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A Computer Component that Mimics the Brain


What if artificial intelligence changed the way we think of our own, human condition? An electrical component devised by Joshua Yang, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst may well provide the answer. Yang and his team created a memristor. This is a composite of silver nanoparticle clusters embedded in a silicon oxynitride film compressed between two electrodes. In plain language, this computing part is “the most faithful emulation yet” of connections among neurons in the human brain. It mimics how electricity, or calcium ions, behave at the junction, or synapse, between two neurons. Such a computer would mimic the brain’s enormous computing power and efficiency. There, an AI device like that  – for it would be nothing else – would possibly be capable of responses like those our brains articulate. We can therefore assume that it could also respond like a human in terms of decisions and perceptions. That would bring us closer to Alan Turing’s prophecy that computers one day would have feelings and preferences, like those random tastes we have. Would that therefore mean that our feelings, that universe that has given us poems and art, love and pain, Shakespeare and Borges, are just the sum of chemical connections and reactions?

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