Why Build a Virtual Brain? Large-scale Neural Simulations as Test-bed for Artificial Computing Systems


Despite the impressive amount of financial resources invested in carrying out large-scale brain simulations, it is controversial what the payoffs are of pursuing these projects. The present paper argues that in some cases, from designing, building, and running a large-scale neural simulation, scientists acquire useful knowledge about the computational performance of the simulating system, rather than about the neurobiological system represented in the simulation. What this means, why it is not a trivial lesson, and how it advances the literature on the epistemology of computer simulation are the three preoccupations addressed by the paper.

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