Wednesday, January 3, 2024

"Cyborg computer with living brain organoid aces machine learning tests"

Thanks, I think, to a friend.

From NewAtlas, December 12:

Cyborg computer with living brain organoid aces machine learning tests 

Scientists have grown a tiny brain-like organoid out of human stem cells, hooked it up to a computer, and demonstrated its potential as a kind of organic machine learning chip, showing it can quickly pick up speech recognition and math predictions.

As incredible as recent advances have been in machine learning, artificial intelligence still lags way behind the human brain in some important ways. For example, the brain happily learns and adapts all day long on an energy budget of about 20 watts, where a comparably powerful artificial neural network needs about 8 million watts to achieve anything remotely comparable.

What's more, the human brain's neural plasticity, its ability to grow new nervous tissue and expand existing connective channels, has granted it an ability to learn from noisy, low-quality data streams, with minimal training and energy expenditure. What AI systems accomplish with brute force and massive energy, the brain achieves with an effortless elegance. It's a credit to the billions of years of high-stakes trial and error that delivered the human brain to the state it's in today, in which it's chiefly used to watch vast numbers of other people dancing while we're on the toilet.

But if the brain's such a powerful learning computer, and all it's doing in our skulls is responding to electrical signals from our senses, why not just wire the dang thing up in a jar and see if it can replace neural machine learning chips? Well, most people need their brains – the rest of you know who you are – but brain cells can be created easily enough out of pluripotent stem cells, in petri dishes, and they have a natural tendency to self-organize and differentiate themselves into useful structures like you'd find in a developing brain.

Hence, we are now living in the era of the biocomputer, a cyborg-esque confusion of silicon and living tissue. In September, we spoke to Cortical Labs, which stunned the world in 2022 by growing 800,000-odd brain cells onto a silicon substrate, and teaching the resulting "DishBrain" computer to play Pong, among other things.

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....


I know people who probably couldn't pass a Turing test.

Previously on this area of endeavor: