The past decade’s emerging neural network technology holds promise for a new breed of computers that may surpass conventional computers and even artificial intelligence (Al) technology in computing power and versatility. For solving many problems, scientists have dreamed of machines that work like human brains, and man-made neural networks come surprisingly close. Like the brain, neural networks are taught, not programmed, and, like humans, their responses are sometimes wrong. But in situations where a fast and accurate guess is needed, neural networks have no competition in the organic world.

The most promising neurocomputers are dedicated machines, built from the ground up with silicon neurons and synapses. While the hardware technology is still in its infancy, scientists have had considerable success simulating such machines by running special software on conventional computers.

Although the technology is probably another decade away from finding day-to-day use in laboratory research, simulated neural networks have already...

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