A couple of projects I learnt IBM is backing, that I think can have important long-term effects:
1. The Blue Brain Project: This was started in 2005 by the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL). Essentially this aims to re-create the human brain using ‘the huge computational capacity of IBM’s eServer Blue Gene supercomputer to create a detailed model of the circuitry in the neocortex – the largest and most complex part of the human brain’. Though this is an attempt to reverse-engineer the brain, it is not an artifical intelligence project or one that aims to create a brain per se. The aim is to create a ‘physicological simulation for biomedical applications.’ Henry Markam, the director of the project, said at TED Oxford a couple of months ago that the creation of an artificial brain is about 10 years away.
2. The Genographic Project: In partnership with National Geographic, IBM have designed this project to find out where we humans came from, and how we got here. It is a 5-year project where DNA samples collected from 10 research centres across the world will help to map the process. Anyone can participate by buying a DNA kit and submitting samples of their DNA.
On a completely unrelated note, I think Hugh MacLeod’s painting Fred 44 looks very similar to this photo of a forest of neurons from the Blue Brain Project!