Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends
How new technologies are modifying our way of life

jeudi 15 juillet 2004

A California-based company founded in 2003, Artificial Development, is developing neural network cognitive systems and wants to introduce "the first 5th Generation computer to the world." According to, the company recently completed a representation of a functioning human brain. This project, named CCortex, has vast ambitions. The company hopes that their "software may have immediate applications for data mining, network security, search engine technologies and natural language processing." This software runs on a Linux cluster with 1,000 processors and the CCortex system has 20 billion neurons and 20 trillion connections. The company says this is "the first neural system to achieve a level of complexity rivaling that of the mammalian brain."

The CCortex cluster Here is a picture of the CCortex Linux cluster which has 500 nodes for 1,000 processors, 1 terabyte of RAM, and 200 terabytes of storage (Credit: Artificial Development). The company says that "CCortex is up to 10,000 times larger than any previous attempt to replicate, partially or completely, primary characteristics of human intelligence."

Here is the status of the project.

The first CCortex-based Autonomous Cognitive Model ('ACM') computer 'persona,' named 'Kjell' in homage to AI pioneer Alan Turing, was activated last month and is in early testing stages. CCortex, Artificial Development's high-performance, parallel supercomputer, runs the persona simulation.
The ACM is intended as a test-bed for future models and is still incomplete. While the Kjell persona uses a realistic frontal cortex, motor and somatosensory areas, it still lacks the visual and auditory cortex areas, two of the most important cortical structures. Other structures, such as the hippocampus, basal ganglia and thalamic systems, are still being developed and are unable to perform most normal functions.

How does this work?

The ACM interacts with trainers using a text console, reading trainer's input and writing answers back, similar to a conventional 'chat' program. The ACM is being trained with a stimulus-reward learning process, based on classical conditioning rules. It is encouraged to respond to simple text commands, associating previous input with rewarded responses.
The ACM uses the associative cortex to 'evolve' possible antagonistic responses. Large populations of neurons compete for their own associated response until the strongest group overcomes the others. The 'winner' response is then tested and rewarded or deterred, depending on its validity. The ACM takes into account new experiences and uses them to modify the equilibrium between the responses and the strength of the associate neural path. Thus it creates a new neural status quo with more chances to generate accurate responses.

So CCortex is intended to simulate our brains. Yet the company employs only programmers and mathematicians. It has no neuroscientists, even if it plans to recruit some. I wonder if the company can deliver interesting results without having any specialist of the brain on board.

It's also interesting to note that the company was founded -- and funded -- by a man who made money by managing some of the largest ISPs in Spain, an activity very different from studying the brain.

And a final remark: how did the company managed to get such a short domain name, Any clues?

Sources: Artificial Development press release, via, July 14, 2004; Artificial Development website

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