Brains and machines: Back to neuromorphic engineering

Screen Grab from EETimes.After some time off to focus on teaching at UCL, in the last couple of years I’ve been starting to write about neuromorphic engineering (and other topics related to intelligent machines) again. This started at the beginning of 2018 when I wrote a case study on photonics in neuromorphic systems for my book on reporting on emerging technologies. Last year I wrote a feature for Nature Electronics delayed special issue on neuromorphic computing (now scheduled to come out this summer) and this year I’ve started writing for EETimes again. I commissioned a special project on the subject for them and have also started writing a regular column on Brains and Machines.

My passion for this subject is greater than ever, and I am working on a book on this subject. More as the work develops.


Video talks on Neuromorphic Engineering

I’m in the process of trying to write a book with Ralph Etienne-Cummings of Johns Hopkins University on neuromorphic engineering. Just at the point where I was supposed to be travelling to lots of conferences for research, Covid-19 happened. Papers are great, but getting the context for work directly from scientists and engineers is always a good way of getting started, so I looked for material to watch online (to create my own virtual conference).

With special thanks to Gert Cauwenberghs, Roxana Alexandru, and Elisabetta Chicca for their suggestions, and to my arms for a couple of days of typing, I’m now able to share with everyone the list of videos I compiled.  Read More …

The Human Advantage: A New Understanding of How Our Brain Became Remarkable, by Suzana Herculano-Houzel

This book was recommended by a colleague who is both a biologist and a neuromorphic engineer, and I was hoping to get from it some insights on how to build a brain. If I hadn’t come to it with this expectation, I think I would have enjoyed it more… because that’s not what it is. It’s the story of how a science writer switched back to being a scientist and and was able to bring a fresh eye to an old subject. Her new perspective, plus years of work and dedication, have led us to a much better understanding of who we are and why.

This book is not about how our brain works, it’s about how our brain has evolved, and should be of interest to any scientifically-literate reader. Read More …

Book launched

It’s been a busy few weeks. The book was launched last Monday at UCL: really appreciated all the enthusiasm of past and present students and colleagues. Also wrote a short piece about why the Theranos scandal could have been avoided if more people had asked the right questions, and a blog post for the Engineering Professors Council on how we can teach students how to do better research. Read More …

Humility, incompetence, education, and the Dunning-Kruger effect

Donald Trump: a great example of how ignorance can warp your perspective of your competence compared to others. Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey via Flickr. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Donald Trump: a great example of how ignorance can warp your perspective of your competence compared to others. Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey via Flickr. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The Dunning-Kruger effect has had a lot of press recently because of Donald Trump. Almost two decades ago, in their very readable paper, Unskilled and Unaware of it: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments,  Cornell psychologists Justin Kruger and David Dunning showed that incompetent people lack the ability to gauge their own incompetence if they have even a tiny amount of knowledge in a particular area. (If I need to explain the connection to Trump at this point, we probably shouldn’t get into a political discussion…) For example, explain Dunning and Kruger, “most people have no trouble identifying their inability to translate Slovenian proverbs, reconstruct an 8-cylinder engine, or diagnose acute disseminated encephalomyelitis.” However, if they think they know anything at all about a domain, even the people with the least ability – after objective testing – think they are above average. Read More …

New paper: Being Analog

IMG_0957I attended the 3rd International Workshop on Optical SuperComputing in Bertinoro, Italy, back in November. I don’t get out so much these days, so I was pretty shocked when a total of 10 people showed up (or was it 11, you’d think I’d remember!) It’s a shame, because there is some interesting stuff going on in this field…

In any case, despite a couple talks delivered remotely, the program turned out to be pretty thin (perhaps not surprising given the attendance). So I offered to give a presentation about my stuff, even though it’s not strictly about optical. The talk, called Being Analog, was well received, so they asked me to write it up as a paper for Springer’s Lecture Notes on Computer Science (which had a deal to do the proceedings). Uploaded it today: so here it is, hot off the presses, if you’re interested.

Photo: The view out of my window from Bertinoro Castle.

Originally posted on Brains and Machines.