A large group of scientists and researchers is working to develop the fastest computer known to man which would operate much like the human brain. The Human Brain Project, which launched at a conference in Switzerland, combines the brainpower of 135 science institutions and government entities to create the computer brain. The project will cost about $1.6 billion. The human brain is the most complex machine in existence, so it seems almost natural that technology would want to replicate its powers. The computer in development would be 1,000 times faster than even the fastest ones we use today.
The first phases of the project, which is expected to last about a decade, is meant to better understand the functions of the human brain. Next, the researchers are hoping to grasp how we learn, think, see and hear. The hardware inside a computer reaches performance speeds of one quadrillion operations per second. But Henry Markram, the director of the Human Brain Project, has his sights set even higher. “Well-known manufacturers of supercomputers like IBM, Cray, Intel and Bull are committed to building the first exascale machines by approximately 2020," he said. "So we are confident we will have the machines we need."
These unbelievably fast computers will require new forms of memory and force scientists to develop new storage techniques. The overarching goal of the project is "to piece together our rapidly growing knowledge of the human brain." Simulating the human brain provides insights into the brain's inner workings and where our thoughts and emotions originate. The implications reach beyond technology; such a simulation could help us learn how to heal the human brain, giving us a tangible model of its functions.
The project is still in its initial planning stages. The brain is about as complex as the universe; its three pounds of mass contains a comparable number of neurons as the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy.