[ISEA2011] Paper: Maryse Simone de la Giroday – Whose electric brain


Memristors are collapsing the boundaries between humans and machines and ushering in an age where humanistic discourse must grapple with cognitive entanglements. Perceptible only at the level of molecular electronics (nanoelectronics), the memristor was a theoretical concept until 2008. Two different researchers without knowledge of each other had postulated its probable existence respectively in the 1960s and the 1970s. Traditionally in electrical engineering there are resistors, inductors, and capacitors. The new circuit element, the memristor, was postulated to account for anomalies that had been experienced and described in the literature since the 1950s.

Conceptually, a memristor remembers how much and when current has been flowing. In 2008 when it was proved experimentally, engineering control was achieved months later in both digital and analogue formats. The more intriguing of the two formats is the analogue where a memristor is capable of an in-between state similar to certain brain states as opposed to the digital format where it’s either on or off. As some have described it, the memristor is a synapse on a chip making neural computing a reality. In other words, with post-human engineering we will have machines that can think like humans.

The memristor moves us past Jacques Derrida’s notion of undecidability (a cognitive entanglement) as largely theoretical to a world where we confront this reality on a daily basis.

  • Maryse Simone de la Giroday. As an independent scholar, writer, and science communications consultant, I have been following the nanotechnology scene for about five years and writing about it on my blog for the last three years. In addition to nanotechnology I also cover sci/art, new media, and science policy. I have a BA in Communications from Simon Fraser Unversity, Vancouver, Canada and an MA in Creative Writing and New Media from De Montfort University. Leicester, UK. frogheart.ca

Full text (PDF) p. 599-604