Organoids – not quantum computers – could be the next big thing in computing, according to researchers from Australia.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University, together with Dr. Brett Kagan, chief scientist at Cortical Labs in Melbourne (pun intended) to create a new kind of computer based on biology.
The team, working together on a biological brain that learned to play pong, revealed how biocomputing devices could improve power-to-power ratios by several orders of magnitude. They have already made small 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 a long way from human brains (80 billion neurons, or 8000 times more). Well, just like with supercomputers and their thousands of GPUs and CPUs, it’s likely that several smaller so-called organoids could be brought together to mimic a larger (mega?) brain.
While silicon-based supercomputers may soon match the raw power of the average human brain (about an exaflop), they may also need the power of a small nuclear power plant to do so. The paper, published in Frontiers in Science (opens in new tab), also highlighted the differences in storage capacity and extensive connectivity between neurons that make the human brain a superior biological computer.
No, not the Matrix again
Interest in organoids as a means of treating disease has increased over the past decade, but very few teams have considered them as building blocks for future computing devices.
The group coined the term “organoid intelligence” (instead of “brainoid intelligence”) to describe the use of brain-related cells in bioinformatics. That’s very different from the brain-computer interface work (Elon Musk’s Neuralink) or even Catalog’s DNA computer, but the work of these Australian scientists underscores the huge gap that exists between silicon-based computing and all that nature has created , consists.
“This new area of biocomputing promises unprecedented advances in computational speed, processing power, data efficiency and storage capacity – all with lower energy requirements,” emphasized Dr. Kagan.
“The particularly exciting aspect of this collaboration is the open and collaborative spirit in which it arose. Bringing these diverse experts together is not only critical to optimizing success, but also provides a crucial touchpoint for industry collaboration.”
The rise of organoids has raised a number of ethical concerns about their use. CNN spoke to several experts (opens in new tab) on the topics of artificial intelligence, consciousness as applied to organoids, and there seems to be a general consensus that brain-organoid systems will one day break the premise of sentience, awareness, and the General’s type might display intelligence normally associated with humans.
“This burgeoning field needs to vigorously tackle the ethical and moral issues that accompany this kind of scientific advance, before technology plunges into the moral abyss,” remarked one of the interviewees.