The Human Genome project and the project to create a championship chess playing program are among the projects recognized by the UK Computing Research Committee (UKCRC) as so-called Grand Challenge projects. Inspired mainly by the Human Genome Project “the Committee has noted that the progress of a mature branch of science can occasionally be accelerated by the promotion of a Grand Challenge Project.” To achive a Grand Challenge status, a project must meet a certain criteria, including clear goals, broad participation and commitment of resources by the scientific community and a timescale of completion of around 15 years.
The committee is working to start seven new such projects after receiving research proposals for over 100 possible Grand Challenge projects. Of these seven projects, at least four are highly related to Wetware subjects. This article lists the seven projects. In follow up articles, we will take a closer look at each of those four projects and discuss their possible implications.
|Grand Challenge reviews
Here are the individual Wetware related Grand Challenge reviews:
1. IVIS: In Vivo In Silico
This project will attempt to build advanced simulation models, allowing scientists to perform an increasing range of experiments with virtual life forms instead of real life ones.
A-life is already used quite extensively in biology research, but this project aims to go down to the exact development of an organism and individual cell interactions, making these virtual life forms far more realistic, than today’s models.
2. Science for Global Ubiquitous Computing
The academics and scientists behind this project believe that within 20 years computers will be ubiquitous and globally connected and that instead of separate computers, they will be regarded collectively as a single Global Universal Computer (GUC).
One of them, professor Robin Milner of the University of Cambridge says the challenge is to work out who will program the GUC, who will benefit, how will they benefit, and we can trust it.
3. Memories for Life
In 10 to 20 years digital data and images that are unique to us will have grown substantially. This data will include digital pictures, emails, phone numbers and audio recordings.
The project will seek to establish a way in which all this data can be securely stored and searched in a secure environment, from wherever is convenient.
See discussion on a similar project in Wetware report ‘Note to self: Take notes‘.
4. Scalable Ubiquitous Computing Systems
As computers become increasingly networked and the internet proliferates throughout society, organic models add to computing complexity creating a major problem in the future.
‘People are moving far too quickly and building systems with no design rules,’ said Professor Jon Crowcroft from the University of Cambridge. ‘If you have the same vulnerabilities in the internet and you times that by 1,000, the world around us would go wrong in mysterious ways.’
The challenge of the project is to establish design principles working on a ‘build and learn’ principle. Crowcroft says the way computing components draw their power will change and will come directly from the environment around them.
5. Architecture of Brain and Mind
This project aims to find out and simulate how the human brain works! No less. One of the researchers behind it however admits that the 15 year timeframe, set forward in the criteria is a little optimistic.
Researchers want to implement various kinds of abstract mental processes and mechanisms in physical systems, comparable to abstract machines like spellcheckers and email systems.
6. Dependable Systems Evolution
The Code Red virus caused an estimated $4bn of damage. The case for dependable, secure and trustworthy computer systems is obvious.
The researchers ‘see a computer system as dependable if you can justify the reliance we place on it’. The project aims to establish a scientific foundation to build systems where this dependability can be justified, even when it is faced with the most extreme threats.
7. Journeys in Non-Classical Computing
Professor Susan Stepney of the University of York says this project is about drawing on nature for inspiration and building complex computer systems.
‘If you take your immune system, it has to recognize something isn’t right, and if that disease should come back again, it recognizes it even quicker,’ she said.
Working on the basis that biology can operate accurately and safely in an open, changing environment, the project will seek to mimic that with computers.
All seven projects are highly interesting technology projects. Projects 1, 3, 5 and 7 are all directly related to the issues Wetware covers, touching upon subjects like artificial intelligence, brain technologies and biomimicry.
In the next few days Wetware will take a closer look at each of these four projects, what the intentions are, what it will mean if the challenges will be fulfilled and the problems the scientists face in their journeys toward these goals.