back to article Big Blue to build DARPA cat-brain machine

US military attempts to develop "programmable neuromorphic" electronic artificial mouse- and cat-bonce brain podules have now moved into gear, with IBM scooping a $5m contract award. One need hardly specify that the Pentagon office overseeing the Tom'n'Jerryputer push is DARPA, that reassuring rock of madness in an often …


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  1. Colin Millar

    Wrong spec

    As usual for a Govt operation

    They're actually just after the computing power - or rather the computing methodology

    If they actually replicate a mammalian brain it is likely to have the same problems for them as a mammalian brain (emotion, individual thought process, self-preservation etc)

    Someone should tell DARPA that they have to think outside the box ocassionally

  2. Ian

    'Bonkers bad-boy battle boffins'

    Outstanding. I'll have a pint of whatever Lewis is drinking.

  3. zedee

    Lewis - a tip for you, mate - less caffeine

    "bonkers bad-boy battle boffins"

    Put the coffee down and step away.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    "bonkers bad-boy battle boffins"

    I love el reg.

  5. The Gritter

    Step 0.1

    Before emulating a mouse brain they should try something a little less ambitious, perhaps a brain that starts wars against random countries for randomly generated reasons.

  6. jonathan keith
    Black Helicopters


    ... do I get a job at DARPA?

  7. peter garner

    There's a better solution!

    Why don't they bypass the intelligent life forms and take brains from Messrs Brand and Ross? They're obviously not using them right now and there's no real evidence of prior use..

  8. Alan Fisher

    thinking out of the box

    Or, according, in part to the title...dare they think outside of the box, or in the box...should we open the box to see if they're thinking or merely assume that the thought is dead

    In fact is the thought dead or alive, or both? Maybe they should call it the Schrodinger's Cat Brain and then it can potentially be very clever indeed.....

  9. DutchOven

    Mouse or Cat brain?

    Surely if they want something that's got the brain capacity of a mouse or a cat, they should just ask GW Bush what he's doing after January?

    ...or buy a cat.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    brain specs

    As long as they only develop male-based synapse systems - wouldn't want war systems to randomly through tantrums, get headaches, etc. I can just imagine the argument "yes, but just because I killed them, doesn't mean that I meant to kill them... I meant to kill someone on the other team but what I mean and what I do are completely different" (obviously I've inserted some male logic there).

    Flame on

  11. Luther Blissett

    Out of the box, off the trolley, and time out of mind

    The facts of AI already show the prejudice that will prevent them succeeding here also.

    Tho the brain "thinks", it is not the only place that thought occurs. For example, we've all seen boy racers whose dicks control the throttle. We've seen whole newspapers (Grauniad) catering to people who feel with their skin (same prejudice - different organ). We've seen astronauts who "smell" space, and remember their childhoods. We've seen clinically brain-dead people on hospital tables come back to life and give full and accurate reports on the proceedings in theatre which occurred while their brains were incapable of forming memories.

    What neural networks show, is that once "entrained", they remain prejudiced.

  12. Arthur Silver badge

    60s science fiction

    Anyone familiar with Cordwainer Smith's SF stories from the 60s will remember his starships were controlled by "two c.c's of laminated mouse brain". Why use synthetic substitutes when you can just laminate the real thing?

    [I want both Stop and Go icons because his starships had a Go Captain *and* a Stop Captain.]

  13. The Fuzzy Wotnot
    Thumb Up

    Oh heavens, hardly difficult is it!

    Moggy Brain Rules Draft 1

    ( If it's anything like the fat lazy item living in my house, that purports to be a cat! )

    1. Anyone about? No, then sleep otherwise keep rubbing against owner until food/petting is given.

    2. If food is not forthcoming within 10 mins of meowing and rubbing, fart loudly and very smelly, start licking genitals in full view of everyone, until they give in.

    3. Every 7 days, kill something small and defenceless and leave it in its death throws on the kitchen mat.

    4 Every 6 months, pickup nasty flea infection, but don't notify owner until owner has been scratching for 2 days. Ensure owner panics and has to clean house from top to bottom ( that'll teach them to delay the food/petting! )

  14. David Pollard

    "That would of course include Einstein ..."

