Professor Markram believes that if his ‘Blue Brain’ project is successful, it will render vivisection obsolete
His words staggered the erudite audience gathered at a technology conference in Oxford last summer.
Professor Henry Markram, a doctor-turned-computer engineer, announced that his team would create the world’s first artificial conscious and intelligent mind by 2018.
And that is exactly what he is doing.
On the shore of Lake Geneva, this brilliant, eccentric scientist is building an artificial mind. A Swiss – it could only be Swiss – precision- engineered mind, made of silicon, gold and copper.
The end result will be a creature, if we can call it that, which its maker believes within a decade may be able to think, feel and even fall in love. …
What Markram’s project amounts to is an audacious attempt to build a computerised copy of a brain – starting with a rat’s brain, then progressing to a human brain – inside one of the world’s most powerful computers.
This, it is hoped, will bring into being a sentient mind that will be able to think, reason, express will, lay down memories and perhaps even experience love, anger, sadness, pain and joy.
‘We will do it by 2018,’ says the professor confidently. ‘We need a lot of money, but I am getting it. There are few scientists in the world with the resources I have at my disposal.’
There is, inevitably, scepticism. But even Markram’s critics mostly accept that he is on to something and, most importantly, that he has the money.
Tens of millions of euros are flooding into his laboratory at the Brain Mind Institute at the Ecole Polytechnique in Lausanne – paymasters include the Swiss government, the EU and private backers, including the computer giant IBM. Artificial minds are, it seems, big business.
The human brain is the most complex object in the universe. But Markram insists that the latest supercomputers will soon have its measure.