By Adrienne LaFrance
They called it the Hubble Telescope of the mind.
This was in 2009, after the announcement that a team of scientists from IBM’s Cognitive Computing group had built what was, at the time, the largest artificial brain ever. It was a cell-by-cell computer simulation of the human visual cortex, large as a cat’s brain.
The reference to Hubble, the deep-space telescope, is a nod to the galactic complexity of building a computer with brain-like infrastructure. The cat-sized brain built in 2009 represented 1 billion neurons connected by 10 trillion synapses, according to IBM. Since then, they’ve scaled up dramatically—mapping the neural pathways of a macaque monkey brain, and edging closer to an accurate simulation of the human brain.
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