Why does this news report seem a little . . . ominous?
IBM's brain-like supercomputer chips—dubbed its TrueNorth neurocomputer—have been installed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) to explore new ways to ensure the cyber-security and the stewardship of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Sounding eerily like a prelude to Skynet "waking up" in charge of our nukes, IBM and LLNL assure us that its TrueNorth neurocomputer use with our "nation’s nuclear deterrent" does not mean being in charge of the launch codes, but rather being used for simulating the deterioration of our aging nuclear arsenal—currently the most difficult problem for supercomputers to solve worldwide.
. . .
TrueNorth—the semiconductor—is a culmination of IBM's long-road quest to create not just cognitive computing simulations like Watson running on traditional computers, but to harness the latest neural science insight into how the brain works better—and consumes far less power—than the fastest digital supercomputers in the world. Using brain-inspired machine learning on TrueNorth cores, has enabled IBM to pass a major milestone in cognitive computing—with more to come as more-and-more is understood about how the real human brain works.
There's more at the link, including a graphic illustration of how the Truenorth processor works.
This is both exciting and disturbing. It's exciting because such computing power can revolutionize the way scientists work, allowing them to simulate processes that would be extraordinarily dangerous in a physical experiment. On the other hand, it can also make them lazy. I've seen firsthand how scientists and development engineers can make assumptions on the basis of simulations, only to find out (sometimes the hard way) that the real world doesn't conform to their simulation. That can be deadly. I hope and trust the LLNL scientists and IBM have taken that into account.
(I'm also not comforted by reports that IBM, as a company, is in serious difficulties. One hopes the Truenorth processor and the team developing it won't become casualties.)