Frighteningly real artificial intelligence has eluded us so far, but a secretive tech firm with big-name backers has its eyes on the prize: a computer that replicates the human brain.

Anything You Can Do, Robots Can Do Better: Photos

Vicarious FPC, which according to the Wall Street Journal’s Reed Albergotti has not disclosed its address or any details about its technology, received $40 million in funding from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla and Space X CEO Elon Musk and actor Ashton Kutcher. Vicarious wants to create a computer version of the human neocortex — essentially the brain’s center for sensory perception, motor commands, language and math.

Succeed and “you have a computer that thinks like a person,” Vicarious cofounder Scott Phoenix told the Wall Street Journal. “Except it doesn’t have to eat or sleep.” Although Facebook has face recognition tech, this goes well beyond that — these guys hope to build a sophisticated artificial intelligence system that can understand shapes, objects and textures.

Investing in artificial intelligence might seem counterintuitive when Zuckerberg’s primary business relies so heavily on humans. But’s Denver Nicks pointed out that such technology could help process all that data Facebook users share. (A Zuckerberg rep told the WSJ that his investment is personal and doesn’t reflect Facebook’s interest.)

Immortality for Humans by 2045

Scott Phoenix wants their artificially intelligent computers to perform jobs that employ most human beings, Albergotti reported. Vicarious, indeed. This might be how the plot for “The Social Network 2: Rise of the Machines” begins.

Image Credit: Ronny Restrepo, Flickr Creative Commons.