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US Joins Google, Microsoft In "Brain Race"

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the get-your-smart-on dept.

Google 94

Nerval's Lobster writes "Decades after the space race pitted the United States against Russia, a new race has emerged: the race to map the human brain. The New York Times reported Feb. 18 that the Obama administration is gearing up to announce the Brain Activity Map project, an effort to map an active human brain that could give new insight into how neurons interact with each other, providing new avenues of research for diseases such as Alzheimer's. The U.S. will apparently pit itself against a collection of European research agencies that have announced similar projects. The U.S. effort, however, will apparently involve U.S. businesses, which would naturally benefit from the high-profile nature of the effort; in theory, the latter could also apply the resulting discoveries to their own computing efforts. The Times reported that representatives from Google, Microsoft, and Qualcomm met with government representatives at the California Institute of Technology to try and figure out whether or not there are sufficient computing resources to process the vast amounts of data that the experiments are expected to produce, or whether new ones would need to be built."

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Well we now know what Kurzweil is doing @ Google (5, Insightful)

Mageek (530351) | about 2 years ago | (#42938029)

n/c

Re:Well we now know what Kurzweil is doing @ Googl (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42938063)

n/c

He's not commenting?

Re:Well we now know what Kurzweil is doing @ Googl (2)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | about 2 years ago | (#42938167)

N/C No Change
N/C No Comment
N/C No Charge
N/C Not Covered
N/C new condition
N/C Numerical Control
N/C No Connect (electronics)
N/C Normally Closed Contact
N/C Non-Consensual
N/C Nuclear to Cytoplasmic
N/C Newton Per Coulomb
N/C Number of Users Per Cell Density

"Nuclear to Cytoplasmic" sounds like Ray. I don't know what it means but that's par for the course, eh?

Re:Well we now know what Kurzweil is doing @ Googl (2)

istartedi (132515) | about 2 years ago | (#42938685)

I dare you to set C to zero.

Re:Well we now know what Kurzweil is doing @ Googl (2)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about 2 years ago | (#42943233)

I dare you to set C to zero.

OK.

*boom*

my bet (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#42938785)

Regarding project to map human brain, I predict that a number of university papers and a heap of data will be generated, and that some spinoff technologies, and then eventually the government will realize they can't afford it and reduce and eventually stop funding altogether.

Why does the government have to waste millions of dollars to create some spinoff tech? Fucked if I know; because it is packed with bureaucratic public service morons trying desperately to justify their pay.

Private companies spend their R&D money much more efficiently than the government could ever possibly hope to achieve.
Companies put R&D money into emerging markets with projected consumer demand. While there may conceivably be demand for mapping the human brain, it is speculative at best. What do they hope to achieve? These kinds of airy-fairy projects always have abstract and intangible objectives like "to better understand how the brain works", with no clear practical or market objective from the outset. It's just one of those financial black holes designed to suck in money and without any means to measure success (because of a lack of a clear goal that can even be measured). Medical R&D is normally incremental. Even if the brain mapping project were "successful" (whatever that means) the medical tech industry would have to spend time (probably years) disseminating whatever information comes out of it to make something marketable from it. Government money would be better spent on fiscally responsible programs like debt reduction, and private investment would be better spent on the normal incremental R&D process with clear market objectives from the outset.

Even the moon race was a waste of money measured in terms of return on investment.

Re:my bet (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42938921)

Never underestimate Moon Shots. without the Manhattan project, we probably would have never got the fission reactor, and our knowledge of nuclear technology would not be where it is right now. Without the space program, we wouldn't have satellites, the GPS network, a global communication network, Geospatial imaging, and more goodies then I can fit here. The human Genome project was a fed funded project and it revolutionized Genetics and made gene therapy possible.

The mapping of the Human brain will finally let us understand what makes the human brain tick, which will allow us to do great things with degenerative illnesses, Brain machine interfaces, augmentation, Mental Illness, Artificial Intelligence, and other thinks we can't even fathom yet.

If you seriously think government funded research projects are bad, go back to your Amish colony, and not bother using any technology developed in the last 60 years.

Re:my bet (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42939077)

If you seriously think government funded research projects are bad, go back to your Amish colony, and not bother using any technology developed in the last 60 years.

