Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

5 Futuristic Trends in Supercomputing

        Tech | Future Tech

The Artificial Brain

Let's talk about what happens in 2025 to 2030, when supercomputers are able to map the human brain [source: Shuey]. A scientist at Syracuse University estimated in 1996 that our brains have a memory capacity somewhere between one and 10 terabytes, probably around three [source: MOAH]. Of course, this wasn't a hugely useful comparison, since our brains don't work the same way computers do. But within the next 20 years, computers should be able to work the way our brains do!

In the same way supercomputers are already useful in mapping and affecting the human genome, producing solutions and predicting inherited medical issues and predilections, accurate models of the human brain will mean huge leaps in diagnosis, treatments, and our understanding of the complexities of human thought and emotion. In conjunction with imaging technology, doctors would be able to pinpoint trouble areas, simulate different forms of treatment, and even get to the root of many questions that have plagued us from the beginning of time. Implantable and graftable chips and other technology could help monitor and even shift levels of serotonin and other brain chemicals related to mood disorders, while major brain malfunctions and injuries could simply be reversed.

Beyond the medical advances this technology will help us reach, there's also the little matter of artificial intelligence (AI). While mid-performance computing power already gives us some powerful AI -- not to mention the intelligent systems already recommending customized selections of television, movies, books on AI algorithms, or the hours we spend chatting with Siri and similar virtual-intelligence programs -- a human-like level of "mental" complexity means applications for true AI. Imagine a Web MD that actually responds like a doctor, bringing expert-levels of attention to the questions you ask. And then, expand that concept beyond medical concerns, to virtual experts, explaining anything you need to know in a comfortable, conversational environment.