Let’s depart for the moment from probabilities and the details of distributions to consider the latest development in neural network computing. While much of current neural network technology is based on simulating the interaction of simple computational “neurons,” the British magazine The Engineer reports that engineers at Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton and Cambridge Universities are engaged an effort to simulate the much more complex interactivity of the nerves in a living brain. The first can be accomplished with a desktop computer and is used for solving non-linear problems such production forecasting, price-point decisions, and reserve estimation. The second will require million-processor parallel computing and will be used to gain insight on the electrical activity in a biological brain.
The project, SpinNNaker, focuses on the so-called spikes in the brain, the electrical impulses that pass between axons (the structures that connect biological neurons). there are billions of these connections–yes, billions as in buyout amounts– and they are constantly transmitting electrical “information.”
What seems remarkable to me is that the actual brain, say the one in my skull, is so much more sophisticated, so much more compact than the massive machine architecture envisioned for SpiNNaker. So many neurons, so many connectors, oh so many electrical impulses. It’s enough to give anyone a headache, but it goes on all the time in each human head in the world population.