Monday, August 29, 2011

"How IBM's Cognitive Computer Works":
Here's the basics of how the chip works. What they've been able to achieve right now is a chip with 256 processors (which the team has dubbed "neurons") laid out in an array of rows and columns. The neurons process in parallel, rather than relying on linear structures, and are connected to 1024 axons on the chips by synapses -- which is where the memory is stored. The axons act to either excite or hinder the power going through the synapses to the processors. Depending on the power and information its getting from the axons and synapses, the neuron determines whether its reached its predetermined "threshold potential" -- basically, whether its found a solution to the problem or part of the problem put to it. If it has, it will "spike" -- sending a signal back through the synapse -- and reset itself.

The synapse then has the solution sent from the neuron, while the neuron goes into a state where it's awaiting further information. Now picture all 256 neurons acting at the same time, with their signals modulated by the actions of the synapses and axons, and you can see the potential. All 256 neurons are working in parallel to each other, rather than simply acting on a set of linear instructions...
As author Alex Knapp notes, such an architecture also "fundamentally changes what it means to program. Instead of drafting a set of instructions, the hardware would instead, ideally, be taught what it needs to do."