Neuromorphic computing

neuromorphic computing by Spike Gerrell

credit : Spike Gerrell for the Economist

Neuromorphic computing is a concept developed by Carver Mead, describing the use of very-large-scale integration (VLSI) systems containing electronic analog circuits to mimic neuro-biological architectures present in the nervous system. Carver Mead is a key pioneer of modern microelectronics.

Today the term neuromorphic is used to describe analog, digital, and mixed-mode analog/digital VLSI and software systems that implement models of neural systems. Neuromorphic computing is a new interdisciplinary discipline that takes inspiration from biology, physics, mathematics, computer science and engineering to design artificial neural systems and autonomous robots, whose physical architecture and design principles are based on those of biological nervous systems.

The goal is to make computers more like brains and to design computers that have  features that brains have and computers do not have up to now :

  • low power consumption (human brains use about 20 watts)
  • fault tolerance (brains lose neurons all time without impact)
  • lack of need to be programmed (brains learn and change)

An important property of a real brain is that each neuron has tens of thousands of synaptic connections with other neurons, which form a sort of small-world network. Many neuromorphic chips use what is called a cross-bar architecture, a dense grid of wires, each of which is connected to a neuron at the periphery of the grid, to create this small-world network. Other chips employs what is called synaptic time multiplexing.

The Economist published a few days ago a great article “Neuromorphic computing – The machine of a new soul” with illustrations from the London-based illustrator Spike Gerrell.

Some neuromorphic computing reletad projects are listed below :

Neuromorphic computing is dominated by European researchers rather than American ones. The following links provide additional informations about neuromorphic computing related institutions and topics :

Artificial General Intelligence

Last update : August 7, 2013

Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is an emerging research field aiming at the building of thinking machines; that is, general-purpose systems with intelligence comparable to that of the human mind (and perhaps ultimately well beyond human general intelligence). While this was the original goal of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the mainstream of AI research has turned toward domain-dependent and problem-specific solutions; therefore it has become necessary to use a new name to indicate research that still pursues the Grand AI Dream. Similar labels for this kind of research include Strong AI, Human-level AI, etc. Other AI researchers prefer the term of Synthetic Intelligence.

The research on AGI is interdisciplinary, focused on whole systems and includes scientific and philosophical investigation and software engineering.

Artificial General Intelligence Research Institute

The term AGI was first used by Mark Avrum Gubrud in November 1997. Fifty years after the launch of the Artificial Intelligence Project in Dartmouth in 1956, Ben Goertzel, Phil Goetz, Pei Wang and Bruce Klein organized the first Artificial General Intelligence Research Institute (AGIRI) workshop in May 2006 to bridge the gap between narrow AI and general-purpose AI. The AGI Research Institute was founded in 2001 with the mission to foster the creation of powerful and ethically positive Artificial General Intelligence. The institute is sponsored by Novamente LLC.

The aspects of Artificial General Intelligence are explained by Pei Wang and Ben Goertzel  in the introduction of their book Advances in Artificial General Intelligence (IOS Press, 2007).

The first conference on Artificial General Intelligence (AGI-08) was organized by AGIRI in March 2008 in Memphis, Tennessee, USA, in association with the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI).

Artificial General Intelligence Society

Ben Goertzel, Pei Wang, Joscha Bach and others founded in September 2011 the Artificial General Intelligence Society (AGI society), a nonprofit organization with the following goals:

  • promote the study of artificial general intelligence (AGI), and the design of AGI systems
  • facilitate co-operation and communication among those interested in the study and pursuit of AGI
  • hold conferences and meetings for the communication of knowledge concerning AGI
  • produce publications regarding AGI research and development
  • publicize and disseminate by other means knowledge and views concerning AGI

The organization of the annual Artificial General Intelligence conference series, which was started in 2008 by AGIRI, has been taken over by the AGI society. The next conference (AGI-2013) will be held in Beijing, China, July 31 – August 3, 2013.

Some additional informations about AGI are available at the following links :

More links are provided in the updated post about Artificial Intelligence.