What. The private sector invests in tech, it's not gov or nothing. How do you conclude "armish" from this?

Gov research is a huge waste of money. Stop taxing coporations to pay for useless gov programs and you'll get plenty of privatly funded research.

Also, Solindra.

Re: my bet (4, Insightful)

cyber-vandal (148830) | about 2 years ago | (#42939187)

You do realise that both the Internet and WWW were created by the evil wasteful government don't you? Do you think it would be anything like as free and open if it had been created by Microsoft or Apple?

Re: my bet (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 2 years ago | (#42942141)

That's rather misleading. There was no government policy to create an open internet. It only happened because a bunch of free-thinkers were given the task, and they had to connect a bunch of heterogeneous systems. If it had been a political issue it would have been subject to all the wasteful influences that we know well. It simply flew under the radar until the government discovered it because internet started to be installed on their computers around 1995. Heck, Al Gore tried to claim credit for the whole shebang.

Re: my bet (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | about 2 years ago | (#42942797)

From your previous post: "government research is a huge waste of money". The Internet and the WWW came from government research and have transformed the world dramatically.

Re:my bet (1)

Mr. Mikey (17567) | about 2 years ago | (#42939843)

If you seriously think government funded research projects are bad, go back to your Amish colony, and not bother using any technology developed in the last 60 years.

What. The private sector invests in tech, it's not gov or nothing. How do you conclude "armish" from this?

Gov research is a huge waste of money. Stop taxing coporations to pay for useless gov programs and you'll get plenty of privatly funded research.

Also, Solindra.

Tell me: which private companies are investing in pure research, where the payoff is unknown and may well be nonexistent?

Re:my bet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42941629)

Xerox/PARC did
Bell Labs does
Broad Institute
Pfizer

Just because companies make money doesn't mean everything that comes out of their labs has a known payoff. Pure R&D might not be the main goal, but it is there and it is funded by the other things they do that do have known payoffs.

Don't be so obtuse.

Re:my bet (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#42942057)

all the companies you quote invest in things with carefully projected payoffs

companies don't invest in things without expected payoffs because shareholders don't like it and if they piss the shareholders off they go broke

just because you don't know what the projected payoff at the time was doesn't mean the companies you list didn't

don't be so ignorant

Re:my bet (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#42942183)

you're a shortsighted and ignorant socialist fool and there is nothing Amish about what i said... unless you think every business owner in the world is Amish

of course without the manhattan project, the moon race etc the tech spinoffs would have eventually been developed with private money if there was projected demand for it... they would have taken longer (we may be still in the age of 80386 processors, or something like it) but the development would have also come at much lower cost.

the manhattan project did speed up the pace of research (throwing more resources at it) but in fact the uranium and plutonium nuclear industry has all but lobbied much cleaner molten salt and thorium reactors out of existence

its not that government funded research doesn't result in anything; the problem is the cost of such spinoffs far outweigh the benefits to the taxpayer (usually the taxpayer pays for spinoff products twice; first as a taxpayer and then as a consumer). if you throw enough money at something of course you can achieve great things, but everything the government spends must be invested on behalf of the tax payer (the government's shareholder). if the US government has over $16 trillion in debt over its head, do you really think rediculous ventures like mapping the human brain are sensible?

when you're holding on by your fingernails you don't go waving your arms around

Re:my bet (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | about 2 years ago | (#42953761)

without the Manhattan project, we probably would have never got the fission reactor

That's utter bullshit as the idea of the reactor predates MP by a decade and working ones by a few years.

I see you act by the Party slogan.

'Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'

Re:my bet (2)

joss (1346) | about 2 years ago | (#42939165)

Good job, never let historical fact mess with your ideology.

The last sentence is a particular peach. Sometimes things are not entirely about money, is that a concept you can grasp? It's hard to compete with that, but I'll try:
The Taj Mahal was a failure measured in terms of return on investment.
The Mona Lisa is pretty pathetic when measured in terms of luminosity per square inch, he should have painted it white.
Faberge eggs are pretty useless as crash helmets for chickens.

Re:my bet (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#42942043)

i'm sure you think your snide comment was intelligent, but you are a dope

Sometimes things are not entirely about money

that's rather obvious by the state of the us government budget... and its the problem i was trying to highlight, because it currently isn't about money but it should be. everything has a cost, and that cost must be justified. there is no such thing as a free lunch, and even seemingly inexpensive endevors have intangible costs.

you're also trying to compare art with scientific/technological R&D, which is just stupid
to some people the mona lisa etc are worthless because it depends on taste in art

don't let the ideology door hit you in the ass on your way out

Re:my bet (3, Funny)

TheInternetGuy (2006682) | about 2 years ago | (#42942341)

Faberge eggs are pretty useless as crash helmets for chickens.

[Citation needed]

Re:my bet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42943217)

Faberge eggs are pretty useless as crash helmets for chickens.

[Citation needed]

You win the internet.

I'm sorry, but you're wrong. (1)

postofreason (1305523) | about 2 years ago | (#42939967)

Companies are, as you say, good at meeting "consumer demand.", but ONLY in the short-term. They are famous for having a 5 year outlook. They don't plan for longer than that because the CEO will be gone by then and won't make any money from profits that come more than 5 years away. Government can, or should be, looking for the long term. The space race is a case in point. The space race caused us to develop many, many, many spinoff that would NEVER have been considered worth developing by a company. The computer chip itself was developed as a by-product of the space race in order to save weight. Up till that time, although they had developed some multi-component chips, they had vever considered inplementing a computer on a chip. That caused home computers, cell-phones, Home video (As CDs, etc.) And that's just the computer chips (that consumers never demanded because they didn't know they COULD exist). There are many other spin-offs that were less earth shattering in scope, but important none the less to the US's bottom line.

Re:I'm sorry, but you're wrong. (2)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#42942031)

i'm sure if we spend a few trillion more dollars we can go to mars and get all sorts of spinoffs from that too

money + R&D will always = spinoffs

the question is, how much money are you willing to spend for said spinoffs?

Re:my bet (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about 2 years ago | (#42942165)

I'm sure elements of the US Government are fully aware of how mapping the human brain and gaining a greater understanding of it would be useful in enhanced interrogation techniques or more accurately the forced answering of questions with the 'desired' (not necessarily the truth) answer both during and post interrogation. Big bucks will be spent by the US government and some of it for bad reasons but some of it also good ie. in terms of creating a healthier human society, the hunt for the psychopath in order to prevent the harm they cause (they are simply to unreliable to be 'trusted' any where) is also on.

Never forget approximately 1% of the human population and approximately 15% of the prison population (think about all those victims that could be prevented) and that includes all the mostly harmless types like drug users in the prison population. There is a powerful drive on for crime prevention, as a result of the truly random nature of who ends up being victims.

Re:my bet (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 2 years ago | (#42942213)

if defense contractors are the "elements of the US government" that you speak of, then i agree
the public servents signing the checks on behalf of the government probably have no idea

Really?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42938041)

"to try and figure out"
Why don't they skip the try part and just figure out?

Re:Really?? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42938115)

The companies will try, contractors will try to try, subcontractors will try to try to try

Re:Really?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42938223)

Do, or do not. There is no figure out.

Re:Really?? (1)

cffrost (885375) | about 2 years ago | (#42938435)

"to try and figure out"
Why don't they skip the try part and just figure out?

This reminds me of a construct I've heard in recent years, "[Let's] see if we can't [what-have-you]."

Which is easily resolved by not even attempting what-have-you.

Ewww! (1, Funny)

srussia (884021) | about 2 years ago | (#42938061)

Decades after the space race pitted the United States against Russia, a new race has emerged: the race to map the human brain.

Money quote: "One small step for (a) man, one giant leap for ... [squish] oops!"

Re:Ewww! (1)

neonmonk (467567) | about 2 years ago | (#42940489)

Not even a little bit funny.

google... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42938069)

google apparently isn't content with their mapping of the internet and of people's lives.. now they want to invade our brains, too.

Re:google... (1)

KGIII (973947) | about 2 years ago | (#42938325)

I wonder if people will troll the "street view" cars of their brain? /might be high

Disease (5, Insightful)

leadacid (1750220) | about 2 years ago | (#42938091)

Why does research always have to be done to cure diseases? Have we stopped doing research just because it would be nice to know this, because we might be able to do things we haven't dreamed of yet? 'Curing disease' is the reporting version of fighting terrorists and stopping kiddy porn - filler because you can't think of anything real to say. Surely understanding how our brains work is one of the most interesting things we can do, isn't that good enough?

Re:Disease (1)

poity (465672) | about 2 years ago | (#42938139)

You're probably healthy, and can have your daydreams. Some people just want to live. I'm going to have to side with their priorities.

Re:Disease (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42939591)

I guess I have to disagree - and maybe I am just an outlier here, but I am not afraid of death at all. What I am very afraid of is living in pain or serious illness. If something kills me in a couple of seconds that is OK, I don't see how I can be afraid of or worry about that. But if it is like cancer where you may live in pain and increasing disability - forget that noise. That is what is scary. Why am I afraid to go base jumping? Not because it might kill me. Instead, I am afraid of base jumping because it might paralyze me and I might live.

Re:Disease (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42941667)

So you're a pussy. Yet, I bet you drive a car. Although if you believed even a little bit any of the pablum you just spouted you'd keep yourself locked in your Mom's basement and never come out! Oh....clever girl...I see what you did there...

Re:Disease (4, Interesting)

javilon (99157) | about 2 years ago | (#42938239)

I am not really sure this is about Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. I think this is about the run up to the singularity. There are many riches and power to be gained by the first country or entity able to reverse engineer the human brain. Now it looks feasible and nobody wants to be out of it.

If it were about health, they would invest the same amount of resources into a cure for circulatory diseases.

Please Help (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42938417)

I'm sorry, but could somebody please FUCK ME RAW?

Because I'm serious, I need to be FUCKED RAW.

I'll buy pizza and cold beer, I just need to be FUCKE RAW.

- Jimmy Wales

Re:Please Help (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42943247)

I'm sorry, but could somebody please FUCK ME RAW?

Because I'm serious, I need to be FUCKED RAW.

I'll buy pizza and cold beer, I just need to be FUCKE RAW.

- Jimmy Wales

If this were the real Jimmy Wales posting this; I'd LOVE to... rawr. Sexy sexy man.

Sadly, it's just a troll.

Unfortunately, this will not lead to true AI (1)

qbitslayer (2567421) | about 2 years ago | (#42938629)

True AI will appear on the world scene decades before these guys finish mapping anything and long before they even begin to understand what they have mapped. You could map a billion cortical columns but, unless you know what it is supposed to do and how it evolves during learning, you understand diddly squat. All you have is a gigantic map with no labels. The best way to understand the brain is by generating multiple hypotheses and principles that we think might lead to intelligence and writing algorithms to simulate biologically plausible models based on those principles. The principles are bound to be very few in number compared to the astronomical number of possible neural configurations that the brain can take during its lifetime or even while it is paying attention to some new patterns in its sensory space. Which of those configurations are we planning to map? The government is to be lauded for embarking on such grand projects but I think that, in this case, our tax money would be better served by taking a more sensible approach. Sorry.

Re:Unfortunately, this will not lead to true AI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42939009)

Even just mapping one human brain will be a useful place to start. We know alot about how which sections of the brain are used for different processes, but we don't know the actual circuit design of the human brain. does it use the equivalent of circuits? does it follow some underlying architecture? Are there logic gates or some system we haven't seen before? how does it reroute around damage? What algorithms are running on head meat? Are there Algorithms in the first place? Is the Brain's processing model strictly Chemical/electrical, or does it have a quantum element included?

This is all basic stuff that we would find very useful, but have no idea how any of this actually works. And it is not nearly as expensive as you think. And the Feds are counting on it adding back to the economy way more then the initial upfront cost. It is responsible use of resources, and something will allow America to be the leader in Artificial Intelligence and Neuroscience.

put that in your reasonable pipe and smoke it.

Re:Unfortunately, this will not lead to true AI (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 2 years ago | (#42939101)

If your "map" includes the rules that govern the evolution that goes on during learning you don't need all that other stuff. You need to understand two things that they believe, one is inarguable (IMO) and the other is highly debatable.

The inarguable proposition is that being able to run a human equivalent brain on computer hardware will provide amazing benefits. It doesn't matter that you don't know how it works, what matters is that you've got a brain running on silicon; silicon that will be twice as fast a year from now and four times faster in two years and 8 in three. Look at it this way. Imagine you could map Intel's entire R&D department into supercomputers that could run them at 2x real time. In a year they could do twice as much work as the actual brains they are designed off of and all the sudden Intel is a year ahead of everyone else in the field. The first thing they're going to upgrade is the supercomputers that run their R&D department meaning that next year they will get 4 years of R&D accomplished. Obviously there are a ton of questions there, and obviously no one at this point is talking about mapping actual brains into the hardware, but that is the essential idea. Once you have a mind, any mind, running on hardware that improves exponentially the exponential curve is going to get even steeper. Even if they had to start with a blank slate and it took 20 years equivalent of run time to produce a productive AI, eventually computing power will catch up and make that 20 years pass fast enough that it is useful.

The second part that they believe is much more questionable. Basically, they think that putting a whole crap ton of neurons together, applying the basic rules that govern how they operate and change over time, will give you a thinking mind. There's some argument to be made that that is the case; after all, the exact layout of everyone neuron in the human brain isn't mapped out a head of time. Heck, there are people who have half their brain removed as an infant that live full, healthy, normal lives. The capacity of the human brain to recover from dramatic injury in early development lends some credence to the idea that there isn't anything much special about the human brain other than it's ratio of neurons to I/O ports.

Re:Disease (1)

merxete (1965396) | about 2 years ago | (#42939829)

Feasible schmeasible. You taking side-bets on it? Understanding the brain will require paradigm shifts of mass proportions, and scientists aren't ready for the truth, especially if the rigid inside-the-box thinking on /. is any indication.

Re:Disease (1)

PoolOfThought (1492445) | about 2 years ago | (#42938265)

Have we stopped doing research just because it would be nice to know this, because we might be able to do things we haven't dreamed of yet?

We who? We the people? Or we me... some dude or private group of people?

For we the people the answer should be obvious. In the middle of budget issues a governement SHOULD need more reason to do something than "because is sounds neat". I the people don't give a shit if Obama or Reagan or Bush or whoever thinks it sounds neat. You want to say you're over budget on everything and start threatening to shut down government and its services, but then at the same time embark on some "for shits and giggles" research then you're obviously not fit for governing. I'm not saying I think these services should exist at all - I just don't want to hear you complaining about not being able to afford them but then getting involved in other pricey projects just because it's neato and all.

However, for we the private group, then if you're self funded you're welcome (hell, encouraged even) to do something because you want to. It's your money, time, resources on the line so do with it what you will. Sure you'll still have to hear from some liberal whiner about how the money for mapping brains could have gone to cleaner cloth grocery bags, or maybe you'll hear from some excessively paranoid gun advocate regarding how you could have bought the whole population of the south an AR15 just to spite the other side, but in the end it's your money. If you want to spend it on satisfying your curiosity then go for it.

That's not the case for the government. They don't have their own money. They do want to continue blaming the other side for shortages. Therefore they need an excuse - old people and kids are GREAT excuses. Curiosity... not so much.

Re:Disease (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42938267)

Do you seriously think that things like stopping child porn are not admirable goals? You seriously need to get some help, you sick fuck. If you can't do that, then just but a hole in yourself and spare everyone else the trouble. Otherwise, you are going to end up in prison getting ass raped by murderers who are still morally superior to you.

Re:Disease (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42938371)

Nope, sorry, that was way too obvious to work. Go back to Reddit and keep practicing. You're not ready to troll here.

Re:Disease (2)

voislav98 (1004117) | about 2 years ago | (#42938471)

It's because it's the only way to get funding to do anything these days. NSF funding has been cut to the bone, but NIH is doing much better. This is why you always try to work a few magic words into your research proposal, like whichever disease is topical at the moment. If you can't, cancer is the old reliably, NIH always funds cancer.

Re:Disease (2)

smi.james.th (1706780) | about 2 years ago | (#42938499)

While academically, I agree with you, but generally there would need to be some point behind it before the research can be funded. Curing disease is potentially such a point.

Re:Disease (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42938597)

Why does research always have to be done to cure diseases? Have we stopped doing research just because it would be nice to know this, because we might be able to do things we haven't dreamed of yet?

It wasn't always this way. There was a time when we DID do stuff that was just cool.

