All those who have seen the movie “Transcendence” will be struck by the similarity of scenario. In the film, all American researchers in artificial intelligence are the target of a terrorist group that seeks to prevent them from creating an AI with a conscience. This is obviously the case. Fiction aside, it is the Human Brain Project, one of the most ambitious projects being conducted in Europe, which is the subject of a live controversy. Neuroscientists are divided on this initiative to simulate a complete human brain on a supercomputer. Unlike the movie, it is not the birth of a computer consciousness that makes them the most fear.
A huge computing power required for a mouse brain. As for the human…
It is the most ambitious research program ever conducted in the field of neuroscience. The Human Brain Project, it’s 10 years of research, thousands of researchers in 35 laboratories and 26 countries involved. This program will represent 7.148 years to men’s work, is an investment of 1.19 billion euros. This program is composed of 13 projects, one that is without doubt the most impressive: the simulation of a complete human brain. As a first step, it is the brain of a mouse that will be simulated, and then it was the turn of the human. To “run” this virtual brain, need to mobilize a massive computing power. A supercomputer does not suffice. The project intends to unite the power of multiple supercomputers. That of the Juqeen, the ‘ IBM BlueGene/Q of the computing centre of Jülich in Germany, one of the Swiss Center for Scientific Computing (CSCS), the calculator of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC Spain) and finally that of the Consorzio Interuniversitario del Nord Est italiano per it Calcolo Automatico (CINECA Italy). And yet, it comes that the phase of ‘ ramp-up ‘ of the project. Term, to live this artificial brain, need to mobilize one of the first supercomputers… when there will be a!
Main grievance against the BPH: its too opaque organization
This computing power will succeed has create awareness in this virtual brain, the question isn’t really there but the project raises a beautiful controversy. A website, Neurofuture.eu , and a petition, are online. 3 days after putting it online, it was signed by 517 scientists working in the more prestigious universities. École Normale Supérieure, INSERM, CNRS, Oxford, Cambridge, the project TBP causes a real malaise in the community of neuroscientists. On the one hand, they objected to the composition of the Scientific Committee of the project that does not reflect the diversity of approaches to neuroscience. According to the text of the petition, number of laboratory reportedly refused to participate because of the narrowness of the approach. The removal of one of the sub-projects devoted to ‘cognitive neuroscience’ would have canceled, indeed, the participation of 18 laboratories without further debate.
The signatories today invite the European Commission a disassemble the obscure structure of the HBP and redirect funds to more modest projects… and therefore, de facto waive simulate a human brain.
“Vassalli: «L’Université de Genève soutient le Human Brain Project»”, Tribune de Genève, July 9, 2014
“European Effort for Computer-Simulated Brain Draws Fire”, The New York Times, July 8, 2014
“Mauvaises ondes pour le cerveau virtuel”, Le Monde, July 8, 2014
“Neuroscientists Object to Europe’s Human Brain Project”, MIT Tech Review, July 7, 2014