The Blue Brain project, first reported on GoldenSwamp in January 2008, is the subject today of a Wall Street Journal feature: In Search for Intelligence, a Silicon Brain Twitches. The illustration above compares excerpts of Blue Brain’s neural network construction (left) and connections in the internet among science articles from the Map of Science (right).
The left network is thicker because brain connectivity is thicker than the connectivity of ideas about science on the internet. But the same thing is happening in both places: a structure from which idea patterns emerge is present.
Of course, the Blue Brain is not flesh-and-blood. It is a model made of silicon, and yet, as the WSJ reports:
Dubbed Blue Brain, the simulation shows some strange behavior. The artificial “cells” respond to stimuli and suddenly pulse and flash in spooky unison, a pattern that isn’t programmed but emerges spontaneously.
“It’s the neuronal equivalent of a Mexican wave,” says Dr. Markram, referring to what happens when successive clusters of stadium spectators briefly stand and raise their arms, creating a ripple effect. Such synchronized behavior is common in flesh-and-blood brains, where it’s believed to be a basic step necessary for decision making. But when it arises in an artificial system, it’s more surprising.
The implications for this same sort of activity within networks of human knowledge online are a big “Hello” to educators — a Mexican wave, as it were, hailing them to harness the internet for reflecting knowledge to students.