Randal Koene is an expert on brain emulation. He gave a talk in 2013 and discussed 100,000 neuron fruit fly brain emulation.
If we see the same sort of development in getting activity data from the brain as we saw with the structure, then perhaps by 2018 it would be acceptable to, say, come up with the project where you say let’s take Drosophila, this fruit fly with 100,000 neurons, and we’re going to get both the activity data and the structure data, and we’re going to put it together and we’re going to make an emulation of that, or try to make an emulation of a fruit fly brain. So perhaps by the year 2018, that’s a project you could start.
I attended a 2014 talk by Randal Koene where he described the likelihood of a 100,000 neuron fruit fly brain emulation by 2019.
Randal has a company funded to develop a neural operating system so that all of the separate brain emulation projects can be more easily integrated.
There is a pathway to brain emulation via more and more advanced brain prosthetics and better sensors and mapping of the brain
Randal is optimistic about neural dust
UC Berkeley is working on “Neural Dust” which are computer chips and sensors that are about the size of red blood cells. The idea was to power it with infrared light and communicate with infrared instead of ultrasound. Several labs working on this technology in different ways at at UC Berkeley, MIT, and Harvard. The notion here is that if you get down to a size like 8 microns, where these chips are small enough that they fit inside the body without breaking barriers and they can even fit inside the vasculature, then you can take them to basically every part of the brain. Because every neuron requires nutrition from the vasculature, so you can get in that area and then you can communicate with them through, for example, procedures that are similar to radio frequency identification, except perhaps in the infrared domain or through ultrasound, so that you can set up a network and talk to them. The really interesting part is when you look at what we can do nowadays at that scale. The the number of transistors that you could, for example, get on a block that is the size of a red blood cell would be about the same number of transistors that were used in the original navigation systems for cruise missiles. So it’s really not that little.
Of course, even getting down to that size isn’t really going to get you the whole picture. If you want to be able to do something where you gather data from the entire brain, you need a hierarchical approach, where you have some systems that are communicating data out, gathering data; some of them that are recording stuff near neurons. So, you have smaller and bigger pieces, and some of that was also illustrated yesterday when they were talking about the Neural Dust approach. What it turns into is basically having a cloud of specialized probes that are working together as a team and recording things. But we have the huge advantage in this case that what we’re working with is a mature field in the sense that integrated circuits are something we’re very familiar with. We know how to build networks between them. We have lots of engineers and designers who can work with it. We have a product path where Intel, for example, knows exactly what they’re doing in the next few years, so we know how it’s going to be scaled down. It can take advantage of Moore’s law. Right now, we see that some of the stuff that’s being looked at in the labs, perhaps, has a diameter 10 times larger than we’d like it to be, but we can see where that’s going in the next few years and how we can scale everything down.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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