Artificial brains should be understood as an organoid, that is, a three-dimensional accumulation of brain cells derived from modified stem cells. The organoid is not a complete copy of the organ, but may be similar to it. Earlier, we talked about the fact that a human organoid was transplanted into a rat, after which it took root and began to function as part of the brain. This is just one of many experiments confirming that organelles can function like the brain. Now scientists want to go even further. An interdisciplinary team of researchers proposes to transform organoids into a biological computer that can perform complex computational tasks. This area has even been given a name – “organoid intelligence”.
Why do we need a biological computer?
As we discussed earlier, scientists can already connect organoids into organoid networks. However, earlier these possibilities were used exclusively for medical purposes. For example, in the mentioned article, we talked about an organoid network with signs of schizophrenia, which will help scientists better understand the disease and develop new methods of treating it.
In fact, organelles were created for these purposes. They were first grown in 2013 in order to study such a disease as microcephaly. Since then, the organoids have been used to study various common brain diseases, as well as to treat brain damage in rats.
But why do we need a biological computer, because silicon processors are able to cope with computational tasks much more efficiently? On the one hand, it is, but on the other hand, the human brain learns better. According to scientists, organelles contain many cells that the human brain uses to receive information, that is, learning, and its subsequent storage. In their opinion, a biological computer can be indispensable in solving computational problems that require fast learning without a lot of energy.
What is the advantage of the human brain over a computer?
The ability to learn quickly is not the only advantage the human brain has over computers. It also has the unique ability to store large amounts of information. The average capacity of our brain is estimated at 2500 TB. According to some scientists, the human brain remembers much more than we realize. And those memory problems that we experience are actually related to the reproduction of information.
For example, if you read a book and eventually forgot some moments or chapters from it, when you read it again, you will remember what is written in the text. This phenomenon is a confirmation that the brain actually remembers information, but cannot reproduce it.
According to scientists, transistor computers are already reaching their limits, as it becomes difficult to increase the number of transistors in a small chip. The artificial brain, according to scientists, can be scaled and generally has a great potential for computing abilities.
Brain-based biocomputer – is it somewhat real?
How are scientists even going to create a “processor” like the human brain? To create a biocomputer, scientists first adapt bioengineering and machine learning tools to stimulate and record neural activity in brain organelles, according to an article published in Frontiers in Science.
Thanks to this, it will be possible not only to send and receive data from organoids, but also to combine them together, that is, to form complex networks of brain clusters. In this way, it will be possible to increase computing power, as if several brains of individuals were combined into one, more powerful brain.
At present, brain organelles, which are used for medical purposes, contain relatively few cells (about 50 thousand), and therefore their computational capabilities are small. But in order to use organelles for computational purposes, their number will have to be increased to 10 million neurons.
Will such an artificial brain become a superintelligence?
This question certainly interested many from the very beginning of the article. According to scientists, most likely the biocomputer will not have a mind, but surely the organoids will acquire some form of intelligence. This will most likely raise the question of what consciousness is and whether organoids possess it.
Organoids are now known to be able to mimic the oscillatory behavior of the nervous system during cortical development, that is, brain waves from the preterm stage to the period of individual development. Moreover, under anesthesia, these vibrations fade like the human brain.
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Although some scientists are sure that a biocomputer will not have any mind, since even a large cluster of neurons connected together does not make it a mind. Hank Greely compares neurons to a pile of hewn stones that don’t necessarily form Chartres Cathedral, even if there are a lot of them. However, the team plans to involve members of the public and other scientists in their research to assess ethical issues.