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Monday, January 1, 2024

Cyborg computer with living brain organoid aces machine learning tests

Loz Blain
New Atlas
Originally posted 12 DEC 23

Here are two excerpts:

Now, Indiana University researchers have taken a slightly different approach by growing a brain "organoid" and mounting that on a silicon chip. The difference might seem academic, but by allowing the stem cells to self-organize into a three-dimensional structure, the researchers hypothesized that the resulting organoid might be significantly smarter, that the neurons might exhibit more "complexity, connectivity, neuroplasticity and neurogenesis" if they were allowed to arrange themselves more like the way they normally do.

So they grew themselves a little brain ball organoid, less than a nanometer in diameter, and they mounted it on a high-density multi-electrode array – a chip that's able to send electrical signals into the brain organoid, as well as reading electrical signals that come out due to neural activity.

They called it "Brainoware" – which they probably meant as something adjacent to hardware and software, but which sounds far too close to "BrainAware" for my sensitive tastes, and evokes the perpetual nightmare of one of these things becoming fully sentient and understanding its fate.


And finally, much like the team at Cortical Labs, this team really has no clear idea what to do about the ethics of creating micro-brains out of human neurons and wiring them into living cyborg computers. “As the sophistication of these organoid systems increases, it is critical for the community to examine the myriad of neuroethical issues that surround biocomputing systems incorporating human neural tissue," wrote the team. "It may be decades before general biocomputing systems can be created, but this research is likely to generate foundational insights into the mechanisms of learning, neural development and the cognitive implications of neurodegenerative diseases."

Here is my summary:

There is a new type of computer chip that uses living brain cells. The brain cells are grown from human stem cells and are organized into a ball-like structure called an organoid. The organoid is mounted on a chip that can send electrical signals to the brain cells and read the electrical signals that the brain cells produce. The researchers found that the organoid could learn to perform tasks such as speech recognition and math prediction much faster than traditional computers. They believe that this new type of computer chip could have many applications, such as in artificial intelligence and medical research. However, there are also some ethical concerns about using living brain cells in computers.