Biological error correction codes generate fault-tolerant neural networks

It has been an open question in deep learning if fault-tolerant computation is possible: can arbitrarily reliable computation be achieved using only unreliable neurons? In the grid cells of the mammalian cortex, analog error correction codes have been observed to protect states against neural spiking noise, but their role in information processing is unclear. Here, we use these biological codes to show that a universal fault-tolerant neural network can be achieved if the faultiness of each neuron lies below a sharp threshold; moreover, we find that noisy biological neurons fall below this threshold. The discovery of a phase transition from faulty to fault-tolerant neural computation suggests a mechanism for reliable computation in the cortex and opens a path towards understanding noisy analog systems relevant to artificial intelligence and neuromorphic computing.

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