Research MagazineModelled on Nature. How Machines Learn to Learn

JOHANNES SCHEMMEL

The brain of animals, including humans, is a very special part of nature. Its biological origins date back to the evolution of multicellular life on earth more than a billion years ago. Its future is uncertain, but with the theoretical possibilities of technologies yet to come, its current and future carriers may one day leave earth to settle new worlds throughout the Milky Way.

Scientists are trying to understand the mechanisms that allow our brain to give us so much control over our natural environment. An important step in this endeavour is the replication of some brain functions using computer systems. However, this technology is quickly stretched to its limits, not necessarily because today’s computer systems cannot grasp the complexity of the human brain, but rather because the brain is not a static system since it continuously adapts to its environment.

To address this problem, Heidelberg researchers are developing neuromorphic systems that replicate the structures of the nervous system and allow us to track the brain’s continuous adaptation to its environment – i.e. its learning processes – on a smaller scale.

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RuCa 15 Kapitel III-2

Issue 15 • 2019: ABSOLUT & RELATIV

What is ultimately stronger – nature or culture? What are the ethical and legal considerations around molecular biological tools like the CRISPR/Cas gene editing scissors that allow us to cut, modify, and paste DNA? How did changes in the climate and environment influence sociocultural development in the early phases of human history? Can lifelike material systems be created on the basis of engineering principles? In their presentations, 23 scientists from wide-ranging fields – from medicine, molecular biology, environmental physics, geology, and mathematics to the philosphophy of law, sinology, and mediaeval studies – will address these and other questions.

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Forschungsmagazin Ruperto Carola 15 • 2019 Cover

The Research Magazine

The research magazine "Ruperto Carola" reports on scientific findings and ongoing research projects at Heidelberg University. Each issue of the magazine is dedicated to a socially relevant topic on which Heidelberg researchers present their scientific work across disciplines and subjects. In easy-to-understand language, the authors show the myriad ways in which research is conducted at Heidelberg University.

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