A New Age of Computing and the Brain

Polina Golland, Jack Gallant, Greg Hager, Hanspeter Pfister, Christos Papadimitriou, Stefan Schaal, Joshua T. Vogelstein

The history of computer science and brain sciences are intertwined. In his unfinished manuscript "The Computer and the Brain," von Neumann debates whether or not the brain can be thought of as a computing machine and identifies some of the similarities and differences between natural and artificial computation. Turing, in his 1950 article in Mind, argues that computing devices could ultimately emulate intelligence, leading to his proposed Turing test. Herbert Simon predicted in 1957 that most psychological theories would take the form of a computer program. In 1976, David Marr proposed that the function of the visual system could be abstracted and studied at computational and algorithmic levels that did not depend on the underlying physical substrate. In December 2014, a two-day workshop supported by the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) and the National Science Foundation's Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate (NSF CISE) was convened in Washington, DC, with the goal of bringing together computer scientists and brain researchers to explore these new opportunities and connections, and develop a new, modern dialogue between the two research communities. Specifically, our objectives were: 1. To articulate a conceptual framework for research at the interface of brain sciences and computing and to identify key problems in this interface, presented in a way that will attract both CISE and brain researchers into this space. 2. To inform and excite researchers within the CISE research community about brain research opportunities and to identify and explain strategic roles they can play in advancing this initiative. 3. To develop new connections, conversations and collaborations between brain sciences and CISE researchers that will lead to highly relevant and competitive proposals, high-impact research, and influential publications.

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