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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