The capacity of the new brain simulator introduced by IBM exceeds the number of neurons and synapses in a cat's brain. The cortical simulator, called C2, recreates roughly 1 billion neurons connected by 10 trillion individual synapses. IEEE Spectrum carries an article on this new research platform titled, IBM Unveils a New Brain Simulator: A big step forward in a project that aims for thinking chips.
“Each neuron in the network is a faithful reproduction of what we now know about neurons,” [Jim Old] says. This in itself is an enormous step forward for neuroscience, but it also allows neuroscientists to do what they have not previously been able to do: rapidly test their own hypotheses on an accurate replica of the brain.
While the introduction of the simulator indicates that computer scientists are on track to build a simulator with the synaptic capacity of the human brain by 2019, it also suggests drawbacks in this approach for building supercomputers with human-level intelligence.
A major problem is power consumption. Dawn is one of the most powerful and power-efficient supercomputers in the world, but it takes 500 seconds for it to simulate 5 seconds of brain activity, and it consumes 1.4 MW. Extrapolating from today’s technology trends, IBM projects that the 2019 human-scale simulation, running in real time, would require a dedicated nuclear power plant.