In recent years, researchers have searched for ways to make computers more neuromorphic, or brain-like, in order to perform increasingly complicated tasks with high efficiency. Now Hersam, a Walter P. Murphy Professor of Materials Science and Engineering in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, and his team are bringing the world closer to realizing this goal.
The research team has developed a novel device called a “memtransistor,” which operates much like a neuron by performing both memory and information processing. With combined characteristics of a memristor and transistor, the memtransistor also encompasses multiple terminals that operate more similarly to a neural network.
Typical transistors and Hersam’s previously developed memristor each have three terminals. In their new paper, however, the team realized a seven-terminal device, in which one terminal controls the current among the other six terminals.
“This is even more similar to neurons in the brain,” Hersam said, “because in the brain, we don’t usually have one neuron connected to only one other neuron. Instead, one neuron is connected to multiple other neurons to form a network. Our device structure allows multiple contacts, which is similar to the multiple synapses in neurons.” Paper. (paywall) – Vinod K. Sangwan, Hong-Sub Lee, Hadallia Bergeron, Itamar Balla, Megan E. Beck, Kan-Sheng Chen, Mark C. Hersam. Multi-terminal memtransistors from polycrystalline monolayer molybdenum disulfide. Nature, 2018; 554 (7693): 500 DOI: 10.1038/nature25747 More.
What if they provide all the resources for thinking but nothing independently happens?
In any event, the new development may force people to grapple with what information is, in a way we did not do before.
Our own kairosfocus has written a fair bit on this. See, for example, More on memristors in action — including, crossbar networks and solving linear equation arrays
AI, Memristors and the future (could “conscious” machines lie ahead?) The skinny is, what is an intelligence, what is agency, what is responsible, rational freedom and what can computational substrates do are all up for grabs and that this will get more and more involved as AI systems make it into the economy.