Spy Agency Plans Human-Like Computer Neurons
A secretive United States intelligence organisation has organised a conference to find firms capable of creating computer algorithms that learn in a similar manner to the human brain.
The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) has announced a so-called Proposers' Day for its Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks (MICrONS) programme.
Describing the project, IARPA said: "The overall and specific goal of the MICrONS program is to create a new generation of machine learning algorithms derived from high-fidelity representations of cortical microcircuits to achieve human-like performance on complex information processing tasks."
IARPA explained that the human brain uses a combination of algorithm "primitives", where neurons communicate in a localised, three-dimensional pattern.
"Today's state-of-the-art algorithms for machine learning take a similar form, but deviate significantly in the details of implementation," it said.
"Presumably, a significant part of the performance gap separating artificial and biological computing today is due to these deviations."
Although science has built up more than a century's worth of neurological data, most relates to knowledge about large-scale behaviour involving millions of neurons - or on a microscale involving single or a few neurons.
The plan is to find business and research companies capable of understanding interactions in between these areas.
"MICrONS seeks to use emerging technologies in high-resolution and high-throughput brain mapping - such as serial electron microscopy and volumetric calcium imaging - to address this gap," the agency said.
The July 17 conference in College Park, Maryland, gives prospective companies time to deliver presentations and slide shows of their existing research.
The Director of National Intelligence is responsible for IARPA, which operates in a cross-agency manner.
IARPA says it is involved in "high-payoff research programmes to tackle some of the most difficult challenges of the agencies and disciplines in the intelligence community".
It undertakes research for more than a dozen organisations, including the Pentagon, the CIA and the National Security Agency.