Guilfords Structure of Intellect (SI)

Last update : August 6, 2013

Joy Paul Guilford, a United States psychologist, designed in 1955 a model of intelligence, based on factor analysis. In the Guilfords Structure of Intellect (SI), all mental abilities are conceptualized within a three-dimensional framework. There are three features of intellectual tasks: the content, or the type of information; the product, or the form in which the information is represented; and the operation, or type of mental activity performed.

These 5 x 6 x 6 = 180 mental abilities are listed below :

Content features in the Guilfords Structure of Intellect

Five content dimensions (broad areas of information to which the human intellect applies operations) :

  1. Visual : information perceived through seeing
  2. Auditory : information perceived through hearing
  3. Symbolic : information perceived as symbols or signs that stand for something else (arabic numerals, letters of an alphabet, musical and scientific notations)
  4. Semantic : concerned with verbal meaning and ideas
  5. Behavioral : information perceived as acts of people

Product features in the Guilfords Structure of Intellect

Six products, in increasing complexity :

  1. Units : single items of knowledge
  2. Classes : sets of units sharing common attributes
  3. Relations : units linked as opposites or in associations, sequences, or analogies
  4. Systems : multiple relations interrelated to comprise structures or networks
  5. Transformations : changes, perspectives, conversions, or mutations to knowledge
  6. Implications : predictions, inferences, consequences, or anticipations of knowledge

Operation features in the Guilfords Structure of Intellect

Six operations (general intellectual processes) :

  1. Cognition : the ability to understand, comprehend, discover, and become aware of information
  2. Memory recording : the ability to encode information
  3. Memory retention : the ability to recall information
  4. Divergent production : the ability to generate multiple solutions to a problem; creativity
  5. Convergent production : the ability to deduce a single solution to a problem; rule-following or problem-solving
  6. Evaluation : the ability to judge whether or not information is accurate, consistent, or valid

Guilford’s original model was composed of 120 components, because he combined Visual and Auditory content in a common Figural Content and he combined Memory Recording and Memory Retention in a common Memory Operation. Guilford’s model is an open system such that it allows for newly discovered categories to be added in any of the three directions.

Guilfords Structure of Intellect has few supporters today, but Joy Paul Guilford is considered as one of the founders of the Psychology of Creativity. He emphasized the distinction between convergent and divergent thinking. In 1976 he introduced the developed model of Divergent Thinking as the main ingredient of creativity. Guilford appointed the following characteristics for creativity :

  • Fluency : the ability to produce great number of ideas or problem solutions
  • Flexibility : the ability to simultaneously propose a variety of approaches to a specific problem
  • Originality : the ability to produce new, original ideas
  • Elaboration : the ability to systematize and organize the details of an idea in a head and carry it out

Peter Nilsson uses the following example to measure the creativity of people based on Guilford’s concept of divergent production :

Creativity Measurement based on the Guilfords Structure of Intellect

Creativity Measurement

Links to additional informations about the Guilfords Structure of Intellect and about the measurement of creativity are provided in the following list :


Last update : August 6, 2013

EMPATHICA is a software program designed at the University of Waterloo, Canada, to help people understand and resolve conflicts. It is based on the hope that increasing empathy between people can help to overcome impasses in disputes in many domains.

EMPATHICA uses the idea of Cognitive-Affective Maps (CAMs) developed by Paul Thagard, Professor of Philosophy and director of Cognitive Sciences at the University of Waterloo, in collaboration with Thomas Homer-Dixon, Scott Findlay, and others. These maps derive from ideas about emotional cognition described in Thagard’s book Hot Thought.

A CAM is a diagram that shows concepts and beliefs along with the emotional values attached to them. It also shows the relationships between concepts that support each other or conflict with each other. CAMs are made up of simple nodes and edges. Nodes can have differing valences based on how a person feels about a concept related to the conflict.

EMPATHICA : Cognitive Affective Maps modeling the international Climate Change debates

Cognitive Affective Map modeling the international Climate Change debates

EMPATHICA handles the following web pages :

  • Conflict Management : open, close, view and edit conflicts
  • Conflict Overview : shows the CAMs associated with the conflict
  • Graph Editor : use manipulation tools to create and edit CAMs
  • Correlate : tie together concepts that are in both maps
  • Compare : shows the points of contention and the points of agreement in a conflict
  • Compromise : shows suggestions for the conflict

The program EMPATHICA was a Fourth-Year Design Project for the Software Engineering class of the University of Waterloo. Today I installed the Windows version of EMPATHICA (released in January 2013) on my PC. Great project !

The american Human Brain Activity Map Project

Last update : August 10, 2013

Human Brain Activity Map Project

Cartoon by Jordan Adwan, The New Yorker, 2013

Several weeks after the public announcement of the Human Brain Project as a european research FET Flagship by the European Commission, the US administration unveiled the planning of a decade-long scientific effort to examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity, seeking to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics. The project called Brain Activity Map (BAM) will include federal agencies, private foundations and teams of neuroscientists and nanoscientists in a concerted effort to advance the knowledge of the brain’s billions of neurons and gain greater insights into perception, actions and, ultimately, consciousness. Moreover, the project holds the potential of paving the way for advances in artificial intelligence.

The Human Brain Activity Map initiative will be organized by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Partners will be the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in Chevy Chase, the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle and other big actors as Google and Microsoft.

Gary Marcus, a professor at New York University (N.Y.U.), recommends to endow five separate projects rather than putting a huge amount of money into a single project. He proposes to address the most fundamental unsolved questions in neuroscience :

  • Decipher the basic language of the brain : What is the basic element of neural computation ? What is the basic scheme by which symbolic information (like sentences) are stored ?
  • Understand the rules governing how neurons organize into circuits
  • Determine which circuits to use in a given situation and understanding how the brain communicates information from one region to another (neural plasticity and neural development)
  • Find the relation between brain circuits, genes, and behavior
  • Develop new techniques for analyzing and observing brain function

The following list provides some links to additional informations about the Human Brain Activity Map Project :

Collective intelligence of ants and swarms

Last update : August 6, 2013

Collective intelligence, also called group wisdom, is shared knowledge arrived at by individuals and groups. The wisdom of the crowd is the process of taking into account the collective opinion of a group of individuals rather than a single expert to answer a question. James Surowiecki published published in 2004 his book The Wisdom of Crowds about the aggregation of information in groups, resulting in decisions that, he argues, are often better than could have been made by any single member of the group.

Group intelligence refers to a process by which large numbers of people simultaneously converge upon the same point(s) of knowledge.

Collective intelligence, which is sometimes used synonymously with collective wisdom, is more of a shared decision process than collective wisdom. Collective intelligence is a shared intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals and appears in consensus decision making in animals, humans and computer networks. The term is related to the Global Brain.

If we look at ants, we can see that they exhibit many of the characteristics and behaviours that we associate with intelligence and civilization, for example :

  • ants build cities (ant hills) with contain complex ventilation systems, waste recycling and complex transportation systems including highways
  • ants farm and cultivate mushrooms
  • ants raise and keep other insects for food
  • ants wage wars in organized batallions
  • ants capture slaves
  • ants teach and communicate
  • ants collaborate and do teamwork

The study of the behavior of social insects like ants and bees is part of the Swarm Intelligence (SI). This is a relatively new discipline that deals with the study of self-organizing processes both in nature and in artificial systems. The concept is employed in work on artificial intelligence. The expression was introduced by Gerardo Beni and Jing Wang in 1989, in the context of cellular robotic systems. Besides ant colonies, natural examples of SI include bird flocking, animal herding, bacterial growth and fish schooling. The application of swarm principles to robots is called swarm robotics, a special case is ant robotics. In computer science and operations research, the ant colony optimization algorithm (ACO) is used to find good paths through graphs.

collective intelligence of ants

ANTS2012 , September 2012 Brussels

A first workshop ANTS98 on Ant Colony Optimization, “From ant colonies to artificial ants”, took place in October 1998 in Brussels. The eight international conference ANTS2012 (in the meantime called Swarm Intelligence) took place in September 2012 in Brussels.

In 2006, the Center for Collective Intelligence (CCI) was created at MIT to make collective intelligence a topic of serious academic study. O’Reilly Media published in 2007 the book Programming Collective Intelligence, written by Toby Segaran.

