Henry Markram isn't afraid to make optimistic predictions for his enormous endeavor to map and model the human brain. Noah Hutton isn't afraid to film him doing it. The budding filmmaker has recently released a mini-documentary on the first year of IBM's Bluebrain Project. The BBP is a mammoth undertaking but Markram has repeatedly claimed that his team will finish in a decade. That's a bold claim considering the complexity of interactions that must be understood from the molecular to the intracellular level in order to accurately simulate a brain in a computer. Yet in Hutton's Bluebrain |Year One we see Markram's resolve, as well as some of the work that's already been completed. As the BBP races towards its 10 year deadline, Hutton is on track to record all of its successes and pitfalls in his own 10 year documentary. Which is the bigger endeavor? Check out Bluebrain | Year One below and decide for yourself.
There are reasons to be hopeful that Markram and others in the field will make reasonable progress in modelling the brain by 2020. As he points out in the video, modeling a single neuron used to be a PhD thesis in and of itself. Now, he can create thousands at the push of a button. As Markram mentions, we don't have a complete understanding of how many drugs or diseases affect the brain. Nor do we fully understand the nature of memories. A brain simulator could be profoundly helpful as we care for our aging minds. Those minds have at least a decade to wait before we know if Markram and the BBP will be successful in transforming the field of neurology into a computer problem. It's too early to tell if it will work, but it's not too early to watch them try to do it. Enjoy the film:
[screen capture and video credit: Noah Hutton, Couple 3 Films]