well, the whole problem with the destruction of the original could probably be solved by slowly replacing the original organic brain with the electronic one. Instead of copying everything at once and then deleting the original you basically "graft" the electronic brain onto the original (obviously it would be a lot trickier than that in practice but so would "just copying" it be) and slowly let the electronic hardware do more and more while the organic does less. Eventually you'll have an all electronic brain.

  • by MonsterTrimble (1205334) <monstertrimble@[ ... m ['hot' in gap]> on Friday December 03, 2010 @04:19PM (#34436450)

    I think Moore's law is becoming increasingly pointless to most of the world. It talks about speed, yet at this point few manufacturers are trying to win speed competitions. It's all about form factor and efficiency. To use a car analogy, the past number of years were the horsepower wars of the late 60s & early 70s. Now we have seen a switch to fuel (energy) economy as the main driver of development.

    That being said, I think it's cool this is a possible future - it's not that be need more power, we need a different way of doing the job.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday December 03, 2010 @04:21PM (#34436486) Homepage Journal

    Now suppose I move your brain's data into another organic brain, electronic brain, or anything else of the source. Would you continue to "live"? Would YOU continue to live?

    I don't want to foster a false dichotomy but it seems to me that there IS something of a binary choice here. Either there is some undefinable quality we can call a "soul", or what you think of as "life" or "consciousness" is an illusion. The data of whatever was just going through your head is still there to some degree, so you perceive your continued existence, but life is actually only a series of moments and one only has to do with the other because they're somehow connected, not because there's something special about being alive.
    If there is a soul and you "die" tomorrow then destruction of the flesh is not the ending of your life. But if there is not a soul and you "die" tomorrow you won't care. And if there is not a soul and you copy yourself to a mechanical brain, then you're both "alive" in that you are both functioning. You're both "you", and yet, neither of you is really you. Change your memories and you're someone else.
    Or in other words, when we actually have the technology to mimic the behavior of the human brain, then we may actually be able to answer fundamental questions about the "soul" that cannot be answered today.
    Personally I don't see any need for a soul to explain the behavior of a human; it's the same physical processes at work all the way down through bacteria and vira. But we could argue about that all day and achieve nothing but a big fat waste of time, both user and CPU.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 03, 2010 @04:29PM (#34436598)

    Well, I don't know why works. "Why" is a question above my pay grade. But your body is already doing it when it replaces dead cells with newly created cells.

  • by 2names (531755) on Friday December 03, 2010 @04:36PM (#34436710)
    This is my great-great-great-grandfather's axe. It has had the head replaced twice and the handle replaced three times.
  • Never mind AI (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lilith's Heart-shape (1224784) on Friday December 03, 2010 @04:56PM (#34437036)
    Couldn't this be used to make cheaper solid-state storage?
  • by KnownIssues (1612961) on Friday December 03, 2010 @05:05PM (#34437216)

    When you go to sleep (or are knocked out, or drugged, or in a coma, etc) your consciousness ends. When you wake up, your consciousness resumes. You do not freak out about that. You remember your consciousness from before, that it was in the body from before. We believe we have a soul that is immutable from our consciousness because we have had no other experience and cannot comprehend what it would be like.

    Look at the experiments that have "reprogrammed" people to believe they like something they didn't before by creating memories of experiences where they liked it. They cannot remember not liking it.Or schizophrenics or people with split/multiple personalities. Our brains are not the infallable machine devices that we like to think they are; they are squishy, malleable things. Consciousness is not a black and white state; it only appears to be because that is the typical way of experiencing our mind.

    What makes us conscious? The belief that we're conscious. If you cloned your mind and put it in another body you would have two minds that both believed they were you. But why should we have trouble with that? We don't believe twins are one person. Their actions distinguish them. The two entities that shared one mind at one time would diverge and quickly become two distinguishable entities.

  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Friday December 03, 2010 @05:13PM (#34437316)

    Amnesia and Alzheimer's is enough proof we don't have souls, no doubt what we call "consciousness" is really just a network of developed cells and memories that are attached to it. After all no one claims to be able to remember what it was like as an embryo, also when one is under amnesia. One's "soul" doesn't float away. The concept of "soul" is just our irrational psychic defense against the fact we all die someday. That so many peoples and cultures have come up with an afterlife speaks volumes that it is just a reaction against our powerlessness to heal and fix ourselves because of the expense, energy, intelligence and tools to do so.

    We experience the self as a unified thing but it isn't. This is proven by people who've had brain damage in accidents and strokes where their "self" functions but they lose specific functions and aspects of 'who they are'.

    You can find out more by reading the following book by a Neurologist.

    This is Damasio's refutation of the Cartesian idea of the human mind as separate from bodily processes draws on neurochemistry to support his claim that emotions play a central role in human decision making.

    http://www.amazon.com/Descartes-Error-Emotion-Reason-Human/dp/014303622X/ [amazon.com]

    Also related clip:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYmi0DLzBdQ [youtube.com]

  • by Burnhard (1031106) on Friday December 03, 2010 @05:18PM (#34437408)
    Mod this guy up. He's quite right. In my view consciousness is non-physical. That is to say it is not a measurable physical property. If this is the case, simply replicating the cognitive structure of a conscious organism does not necessarily instantiate a conscious state. Don't forget only 10 years ago photosynthesis was well understood in physical and biological terms, but now we discover that leaves take advantage of quantum effects to increase efficiency. There's a whole lot more going on in the brain than simple classical state change.
  • by Stuntmonkey (557875) on Friday December 03, 2010 @05:59PM (#34438008)

    This technology fundamentally mistakes what is the hard part about building brains as adaptable as biological ones. The physical instantiation is not important, if the Church-Turing thesis is true. (And if you're saying Church-Turing is false, that's an enormous claim and you'd better have very compelling evidence to back you up.)

    The hard part about building a brain is figuring out the patterns of connectivity between neurons. Biology solves this in some brilliant way, starting from a seed with almost no information (the genome) and implementing some process to incorporate environmental data, self-organizing into a very robust and complex structure with orders of magnitude more information. The great unknown is the process whereby this growth and self-organization occurs. Figure that out, and you'll be able to make any kind of computer you like function as a brain.

  • by StikyPad (445176) on Friday December 03, 2010 @06:29PM (#34438480) Homepage

    In my view consciousness is non-physical.

    Of course it's physical -- what else would it be? What else *could* it be? The problem is that brains don't have JTAGs, and so it's quite difficult to tap all the inputs and outputs to run reproducible experiments, particularly while keeping the brain alive and functional. Add to that the fact that no two brains are identical, and you've really got your work cut out for you. The reason it's so easy to reverse engineer a chip (relatively speaking) is that one is an exact duplicate and representative of all others of its kind. This almost definitely does not hold true for brains except in a very generalized sense.

  • by StikyPad (445176) on Friday December 03, 2010 @06:46PM (#34438692) Homepage

    This is the program I wrote in 5th grade. I replaced the computer twice, the monitor 3x, and now it runs in an emulator.

Old programmers never die, they just become managers.

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