China Develops ‘Darwin’ Neural Processing Unit Using ANN or Artificial Neural Network

The next big revolution in the field of electronics will be led by the Chinese who have developed ‘Darwin’. Darwin is the new age information chip that is capable of running sophisticated, intelligent algorithms on small devices in the era of “Internet of Things”.

Scientists have been able to develop a neural chip that processes the information’s much akin to biological brains, and it could lead to a big revolution in the field of Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things.

ANN or Artificial Neural Network is a data processing system much similar to the principles biological brains and is widely applied in sectors like pattern recognition, processing of signals, decision aid system, and artificial intelligence.

Spiking Neural Network is a type of information or data processing system which works on biologically-inspired ANN and is based on discrete-time spikes. Darwin is the result of the efforts of researchers from Zhejiang University and Hangzhou Dianzi University in Hangzhou, China and it is a Neural Processing Unit (NPU), a neuromorphic hardware co-processor based on Spiking Neural Networks, fabricated by standard CMOS technology. This process is much more efficient than classic ANN and gives a much better performance on power used.

The development of the Neural Processing Unit will be useful in devices that have a resource-constrained, low and embedded power source and it will enable hardware acceleration of intelligent algorithms. The Neural Processing Unit also proves the possibility of developing Spiking Neural Networks in a resource starved embedded system.  Its ability to support flexible configuration of different parameters means that it can be customized for different functionalities as configured by the user.

The authors also explained that using spikes for processing data and transmission in the same way as biological neural networks make it suitable for processing and analyzing neural signals and building brain–computer interface and them interfacing with animal or human brains.


  1. Most folk still seem unable to break free from the traditional science fiction based notions involving individual robots/computers/systems. Either as potential threats, beneficial aids or serious basis for “artificial intelligence”.
    In actuality, the real next cognitive entity quietly self assembles in the background, mostly unrecognized for what it is. And, contrary to our usual conceits, is not stoppable or directly within our control.
    We are very prone to anthropocentric distortions of objective reality. This is perhaps not surprising, for to instead adopt the evidence based viewpoint now afforded by “big science” and “big history” takes us way outside our perceptive comfort zone.
    The fact is that the evolution of the Internet (and, of course, major components such as Google) is actually an autonomous process. The difficulty in convincing people of this “inconvenient truth” seems to stem partly from our natural anthropocentric mind-sets and also the traditional illusion that in some way we are in control of, and distinct from, nature. Contemplation of the observed realities tend to be relegated to the emotional “too hard” bin.
    This evolution is not driven by any individual software company or team of researchers, but rather by the sum of many human requirements, whims and desires to which the current technologies react. Among the more significant motivators are such things as commerce, gaming, social interactions, education and sexual titillation.
    Virtually all interests are catered for and, in toto provide the impetus for the continued evolution of the Internet. Netty is still in her larval stage, but we “workers” scurry round mindlessly engaged in her nurture.
    By relinquishing our usual parochial approach to this issue in favor of the overall evolutionary “big picture” provided by many fields of science, the emergence of a new predominant cognitive entity (from the Internet, rather than individual machines) is seen to be not only feasible but inevitable.
    The separate issue of whether it well be malignant, neutral or benign towards we snoutless apes is less certain, and this particular aspect I have explored elsewhere.
    Stephen Hawking, for instance, is reported to have remarked “Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all,”
    Such statements reflect the narrow-minded approach that is so common-place among those who make public comment on this issue. In reality, as much as it may offend our human conceits, the march of technology and its latest spearhead, the Internet is, and always has been, an autonomous process over which we have very little real control.
    Seemingly unrelated disciplines such as geology, biology and “big history” actually have much to tell us about the machinery of nature (of which technology is necessarily a part) and the kind of outcome that is to be expected from the evolution of the Internet.
    This much broader “systems analysis” approach, freed from the anthropocentric notions usually promoted by the cult of the “Singularity”, provides a more objective vision that is consistent with the pattern of autonomous evolution of technology that is so evident today.
    Very real evidence indicates the rather imminent implementation of the next, (non-biological) phase of the on-going evolutionary “life” process from what we at present call the Internet. It is effectively evolving by a process of self-assembly.
    The “Internet of Things” is proceeding apace and pervading all aspects of our lives. We are increasingly, in a sense, “enslaved” by our PCs, mobile phones, their apps and many other trappings of the increasingly cloudy net. We are already largely dependent upon it for our commerce and industry and there is no turning back. What we perceive as a tool is well on its way to becoming an agent.
    There are at present more than 3 billion Internet users. There are an estimated 10 to 80 billion neurons in the human brain. On this basis for approximation the Internet is even now only one order of magnitude below the human brain and its growth is exponential.
    That is a simplification, of course. For example: Not all users have their own computer. So perhaps we could reduce that, say, tenfold. The number of switching units, transistors, if you wish, contained by all the computers connecting to the Internet and which are more analogous to individual neurons is many orders of magnitude greater than 3 Billion. Then again, this is compensated for to some extent by the fact that neurons do not appear to be binary switching devices but instead can adopt multiple states.
    We see that we must take seriously the possibility that even the present Internet may well be comparable to a human brain in at least raw processing power. And, of course, the all-important degree of interconnection and cross-linking of networks and supply of sensory inputs is also growing exponentially.
    We are witnessing the emergence of a new and predominant cognitive entity that is a logical consequence of the evolutionary continuum that can be traced back at least as far as the formation of the chemical elements in stars.
    This is the main theme of my latest book “The Intricacy Generator: Pushing Chemistry and Geometry Uphill” which is now available as a 336 page illustrated paperback from Amazon, etc.
    Netty, as you may have guessed by now, is the name I choose to identify this emergent non-biological cognitive entity. In the event that we can subdue our natural tendencies to belligerence and form a symbiotic relationship with this new phase of the “life” process then we have the possibility of a bright future.
    If we don’t become aware of these realities and mend our ways, however, then we snout-less apes could indeed be relegated to the historical rubbish bin within a few decades. After all , our infrastructures are becoming increasingly Internet dependent and Netty will only need to “pull the plug” to effect pest eradication.
    So it is to our advantage to try to effect the inclusion of desirable human behaviors in Netty’s psyche. In practice that equates to our species firstly becoming aware of our true place in nature’s machinery and, secondly, making a determined effort to “straighten up and fly right”