Computer Engineering Seminar

Building Brains

Steve FurberProfessorUniversity of Manchester

Computer Technology has advanced spectacularly since the first program was executed by the Manchester 'baby' machine on June 21 1948, but if this progress is to be sustained there are major challenges ahead in the area of transistor predictability and reliability and in the exploitation of massively-parallel computing resources. Biology has solved both of these problems, but we don't understand how those solutions function at the level of information processing. Two questions arise from this line of thinking:

Can massively-parallel computers be used to accelerate our understanding of brain function?

Can our growing understanding of brain function point the way to more efficient, fault-tolerant computation?

While these questions remain so far unanswered, they suggest a line of investigation that has been recognized under the Grand Challenge of 'building Brains'.

Steve Furber is the ICL Professor of Computer Engineering in the School of Computer Science at the University of Manchester. He received his B.A. degree in Mathematics in 1974 and his Ph.D. in Aerodynamics in 1980 from the University of Cambridge, England. From 1980 to 1990 he worked in the hardware development group within the R&D department at Acorn Computers Ltd, and was a principal designer of the BBC Microcomputer and the ARM 32-bit RISC microprocessor, both of which earned Acorn Computers a Queen's Award for Technology. Upon moving to the University of Manchester in 1990 he established the Amulet research group which has interests in asynchronous logic design and power-efficient computing, and which merged with the Parallel Architectures and Languages group in 2000 to form the Advanced Processor Technologies group. Steve served as Head of the Department of Computer Science in the Victoria University of Manchester from 2001 up to the merger with UMIST in 2004.

Steve is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the British Computer Society, the Institution of Engineering and Technology and the IEEE, and a Chartered Engineer. In 2003 he was awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering Silver Medal for "an outstanding and demonstrated personal contribution to British engineering, which has led to market exploitation" . In 2004 he became the holder of a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award . In 2007 he was awarded the IET Faraday Medal, " …the most prestigious of the IET Achievement Medals." Steve was awarded a CBE in the 2008 New Year Honours list "for services to computer science"

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