Organoids – no quantum computers – could be the next big thing in computing, if scientists in Australia are to be believed.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, together with Dr Brett Kagan, chief scientist at Cortical Labs in Melbourne, want to create (pun intended) a new kind of computer based on biology.
A team that worked together on a biological brain that learned to play Pong has revealed how biocomputing devices can improve the performance-to-power ratio by several orders of magnitude. They have already produced tiny clusters – which they call organoids – of up to 50,000 human brain cells (grown from stem cells in petri dishes).
Their next goal is a 200-fold improvement (10 million neurons) – which the authors say is the minimum threshold for organoid intelligence – although that would still be far from human brains (80 billion neurons or 8,000 times more). Now, as with supercomputers and thousands of them GPUsi processorBy the 1960s, it is likely that several smaller so-called organoids could be combined to mimic a larger (mega?) brain.
Although based on silicon supercomputers they may soon match the raw output of the average human brain (about one exaflop), they may also require an exit small nuclear power plant do it. Paper – published in Frontiers in Science (opens in a new tab) – also noted differences in memory capacity, as well as extensive cross-linking between neurons, which makes the human brain a superior biological computer.
No, Matrix again
Interest in organoids has grown over the last decade as a means of treating disease, but very few teams have seen them as building blocks of future computing devices.
The group coined the term organoid intelligence (instead of brainiac intelligence) to describe the use of brain-related cells in biocomputers. This is very different from how a brain-computer interface works (Elon Musk’s Neuralink) or even directories DNA computer but the work of these Australian scientists highlights the huge gulf that exists between silicon-based computers and what Nature has produced.
“This new field of biocomputing promises unprecedented advances in computing speed, computing power, data efficiency and storage capabilities – all with lower energy requirements,” noted Dr. Kagan.
“A particularly exciting aspect of this collaboration is the open and collaborative spirit in which it was created. The combination of these different experts is not only essential to optimizing for success, it also provides a critical point of contact for industry collaboration.”
The development of organoids has raised a number of ethical concerns regarding their use. CNN spoke to several experts (opens in a new tab) on artificial intelligence, awareness in relation to organoids, and there seems to be a general consensus that brain organoid systems may one day exhibit the premise of sensitivity, awareness, and the kind of general intelligence usually associated with humans.
“This emerging field needs to be energetic about addressing the ethical and moral issues that come with this kind of scientific advancement, and it needs to do so before the technology falls into the moral abyss.” one of the interviewees noted.