    Perhaps they should briefly consider the implications of a bit of top-down design to model Kurt Gödel.

    @ Ian. Me too please.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    A cat, for instance, can jump up onto a fence using only binocular vision...

    So can a one-eyed cat looking the other way - proprioception is a much bigger factor than vision - and in mammals even the latter is highly flawed theory in its infancy.

    What you're describing here is impossible, its not a question of computing power - cognitive neuroscience is years, likely decades, away from the understanding required to model PH's brain let alone a cats.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    bugger ...

    why are all the best jobs at DARPA ?

    If they do create artificial intelligence, then maybe they could get it to run the world capitalist economy, it couldn't do any worse than the current bunch of muppets.

    Of course such a machine would only employ other machines, and might ask you for your boots and motorcycle (Arnie style) , so we'd probably all still be unemployed and thus screwed.

    Paris , well because they will have to emulate her level of processing, just before they get to rodent level.

    Einsteinian level is way off in the future .........

  17. Chris G

    Can you tell me

    How much processing power is required to lick your own arse whilst purring?

  18. Paul
    Black Helicopters

    Entire Range of Mammalian Intelligence

    Presumably that means their ultimate goal is to make it as smart as a human. But why stop there?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    "A cat, for instance, can jump up onto a fence using only binocular vision; a computer able to take stereoscopic vid and accomplish the same feat with four robotic legs would be so heavy as to crush the fence..."

    Come on, Lewis - I expect better. You don't specify the fence! Surely a robotic fence-jumper could safely land on a reinforced cement fence that's 8" thick.

    Now, if you'd said, "picket fence", or "chainlink fence", or "eBay fence", that would have been different.

  20. AllMyFriendsHaveMPD

    Problem is...

    A machine with feline intelligence would ignore everyone, and sleep in the most comfortable spot in the room.

    What's really needed is a machine with canine intelligence - then the police could use it to chase cars.

  21. TeeCee Gold badge

    @Chris G

    Probably not a lot. The clever bit is to lick someone else immediately afterwards and have them like you for it. That takes Machiavellian ingenuity, an empathic appreciation of your target's state of mind and some careful planning to get right.

  22. Dave Bell

    But which cat?

    I have, over the years, had dealings with some cats I would trust to run a laser-wielding battle-droid.

    And, it should be noted, cute pre-teen girls seem to have special talents in cat-handling.

    Has DARPA been bit-torrenting a bit too much of the weirder sort of Japanese animation?

  23. Bad Beaver
    Thumb Up


    now we rule the planet, why not emulate predators whose skills were formed by 25 million years of evolution in impenetrable steel? Make them 25 foot high, will you? While you're at it, be sure to add some frikkin lasers to their heads.

  24. druck Silver badge
    Dead Vulture

    Not quite that big

    "Likewise, a human can drive a car in traffic - and so can a computer, perhaps. But that computer currently weighs more than 200 tons and requires power levels typical of a warship, not a car."

    The ones in the DARPA Urban challenge weren't quite that big, although still no where near as good as a human.

  25. Robajob

    @Jonathon Keith


  26. B Parnell

    Is that Skylab?

    This is the first step in creating skylab!

    When are we going to learn....... PHZzzzzzzz ...

    Oh heck, here comes another T1000


  27. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Not so much "Sky" as "plummet"

    Perhaps you mean "SkyNet"? There's at least one military initiative already in progress* with that very name. Whether the project's naming committee has a sense of irony sufficiently strong to risk professional ridicule or whether they just hadn't seen any Terminator pop-Kulcha moving pichoors is unknown.

    * I think it's a British Army/MoD comms initiative, involving satellites and long endurance UAVs...

  28. Busby

    Think of the Children

    For the love of god why isn't this under ROTM, this is simply the beginning watch as this thing learns and then comes to dislike us what are we unleashing.

    I for one welcome our new Robotic overlords

    gets coat.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @ Lewis Page

    Let me ask you something. Does El Reg give a course on colorful descriptions for DARPA? Cus if they do I need to make a recommendation that you pass said course with flying colors. That was brilliant.

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