But, then people learned that they could actually make money by being bean counters. And they told the stupid people this (undoubtedly in exchange for money). Fast-forward a few years, and now the universities are churning out bean counting MBAs because it's easier for stupid to make money that way than by being an engineer or scientist.

Then, take the modern investor cloning vats. They're full of second- or third-generation stupid rich people who haven't had to work a day in their lives, having all their riches handed down to them by their predecessors. There are exceptions, but on the whole, there's a whole lot of money tied up in spoiled trust-fund assholes. Now, it's really easy to convince a stupid rich person that a stupid bean counter MBA is required for any endeavor to succeed (after all, they think on the same very very simple wavelength), so if someone who wants to invent something cool wants the money to do it, assuming it's more than what can be afforded by his/her normal wages, that someone will most likely need to hire a few stupid bean counter MBAs to satisfy the stupid rich investors.

But, bean counters count beans. That's what they do, metaphorically. And counting beans quickly atrophies any imagination, hope, joy, or sense of wonder in the brain. Thus, the inventor can't use the very real possibility of amazing inventions and life-changing research to impress the stupid bean counter MBA hired to satisfy the stupid rich investors, and if the MBA is crossed at all, it'll go crying back to the investors, who will then cut funds. The trick the inventor has to do is fool the MBA into thinking there's something quantifiable to the invention. That is, that there's a bean to be counted. It could be a useless buzzword for all the MBA cares. Once THAT'S satisfied, the MBA reports back to the investor that all is well, and money continues to flow.

Thus, the "curing diseases" rationale. Maybe it will cure diseases, maybe it won't. But I can assure you, some stupid bean counter MBA needed that phrasing to feel good about itself.

Re:Disease (2)

sjdaniels (610777) | about 2 years ago | (#42940043)

You honestly think that a Corporation can sell the idea of doing something like research for the sake of research to shareholders?? The fact there are possible patents and heaps of money to be gained from the proposed helping map the brain, would be easier to sell to your shareholders who only care about the bottom line, as opposed to the greater good.

Re:Disease (1)

nmr_andrew (1997772) | about 2 years ago | (#42946659)

Anymore, sadly, no. If they did, the major shareholders would sue the corp for depriving them of their $DEITY guaranteed profits in the form of dividends.

Something like Bell Labs will never again exist.

Re:Disease (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42940633)

Surely understanding how our brains work is one of the most interesting things we can do, isn't that good enough?

You have vastly overestimated the intellectual interests of the average people in the US of A.

Fact is, news articles and headlines are written to grab viewers' attention and interest. And the average American culture is so anti-intellectual, that the average Joe will immediately write-off any news that if it is not immediately obvious how it is related to himself.

Only a minority of American which are considered "not normal" would be interested in understanding things for its own sake, and these minority are constantly being made fun of by the rest of Americans for that.

Brain activity (4, Funny)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 2 years ago | (#42938113)

So I'm guessing the U.S. government and Microsoft are one of the control groups...

I would bet on the Europeans coming first. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42938121)

Anything involving MS would result in studies of how a virus effects the brain...

The results of which would be bloated beyond the ability to compute.

Oink! (1)

Animats (122034) | about 2 years ago | (#42938187)

This sounds like a pork program. When I read about computer companies talking to the Government about there not being "enough compute resources", I think of the various supercomputer boondoggles. Here's the current job list for the Mississippi Supercomputer Center. [olemiss.edu] Look at the CPU and memory usage columns. Most, if not all, of those jobs could be running on a 4-core 64-bit desktop machine. Instead, they're running some 10-year old SGI supercomputers as a batch processing service, free to Mississippi academics.

Envy (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42938207)

This is just a poor copy of the European Union project to model the brain. This is an investment of a milliard euros over some years that has the goal to understand the human brain by building a working simulation of equivalent size in information and complexity terms.

The US will win... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42938301)

it takes much less time to map sheeple brains!

Rather stupid (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42938331)

It's rather stupid to make or even portray this as a "brain race" between countries akin to the cold war space race. Diseases such as Alzheimer's are a serious problem for every society and research into them should involve high levels of cross-border cooperation not a race, least of all a politically driven one.

