In Search for Intelligence, a Silicon Brain Twitches

Today’s article from the Wall Street Journal describes an array of scientists who are attempting to replicate the structure, functionality and processing power of the human brain. Using supercomputers, these scientists are painstakingly mapping the structure and complexity of animal brains. While the science mentioned in this article is fascinating in and of itself, it also begs the question: How does human intelligence emerge and develop?

Perhaps the most important functions of the human brain mentioned in the article are making connections, expanding knowledge based on prior information, and adapting and evolving one’s thinking. To the scientists, these are the functions that create and expand human intelligence. Essentially, these scientists aren’t simply trying to fire off a series of neurons – they are trying to replicate critical thinking, one of the most complex and powerful functions of the human brain.

The sheer amount of resources – more than ten years and countless millions of dollars – required to even come close to replicating human critical thinking power provides a startling indicator of the power of our minds. When we develop our own abilities to make connections, to plan, to evolve, and to expand our own intelligence, we utilize our own personal “supercomputer” brain power to the fullest. As educators, we must ensure that our students develop the critical thinking abilities needed to maximize the power of their minds. By teaching students to ask powerful questions, compare and contrast information, and move beyond what they already know, we will create a generation of inquisitive, powerful thinkers who will make a difference in the world.

For the last four years, Henry Markram has been building a biologically accurate artificial brain. Powered by a supercomputer, his software model closely mimics the activity of a vital section of a rat’s gray matter.

Dubbed Blue Brain, the simulation shows some strange behavior. The artificial “cells” respond to stimuli and suddenly pulse and flash in spooky unison, a pattern that isn’t programmed but emerges spontaneously.

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