December 2, 2010

Meet MoNETA - the brain-inspired chip that will outsmart us all

The Brain of a New Machine

(December 2, 2010)  Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: In the near future, we’ll be able to build machines that learn, reason, and even emote their way to solving problems, the way people do. If you’ve ever been interested in artificial intelligence, you’ve seen that promise broken countless times. Way back in the 1960s, the relatively recent invention of the transistor prompted breathless predictions that machines would outsmart their human handlers within 20 years. Now, 50 years later, it seems the best we can do is automated tech support, intoned with a preternatural calm that may or may not send callers into a murderous rage.

So why should you believe us when we say we finally have the technology that will lead to a true artificial intelligence? Because of MoNETA, the brain on a chip. MoNETA (Modular Neural Exploring Traveling Agent) is the software we’re designing at Boston University’s department of cognitive and neural systems, which will run on a braininspired microprocessor under development at HP Labs in California. It will function according to the principles that distinguish us mammals most profoundly from our fast but witless machines. MoNETA (the goddess of memory—cute, huh?) will do things no computer ever has. It will perceive its surroundings, decide which information is useful, integrate that information into the emerging structure of its reality, and in some applications, formulate plans that will ensure its survival. In other words, MoNETA will be motivated by the same drives that motivate cockroaches, cats, and humans.

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