Congratulations to Chris Eliasmith and his team of engineers, psychologists, and philosophers at University of Waterloo. Eliasmith, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Theoretical Neuroscience, has just won the prestigious $250,000 Polanyi Prize for 2015, named in honour of the Nobel prize winning chemist John Polanyi and awarded by NSERC, the major funder for science in Canada. You probably didn’t hear about it. While some of the major media mentioned the award, none even took a stab at explaining why Eliasmith’s work is so utterly revolutionary, why it is ushering in a brave new world of intelligent machines that can think like we do but without our limits, the very thing Stephen Hawking and Bill Joy have been warning us about. Eliasmith’s thinking system, called Spaun, will enable robots to be extremely smart and autonomous, but more to the point, will change human beings forever.
To get the whole story, read my next book Smarts, due out from Debonair[e] Books this spring. As Smarts explains, Eliasmith and his team have created a machine that embodies about two thousand years of philosophy, psychology and engineering, a machine that thinks as humans do. Spaun is the only system made that can equal the performance of average university students on a Raven’s IQ test, and can also mimic the decline of people suffering from two different kinds of cognitive decay. Spaun runs now on a supercomputer, but thanks to a grant from the US Navy, it will soon be reduced to small chips that draw as little power as the human brain. Spaun can already think for very smart robots, but soon it will be insertable into real human brains to augment functions. Spaun, in other words, is about to change everything.
Play Eliasmith's video below to learn more about Spaun. Add Smarts to your reading list for 2015 to discover more world changing innovations and research.