IBM Releases Brain-Like Computer Chip

Humans have been trying to play gods for centuries but the one area where they have repeatedly failed is replicating the human brain function (outside of Hollywood blockbusters). Now things are set to change with IBM releasing a brain-like computer chip offering 4,096 processor cores, and emulating millions of human neurons and synapses; or more simply put – attempting to copy the building blocks of the human brain.

The SyNAPSE chip was officially unveiled on August 7, 2014 and offers incredible sensory capabilities at unbelievably low power levels (it only consumes 70mW during real-time operation — much less energy than is consumed by traditional chips). The ultimate goal is to simulate 1 trillion synapses using a mere 4kW of energy. A lesser prototype was developed in 2011, and as a result this second generation chip is the result of nearly 10 years of intensive research and development.

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Google’s ‘Balloon powered’ internet

Better connectivity or castles in the sky?

Many of us city dwellers take Wi-Fi for granted but consider that two thirds of South Africans live in rural areas with expensive dial-up connections or often no internet access whatsoever. Fortunately, South Africa is well on its way to becoming a more connected society with undersea fibre optic cables providing high speed connections to Europe and the rest of the world. Yet there are still gaps in coverage especially in remote areas and this is what Google’s Project Loon hopes to redress with their prototype technology that sports the strapline: “balloon-powered internet for all”.

Global Fibre Map

The project uses high-altitude balloons placed in the stratosphere about 20 kms above the earth’s surface to produce an aerial wireless network promising 3G-like internet speeds. Because there are variations in the speed and direction of each layer of wind, Loon will use complex algorithms to assess how the balloons should move to be in the right layer of wind and arrange themselves correctly into an effective communication network.

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Should ISP’s Control Website Access?

Net Neutrality has been dismissed in South Africa as a non-issue recently, however, it is an area of ongoing debate in the rest of the world particularly in the United States. In its simplest form, Net Neutrality works on the principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally by service providers. Internet service providers control the final leg of the internet journey, providing the link between your home or office and the internet, and as such they have the power to control, limit or block access to certain sites or slow internet speeds. Proponents of Net Neutrality claim that service providers can theoretically limit access to competitor’s sites, thus challenging the net’s position as a free and open marketplace.

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