The 21st century is the century of the brain according to scientists and researchers from 135 institutions around the globe who have launched the Human Brain Project this week. Their goal is to develop a deep understanding of the human brain to achieve a number of important breakthroughs in the fields of neuroinformatics, neural simulation, medical informatics, high performance computing, neuromorphic computing and robotic intelligence.
One of the goals is to develop broad interdisciplinary academic programs to train scientists in these various fields. This will include the development of open online courses, video lectures and tutorials, and formal academic programs that offer university accreditation in brain science. It is hoped that the project will develop a core of 5,000 new young scientists to keep the project moving forward.
The human brain contains 100 billion neurons and we are only beginning to understand the complexity of how they interact. The project will model the actual working of the brain from a single neuron to the geometry and behavior of neural circuitry. From the simulations created to match the actual function of brain circuitry scientists hope to gain greater insight into the causes of autism, depression, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. They also hope to be able to test new drugs without animal studies to see how and what dosage levels of pharmaceuticals help in curing people with neurological conditions. In addition the project expects to develop better brain-prosthetic interfaces for artificial limbs.
The timing of the project launch is critical. Our world's population is aging and many brain diseases are directly associated with growing older. Developing understanding of the brain's complex circuitry should lead to breakthroughs in dealing with them.
Much of this project is being driven by universities from the European Union, assisted by similar institutions in Israel, Japan and the United States. By 2016 the combined team hopes to have a complete simulated model of the brain operating on a supercomputer. From this model new microchips and artificial intelligence programming techniques will evolve with benefits for the fields of neuroscience, medicine and computing.
Because our brains perform computations using no more power than an incandescent light bulb, when we finally understand how we do this we will be able to develop neuromorphic computing systems with similar capability. The impact of such an advancement will be transformational for all of us in the 21st century. We will understand the causes of brain diseases and develop mechanisms and therapies for treatment. We will create smarter low-energy requirement machines and robots that will exhibit human intelligence. And we will finally understand the cognitive aspects of what makes us human.
This week the scientists have gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland, to get the project underway. Ten years from now, by 2023, when they have completed their work, we will see the world changed forever.
Essays and comments posted in World Future Society and THE FUTURIST magazine blog portion of this site are the intellectual property of the authors, who retain full responsibility for and rights to their content. For permission to publish, distribute copies, use excerpts, etc., please contact the author. The opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Future Society takes no stand on what the future will or should be like.
KEEP UP WITH WFS NEWS & UPCOMING EVENTS
May 22, 2015 - California has a lot of negatives going on right now. It is in the middle of the worst drought the state has experienced since records were kept, watching its in-state and out-of-state water reserves dry up. It is over populated and yet still a draw for tens of thousands of illegal immigrant crossing from Mexico each year. And it is perennially in debt.
May 22, 2015 - Researchers at Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed a product that oxidizes soil polluted by oil and other contaminants.
May 21, 2015 - This week in Paris world business leaders have gathered to talk about climate change and investment. Two months ago 266 large investors responsible for managing $20 trillion U.S.
May 20, 2015 - An Antarctic ice shelf located on the continent's peninsula that juts northward towards South America is expected to collapse into the Southern Ocean possibly within the next few decades.
May 20, 2015 - I have previously written about autoimmune diseases of which multiple sclerosis (MS) is one.
May 19, 2015 - Another NASA challenge was launched on May 16th, this one called The 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The goal to develop safe, sustainable off-world housing. Deadline to register is July 15th. Submission deadline is August 3rd.
May 18, 2015 - In what must be a first for Canadian scientists working in the public service, its union as part of its collective bargaining has demanded that researchers be allowed to speak openly about their work.