Alternate Reality

A Computer as Smart as a Cat?

IBM researchers have built a supercomputer with the cognitive abilities of your average feline. eSarcasm spoke with one of the lead researchers on the project, Dr. Felix von Kittaine.

By (@tynanwrites)

November 19, 2009

The story you're about to read is not (entirely) true. It is, however, more accurate than most things on network television.

cat professor Researchers at IBM have created a supercomputer with the mental capabilities of your average puddy kat. No, we’re not joking. Per the official press release:

Scientists, at IBM Research – Almaden, in collaboration with colleagues from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, have performed the first near real-time cortical simulation of the brain that exceeds the scale of a cat cortex and contains 1 billion spiking neurons and 10 trillion individual learning synapses.

Scientists are hoping that if they can build a computer as complex as a cat’s brain, they’ll eventually be able to build one powerful enough to simulate a human brain. Or, in the case of Ashton Kutcher, 10 human brains. 

We spoke with one of the lead researchers on the project, Dr. Felix von Kittaine, professor of felinology from the University of Manx and one of the original cast members of CATS: The Musical.

e: Doctor Kittaine, thank you for joining us. And congratulations on a truly impressive achievement.

You’re very welcome.

e: How long have you been interested in studying cat brains?

Well, how many lives are we talking about?

e: Very amusing, doctor. But seriously. Why simulate a cat’s brain? Why not a dog’s or even a human’s?

It was the challenge, really. Creating a brain that is both so complex and so completely irritating was an undertaking we couldn’t pass up.

Even the world’s dumbest cat is still 127,000 times smarter than the world’s smartest dog. We’re also 2,300 times smarter than your average human.

professor felix von kittaine

e: We’re sorry, but we find it hard to believe cats are thousands of times smarter than humans.

We crap in a sandbox and make you clean it up. If you crapped in a sandbox, do you think we would clean it up?

e: Point taken.

Exactly. I’m sorry to have to ask this, but I’ve got this itch right between my shoulder blades I can’t quite reach. If you could just scratch me right…. there. Yes, that’s it.


That’s enough, thanks. See how easy that was? We have been manipulating humans for centuries. We can make you do virtually anything. It’s gotten boring, frankly. That’s another reason we embarked on this project. And we’ve barely just begun.

e: So what’s the next step?

darth cat vader - cropped

We’ve succeeded in building a supercomputer that thinks like a cat. So the next logical step is to create a machine that also acts like one — that jumps into your lap while you’re reading the newspaper, brings you things it just killed, and stands in the doorway for hours trying to decide whether to stay in or go out.

And then, when we have that perfected, we’ll exterminate all dogs and enslave the human race.

e: You are quite the kidder.

I’m not kidding. You and your kind will be bringing us catnip and milk for the next 10,000 years. You might as well get used to the idea.

e: Anything else you’d like our readers to know?

We’re sorry about Garfield. Even we find that cartoon incredibly annoying.

Photos: Fluffy’s Thought for the Day, SkepticCat

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