Can we build a brain?

Notes from Planet Earth

This project has been controversial and Dr. Markram has been accused of spending a lot of money on a project that may prove impossibly complex. However, there is a chance of a sizable prize for him. The European Commission has selected his project as one of six competing for two Future and Emerging Technologies Flagship Awards to be announced this year and then funded with $1.4 billion over the next ten years.

There is an old cybernetic axiom that no machine can understand another machine as, or more, complex than itself. If true, it would mean that we humans could not expect to ever fully understand our own brains. However, Dr. Markram’s goal appears to lie short of this and his electronic model may well enable us to glean some new and valuable insights into the workings of our minds in health and disease. W. Ross Ashby created many pithy aphorisms relevant to this effort to make brain-like devices, of which the following is an example: “Some say the first requirement is that it shall weigh [only] 45 ounces,” (the weight of a human brain).

Questions and suggestions from readers are welcomed and will be responded to in future editions of this column. Contact me at cwdingman2@frontier.com

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