Mammal and Human Brain Projects

Last update : August 6, 2013

Human Brain Project (2013)

The Human Brain Project (HBP) was submitted on 23 October 2012 for funding under the European Union’s FET Flagship program. FET (Future & Emerging Technologies) flagships are ambitious large-scale, science-driven, research initiatives that aim to achieve a visionary goal. On January 28, 2013, the European Commission has officially announced the selection of the Human Brain Project as one of its two FET Flagship projects.

The goal of the HBP is to understand and mimic the way the human brain works. The Blue Brain Project’s success has demonstrated the feasibility of the HBP general strategy.

The project will be coordinated by the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and will be hosted at the NEUROPOLIS platform. The HBP team will include many of Europe’s best neuroscientists, doctors, physicists, mathematicians, computer engineers and ethicists. The leaders of the different sub-groups are : Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, CEA, Le Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Karolinska Institutet, Centre hospitalier universitaire vaudois, Universität Heidelberg, Technische Universität München, Institut Pasteur. In total more than 120 teams in 90 scientific institutions from 22 countries will contribute to the HBP. A full list of partners and collaborators is presented at the HBP website. The HBP will be open by involving groups and individual scientists who are not members of the original consortium.This will be handled by the HBP Competitive Calls Programme.

The Human Brain Project has the potential to revolutionize technology, medicine, neuroscience, and society. It will drive the development of new technologies for supercomputing and for scientific visualization. Models of the brain will allow us to design computers, robots, sensors and other devices far more powerful, more intelligent and more energy efficient than any we know today. Brain simulation will help us understand the root causes of brain diseases, to diagnose them early, to develop new treatments, and to reduce reliance on animal testing. The project will also throw new light on questions human beings have been asking for more than two and a half thousand years. What does it mean to perceive, to think, to remember, to learn, to know, to decide? What does it mean to be conscious?

A video of the HBP is available at the Vimeo website.

The HBP is organized in thirteen subprojects :

Blue Brain Project (2005)

The Blue Brain Project is an attempt to create a synthetic brain by reverse-engineering the mammalian brain down to the molecular level. The aim of the project, founded in May 2005 by the Brain and Mind Institute of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), is to study the brain’s architectural and functional principles. The project is headed by the Institute’s director, Henry Markram.

Using an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer running Michael Hines‘s NEURON software, the simulation involves a biologically realistic model of neurons. There are numerous sub-projects run by universities and independent laboratories.

The current version 7.2 of NEURON is available as a cross-platform program under a GNU GPL licence from the universities Yale and Duke.

A ten-year documentary film-in-the-making about the race to reverse engineer the human brain is available at the Bluebrain Film website.

In the future the Blue Brain Project will be part of the Human Brain Project.

Brain Architecture Projects (2009)

The Brain Architecture Project is a collaborative effort aimed at creating an integrated resource containing knowledge about nervous system architecture in multiple species, with a focus on mouse and human. The Brain Architecture Project Principal Investigator is Partha P. Mitra, professor at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL).

The goal of the Mouse Brain Architecture (MBA) Project is to generate brainwide maps of inter-regional neural connectivity. These maps will thus specify the inputs and outputs of every brain region, at a mesoscopic level of analysis corresponding to brain compartments defined in classical neuroanatomy.

The Human Brain Architecture Project includes several components related to the human brain : The Online Brain Atlas Reconciliation Tool (OBART), The Human Brain Connectivity Database and the Co-expression networks of genes related to addiction.

The Brain Architecture Team has also been working on two prototype systems (Text Mining) for information extraction (IE) of knowledge related to brain architecture from a large text corpus containing approximately 55,000 full-text journal articles.

Brain Reverse Engineering Lab (2011)

This project is headed by Witali L. Dunin-Barkowski, Head of the Department of Neuroinformatics at the Center for Optical Neural Technologies of the Scientific Research Institute for System Analysis of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The main initial task of the laboratory will be the creation of open-access scientific, technological and engineering internet-resource in a form of a specialized database of knowledge on mechanisms of brain work. It is supposed that as a result of the planned work at the end of 2015 the project’s team will elaborate the full detailed description of the mechanisms of human brain. It will be possible to use this description to make in the following years a full scale working analog of the human brain, based on technological informational elements and devices.

Cognition and Cognitive Science

Last update : May 3, 2013
Cognition is a group of mental processes that includes attention, memory, language, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making. Cognition is a faculty for the processing of information, applying knowledge, and changing preferences. Cognitive processes, can be natural or artificial, conscious or unconscious.

Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary investigation of mind and intelligence, embracing psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, and computational intelligence. Cognitive Science is focusing on how information is represented, processed, and transformed within nervous systems and machines.

The term cognitive science was coined by Christopher Longuet-Higgins in 1973. In 1979, the Cognitive Science Society was founded.

Links to additional informations about cognitive science are provided in the following list :

2045: A New Era for Humanity

The 2045 Initiative was founded by Dmitry Itskov in February 2011 in partnership with leading Russian scientists. Dmitry Itskov is the founder and President of New Media Stars. He attended the top economics university in Russia and has more than ten years of work experience in media projects.

The main objectives of the 2045 Initiative are:

  • creation of a new vision of human development that meets global challenges humanity faces today
  • realization of the possibility of a radical extension of human life by means of cybernetic technology
  • formation of a new culture associated with these technologies

The 2045 team is working towards creating an international research center where leading scientists will be engaged in research and development in the fields of anthropomorphic robotics, living systems modeling and brain and consciousness modeling with the goal of transferring one’s individual consciousness to an artificial carrier and achieving cybernetic immortality.

The main idea is the 2045 Avatar Project which is planned to be conducted in four steps :

The 2045 Avatar Project

  1. creation of a human-like robot dubbed Avatar A and a state-of-the-art brain-computer interface system to link the mind with it
  2. creation of a life support system for the human brain, which connects to the Avatar A, turning into Avatar B
  3. development of an artificial brain in which to transfer one’s individual consciousness with the goal of achieving cybernetic immortality : Avatar C
  4. development of a hologram-like avatar : Avatar D

A video of the 2045 project is available at Youtube.

An annual congress The Global Future 2045 (GF2045) is organized by the Initiative to give platform for discussing mankind’s evolutionary strategy based on technologies of cybernetic immortality as well as the possible impact of such technologies on global society, politics and economies of the future.

The first annual congress Modeling and Predicting Worldwide Dynamics took place in February 2012 in Moscow. More than 50 scientist, including physicists, biologists, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and philosophers have been trying to outline a strategy for further development of the humankind. Among the speakers were Eric Chaisson, David Christian, Raymond Kurzweil, John Smart, Fred Spier. Videos and transcripts of the presentations and the round tables are available at the GF2045 website.

The second GF2045 International Congress was held in June 2013 in New York City. Among the speakers were George Church, Sir Roger Penrose, Hiroshi Ishiguro, David Hanson, Marvin Minsky, Ben Goertzel, Raymond Kurzweil.


Last update : August 4, 2013

Intelligence Test

Intelligence Test

Intelligence has been defined in many different ways including, but not limited to, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, reasoning, learning, having emotional knowledge, retaining, planning, and problem solving. Intelligence is related to humans, animals, plants and machines (artificial intelligence).

A comprehensive definition of intelligence is controversial, what is considered intelligent varies with culture.

Psychometrics are often used to measure Intelligence. An intelligence quotient (IQ) is used to assess intelligence. The abbreviation IQ comes from the German term Intelligenz-Quotient, originally coined by the psychologist William Stern. IQ is a score derived from one of several standardized tests.

When a new IQ test is normed, the standard scoring is calculated so they conform to a normal distribution with a mean of 100 and a standard deviation (SD) of 15. The intention is that approximately 95% of the population scores an IQ between 70 and 130 (within two SDs of the mean).

The average IQ scores for many populations have been rising at an average rate of three points per decade since 1930, a phenomenon called the Flynn effect. It is disputed whether these changes in scores reflect real changes in intellectual abilities. Attempted explanations of the IQ rise have included improved nutrition, a trend toward smaller families, better education, greater environmental complexity, and heterosis.

People having an IQ higher than 130 are considered as very intelligent. Organizations supporting people who are within a certain high percentile of IQ test results are called High IQ societies : the oldest, largest and best-known such society is Mensa International (website :

Other high IQ societies are :

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, as a model of intelligence that differentiates intelligence into various specific modalities, rather than seeing it as dominated by a single general ability, was proposed by Howard Gardner in his 1983 book Frames of Mind.