Yes, you read that headline title correctly. IBM is claiming to have developed an artificial neuron, that can "learn" on its own, and here's the clincher, it does so not by processing digital information, but rather, analogue information, and the result is, more processing power can be crammed into a tiny space than is possible with the digital equivalent. Here's the article that many of you sent this week:
The artificial neurons were made using special materials called phase-change materials, which form the basis of re-writable Blu-ray discs. However, the artificial neurons do not store digital information; they are analog, just like the synapses and neurons in our biological brain.
“We used the so-called phase-change nanoscale devices to emulate how the neurons in the brain operate,” co-author Abu Sebastian from IBM Research tells Newsweek. “The whole idea is that by realizing neurons and synapses using these nanoscale devices, we can actually bring down the size of the processor.
But there's a "tiny" catch here, beyond the obvious implications that such a technology has for the creation of artificial intelligence, and I hope you put all this into the context of that "neural smart dust" I blogged about earlier this week, and also into the context of my speculations over there years about "hidden systems of finance" and "high frequency trading algorithms," for imagine if such a technology were coupled to such programs. Indeed, the article itself suggests just this possibility:
The artificial neurons could also detect patterns in financial transactions to find discrepancies or use data from social media to discover new cultural trends in real time.
Imagine, similarly, the use of such technologies in politics, polling, and so on, as well as in financial trading. Its ability to predict and anticipate trends would be a financial godsend, particularly to financial actors whose very business is such prediction, from the commodities and currency speculators, to central banks.
Now let's indulge in our high octane speculation. Imagine such a technology coupled, say, to the latest upgrade in a software program like PROMIS, the infamous Inslaw software designed to track all sorts of data, regardless of what computer language it was coded in, in real time. The predictive capability could then be wedded to various "intervention" algorithms to buy or sell this or that commodity, stock, or currency, or to choke off a pending activity in any area, or, worse, to recommend military interventions, police actions, and so on. Consider only the spate of movies in recent years addressing precisely such subjects. The trouble is, I suspect we're already looking at such technologies in action: stock and commodities markets seem to live in a surreal world of their own, disconnected from real human activity and production. Military interventions are launched that make no sense, even from military points of view, to the extent that one wonders if the insane people running the west as the same insane people programming the super-computers that "model" situations for them and propose "solutions."
So where's the high octane speculation here? Indeed, I've said all the above before. But now imagine that with an artificial neuron, one can construct an artificial neural network, literally spread across whole regions of the globe, if not the globe itself, clusters of such "neurons" in this or that locality all connected via the power grid and satellites to other such clusters, and one gets the idea. There are those out there on the internet who suggest that CERN's LHC is creating some sort of "portal" for higher dimensional "entities" to enter. I'm not in that crowd. Far from it. But if consciousness is some sort of "information in the field," then I strongly suspect that is one were to create such a portal, it would not be via particle colliders, but very large artificial neural nets. And IBM has now conveniently provided the first step, the first step, perhaps, toward invoking a light-bearing machine whose "tabrets and pipes" were "made perfect."
Thank goodness for electromagnetic pulse weapons, huh?
See you on the flip side...