Neuromorphic machines are now a reality thanks to
the emergence of the IBM TrueNorth chip and the
University of Manchester SpiNNaker project. SpiNNaker is
a novel computer platform using a massive parallel
computing architecture inspired by the workings of the
human brain. It is designed to help us understand how the
The SpiNNaker machine will be capable of simulating
a billion simple neurons, or millions of neurons with
complex structure and internal dynamics. It will be useful
in neuroscience, robotics, and computer science.
It’s anyone’s guess where this research will lead. Will
it finally solve the greatest question of today, unraveling
the mystery that is the mind? Will it lead to more and
better neuromorphic machines and perhaps to an artificial
neocortex as described in the story presented here?
The question of machine consciousness is still an open
one. Will we be able to distinguish human from machine
consciousness? If you believe the theories discussed in the
story (which, by the way, are real), you might believe that
it’s possible. I’m not so sure.
After reading this story, a friend of mine was puzzled
by this same question. Was Lani Ross a real person or a
neuromorphic machine? A clue early in the story indicated
that an artificial neocortex had been produced by Neuroco
seven years earlier and its disposition unknown. Was this
the basis of a neuromorphic hubot that later became a
bio-scientist, perhaps Lani? Was seven years enough time
for a virgin neocortex to become intelligent and
Lani’s past was unknown except for the fact that she
was an educated scientist and came from a distant place.
So, this leaves open the possibility that Lani came from
another country and was, in fact, an alien. This would
explain why she wanted to become a citizen. However, it
is not clear if all people or entities at that time wishing to
become citizens needed to submit to a consciousness test,
or was it just for neuromorphic machines?
I must confess to possibly leading the reader down
the garden path. I believe that, even in the future,
Only in an illusory fairyland will clever hubots achieve
this wonderment of evolution: consciousness. Still, it
remains an interesting subject for discourse.
My friend suggested that if such a consciousness test
exists, it might be profitably applied to certain humans.
That, however, is a subject for another time. SV
Illustrations courtesy of Burge Vaughn.
 IEEE Spectrum, Special Report, “Can We Copy the
Brain?” June 2017.
George Steber is a retired engineering science professor
living in Wisconsin. He can be reached via email at
firstname.lastname@example.org with “neuron” in the title line, to
avoid Lani’s scrutiny and the spam blocker.
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