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Super Computing: New Chips Simulate the Architecture of Human Brains

By Dick Weisinger

A new type of computer chip architecture called neuromorphic computing is beginning to be used that is inspired by the way the human brain works.

Dharmendra Modha, IBM chief scientist for brain-inspired computing, said that “the brain has a very different computational structure.  Our goal was to take Mother Nature’s blueprints and translate them to a computer.”

IBM has developed a neuromorphic computer chip that they’re calling TrueNorth.  Each chip is about the size of a stamp and is packed with one million neurons, 256 million synapses and 4096 parallel cores.  But despite all the circuitry each chip draws only 70 milliwatts of power, or about the amount of power needed to run an iPad.

Michel McCoy, LLNL program director for Weapon Simulation and Computing, said that “the low power consumption of these brain-inspired processors reflects the industry’s desire and a creative approach to reducing power consumption in all components for future systems as we set our sights on exascale computing.”

Jim Brase, LLNL’s deputy associate director for Data Science, said that “neuromorphic computing opens very exciting new possibilities and is consistent with what we see as the future of the high performance computing and simulation at the heart of our national security missions.”

Modha, said of the IBM TrueNorth chip, that “there’s no CPU, there’s no GPU, no hybrid computer that can come within even a couple of orders of magnitude of where we are.  The chip is designed for real-time power efficiency. Nobody else can deliver this in real time at the vast scales we’re talking about… It’s a new machine for a new era. We really think this is a new landmark in the history of brain-inspired computing.”




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