Then again, almost every president since JFK has tried to mimic his silly call to put men on the moon by the end of the decade. That egotistical race to do quickly what should have been done well is why we haven't returned to the moon is some forty years. As the economy continues to struggle and Obama's popularity slides ever downward, our politicians will try to distract us with races to this and wars against that.

Note, for instace that the NY Times articles mentions: "The initiative, if successful, could provide a lift for the economy." Not so. Having a president that:

1. Knows something about business, particularly small businesses.

2. Doesn't hate every form of capitalism but politician-enriching crony capitalism.

Is a much better answer to our economic woes than falling for political posturing like this.

10 million times more data than DNA (3, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | about 2 years ago | (#42938373)

There are 13 billion bits of information in a human DNA sequence. A brain has a trillion cells of several dozen types that may touch 10,000 other cells. You are talking about a 100 quadrillion edge graph there.

Re:10 million times more data than DNA (5, Informative)

lobiusmoop (305328) | about 2 years ago | (#42938693)

Where do you get 13 billion from? From Human Genome Wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] :

3.3 billion base-pairs recorded at 2 bits per pair would equal 786 megabytes of raw data. This is comparable to a fully data loaded CD.

You seem to be a factor of 2 out.

Re:10 million times more data than DNA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42940449)

Doesn't that make it even harder?

Re:10 million times more data than DNA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42942899)

He's talking about 2 bit per position (4 possible nucleotides). Times 2 because our genome has two copies of every chromosome. So 3.3x4 = 13.2.

So... (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#42938423)

Anybody fancy a guess as to how many (more) brains will be produced by unskilled labor before the first one is simulated?

Re:So... (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 2 years ago | (#42939145)

Well... according to wiki the global birth rate is about 2% of the global population. So 200,000,000 per year... say 10 years... 2 billions? But then, I imagine that at least some of that activity will be skilled. :)

Re:So... (1)

p1esk (1622615) | about 2 years ago | (#42946711)

The first simulated one can be easily replicated. Also, even if there will be no effort to improve it architecturally, it will double its thinking speed every couple of years due to Moore's Law.

People are dumber than they were 1000 years ago. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42938459)

Admit it, half of you beleived the following line of BS.

“Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy — every dollar,” he said.

Sounds like a plan to solve the deficit.
It's like any other braindead plan of congress, wherein you have less money and less freedom than when they started.
But we have a populace insisting on their place in a stall at the slaughterhouse.

Re:People are dumber than they were 1000 years ago (1)

guruevi (827432) | about 2 years ago | (#42939299)

Even if it breaks even or a net loss, it is a way better investment than the billions spent on "defense".

The world is a stage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42938479)

I suppose wasting more than ten years in Great Britain give you at least some answers (obviously, about questions that should not exist). As I told one guy before I was finally kicked out: Why are you the only person I tell I am not the job? I suppose I should have said more accuratelly: Why are you the only person in the cuntry I tell I am not the job?

This reminds me of Alpha Centauri (1)

ddxexex (1664191) | about 2 years ago | (#42938511)

First faction to discover Secrets of the Human Brain gets a free tech!

Stories like this one always make me want to play Alpha Centauri again. It always feels strange how much of the early technology in that game we've already discovered or probably will discover soon.

Re:This reminds me of Alpha Centauri (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#42938805)

Stories like this one always make me want to play Alpha Centauri again.

Me too. Then I do. Then it crashes before I finish my game, if I play anything longer than a medium one.

Google Brain? (1)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#42938541)

And when Apple comes out with their map, iPhone users will all go mad.

Years from now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42938709)

Microsoft will realize their efforts were doomed from the start when they applied Randian philosophy to pick the best brain to study and ended up with Steve Ballmer's.

Re:Years from now (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 2 years ago | (#42939209)

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [to Igor] Now that brain that you gave me. Was it Hans Delbruck's?
Igor: [pause, then] No.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Ah! Very good. Would you mind telling me whose brain I DID put in?
Igor: Then you won't be angry?
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: I will NOT be angry.
Igor: Abby someone.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [pause, then] Abby someone. Abby who?
Igor: Abby... Normal.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [pause, then] Abby Normal?
Igor: I'm almost sure that was the name.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [chuckles, then] Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain 27 zetaflop internet connected supercomputer!?

In all seriousness, there are some real ethical issues that need to be considered before we go around booting up real live functioning consciousnesses inside. We really are creating Frankenstein's monster here, pulling life out of thin air. We need to decide, as a society, just what rights and responsibilities those minds have before we make it easy enough to create a thinking entity that any teenager can do it in his mom's basement with a couple hundred dollars in computer hardware.

Re:Years from now (1)

Hartree (191324) | about 2 years ago | (#42939981)

"Randian philosophy to pick the best brain"

I could kinda see James Randi coming to that same choice.

lumia lead over all linux phones widens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42938733)

There is someting wrong with spamfilter today.
Mods are working overtime
Apple computers are slightly gay.

I bet this race is about patent (5, Insightful)

dinther (738910) | about 2 years ago | (#42938773)

No doubt the processes discovered in the brains inner workings will be patented and I will no longer be allowed to think unless I pay a license fee.

Re:I bet this race is about patent (1)

vik (17857) | about 2 years ago | (#42938953)

My fears exactly.

Re:I bet this race is about patent (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42939563)

Fortunately you're not exercising that capability now, so you're well prepared to save on that fee

Re:I bet this race is about patent (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 2 years ago | (#42943407)

Uh, when the brain's inner workings are figured out, you'll do whatever your robot overlord tells you to do. If the guy who figures it all out is nice you might be allowed to live - unless it is as a pet you won't be of any actual use to him, just like everybody else.

Religion? (5, Insightful)

Nethead (1563) | about 2 years ago | (#42939033)

Could this become a cure for religion? I mean, if we know exactly how the brain works there is going to be a lot fewer gaps for God to hide in.

Re:Religion? (3, Funny)

pacov (512801) | about 2 years ago | (#42939217)

Amen, Brother!

Re:Religion? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42940287)

lol just because something is known doesn't mean the vast majority of America will accept it. *Cough* evolution *cough*. Heck most of them still think hell exists in the middle of the earth, and babies can be conceived without gonads touching...

Re:Religion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42940487)

Personally I would think it would be funny if evolution "selected" for religious belief. That would prove the universe has a sense of humor at least.

In a near future: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42939049)

"U$A patents human brain."

This research is already pretty far along. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42939825)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21487016

Can some patent stuff from the this and make every (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#42940219)

Can some patent stuff from the this and make everyone pay a fee? have some kind of SCO like lawsuits?

Bill G said the labor pool was weak? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42940771)

Mr G rides the opportunistic tide of popularity.... Seems like before the labor pool was inedequate.

http://www.informationweek.com/microsoft-struggles-to-find-skilled-labo/161601274

Now there is money from Uncle Sam and the tune changes.

Maybe the reason no one wants an MS phone is that we are all tired of microsoft technology?

Might as well just keep em in the rear view mirror, and have a retirement party.

Sounds like a crony capitalism (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42940857)

If Europe always has an effort underway, why does the US need to start it's own and only use US businesses? There's a bunch of other budgeting nonsense in the NYT article, which of course doesn't have a link to any published documents.

To what end I wonder (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42940873)

So we are going to map the brain and possibly figure out what causes our problems...but won't that just cause our solutions to become obsolete faster? Will the pace of innovation and inoculation increase to a point where we are going to actually cause our own demise faster? This is almost like attracting meteors to earth so that we can study them after they hit the surface...does anyone see anything wrong with this? I don't know, but it seems to me that we are trying to optimize our species, which is counteractive to resiliency.

What about women (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42941377)

I wonder if they could ever figure out women or will the computers indefinitely crash.

Real Motive (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about 2 years ago | (#42943313)

If the White House is involved, their motive would be more effective means of torture or the direct extraction of memories from the minds of those that are a threat to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. If that seems outlandish, remember the only thing that really prevented 24/7 non-warranted surveillance was not morality nor the rule of law, merely ROI and effective data storage and retrieval.

Related to gun violence? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42946029)

Could some of the new push for the Brain Activity Map project be linked to the recent series of violent acts across the U.S.? Could this be part of a two-pronged approach in response to the recent violent gun acts committed by people with mental disorders in the U.S.:

1) propose new legislation to limit or ban semi-automatic firearms, and
2) invest in research about the brain to identify and understand mental disorders so they can be better treated or cured in the future

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