Sunday, 19 July 2009


While listening to This Week In Tech (TWIT, you'll get the paradox by reading below) I listened to an interesting discussion on an idea that could make artificial intelligence and useful robots a reality. Imagine computers that could become sociopathic! We could replace all the CEO's out there and save billions in salaries and bonuses alone. Anyway read on for my version of the story . .

In 1869 Dmitri Mendeleev noticed four gaps in the periodic table. They turned out to be the undiscovered elements scandium, gallium, technetium and germanium.

In 1971, Leon Chua an electronics engineer was fascinated by the fact that electronics had no rigorous mathematical foundation.

There are (apparently) four basic quantities that define an electronic circuit, electric charge, the change in that charge over time (current), magnetic fields (magnetic flux or the field's strength) and that magnetic flux variability over time (voltage). Four interconnected things, mathematics says, can be related in six ways. Chua found something missing, a fourth basic circuit element besides the standard trio of resistor, capacitor and inductor. Chua dubbed it the "memristor". The only problem was that as far as Chua or anyone else could see, memristors did not actually exist.

So charge and current, and magnetic flux and voltage, are connected through their definitions. That's two. Three more associations correspond to the three traditional circuit elements. A resistor is any device that, when you pass current through it, creates a voltage. For a given voltage a capacitor will store a certain amount of charge. Pass a current through an inductor, and you create a magnetic flux. That makes five. Something is missing?

This missing 'something' Chua calculated, was the memristor that would behave like a resistor but could "remember" what current had flowed through it before. Memristors may be able to mimic how the brain's neurons interact. The best previous hope for creating an artificial brain, neural networks are simply software running on standard computing hardware. What Chua was aiming for is actually a change in architecture. Read more . . ? See the original article in New Scientist where you can read for yourself. Enjoy.

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