Today's artificial intelligence is certainly formidable. It can beat world champions at intricate games like chess and Go, or dominate at Jeopardy!. It can interpret heaps of data for us, guide driverless cars, respond to spoken commands, and track down the answers to your internet search queries.
The human brain is a fuel hog, and that, it turns out, is key to how our intelligence evolved. It has long been believed that the evolution of human intelligence was simply related to increasing brain size, but a team of researchers from South Africa and Australia have overturned that assumption.
Like computers, our brains have an impressive capacity to store memories. Scientists have long known that the brain stores memories as patterns of electrical pulses that move through and between neurons. But they were never able to quantify just how much information it could store. Now researchers from the Salk Institute have used models of rat neurons to give a new estimate for the storage capacity of the human brain—one petabyte, 10 times larger than previous estimates. The researchers published their work in the journal eLife.
We've been expecting this announcement since February, and today it looks like it's happening: President Obama has announced an ambitious plan to map the circuitry of the human brain. Kicking off with $100 million in 2014, a coalition of scientists will research ways to improve brain-related tech and sketch the interactions of brain cells.
Henry Markram, whose simulated rat brain we have covered before, now wants to build a human brain simulator one neuron at a time. That might take a little while, since there are roughly 86 billion neurons crammed in the average person's skull. But then again, Markram just scored funds - one and a half cents for each neuron.