Thinking machines think just like us—but only up to a point.
IN THE SUMMER of 2009, the Israeli neuroscientist Henry Markram strode onto the TED stage in Oxford, England, and made an immodest proposal: Within a decade, he said, he and his colleagues would build a complete simulation of the human brain inside a supercomputer. They’d already spent years mapping the cells in the neocortex, the supposed seat of thought and perception.
“It’s a bit like going and cataloging a piece of the rain forest,” Markram explained. “How many trees does it have? What shapes are the trees?” Now his team would create a virtual rain forest in silicon, from which they hoped artificial intelligence would organically emerge. If all went well, he quipped, perhaps the simulated brain would give a follow-up TED talk, beamed in by hologram.