Source: Cortical Labs
The time has come to create a new kind of computer, say researchers from John Hopkins University together with Dr. Brett Kagan, chief scientist at Cortical Labs in Melbourne, who recently led the development of DishBrain project where human cells in a petri dish learned to play Pong.
In an article published today in Frontiers in Sciencethe team outlines how biological computers can outperform today’s electronic computers for certain applications while using a tiny fraction of the electricity required by today’s computers and server farms.
They start by making small clusters of 50,000 brain cells grown from stem cells and known as organoids. It is about one-third the size of a fruit fly brain. They aim for 10 million neurons, which would be equivalent to the number of neurons in a turtle brain. By comparison, the average human brain has more than 80 billion neurons.
The article highlights how the human brain continues to outperform machines for certain tasks. For example, humans can learn to distinguish between two types of objects (such as a dog and a cat) using a few samples, while AI algorithms need many thousands. And while the AI beat the world champion at Go in 2016, it was trained on data from 160,000 games – the equivalent of playing five hours every day for more than 175 years.
Brains are also more energy efficient. Our brains are thought to be capable of storing the equivalent of more than a million times the capacity of an average home computer (2.5 petabytes), using the equivalent of just a few watts of power. US data farms, by contrast, use more than 15,000 megawatts a year, much of it generated by dozens of coal-fired power plants.
In the paper, the authors outline their plan for “organoid intelligence,” or OI, with brain organoids grown in cell culture. Although brain organoids are not “mini-brains,” they share key aspects of brain function and structure. Organoids will need to be expanded dramatically from around 50,000 cells currently.
“For OI, we would have to increase this number to 10 million,” says senior author Prof Thomas Hartung of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Brett and his colleagues at Cortical Labs have already shown that biocomputers based on human brain cells are possible. A recent magazine i Neuron showed that a flat culture of brain cells could learn to play the video game Pong.
“We’ve shown that we can interact with living biological neurons in such a way as to force them to change their activity, leading to something resembling intelligence,” Kagan says of the relatively simple Pong-playing DishBrain.
“Working with the team of amazing people assembled by Professor Hartung and colleagues for this Organoid Intelligence collaboration, Cortical Labs is now trying to replicate this work with brain organoids.”
“I would say that replicating (Cortical Labs’) experiment with organoids already meets the basic definition of OI,” says Thomas.
“From here, it’s just a matter of building the community, tools and technologies to realize OI’s full potential,” he said.
“This new field of biocomputing promises unprecedented advances in computing speed, processing power, data efficiency and storage capacity – all with lower energy requirements,” says Brett. “What is particularly exciting about this collaboration is the open and collaborative spirit in which it was formed. Bringing these diverse experts together is not only critical to optimizing for success, but provides a critical touchpoint for industry collaboration.”
And the technology could also enable researchers to better study personalized brain organoids developed from skin or small blood samples from patients suffering from neural disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and run tests to examine how genetic factors, drugs and toxins affect these conditions.
Note: TH is named inventor on a Johns Hopkins University patent on the production of brain organoids, which is licensed to AxoSim, New Orleans, LA, USA, and receives royalty shares.
TH and LS consult AxoSim. JS is named as an inventor on a University of Luxembourg patent on midbrain organoid production licensed to OrganoTherapeutics SARL, Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg. JS is also co-founder and shareholder of OrganoTherapeutics SARL.
AM co-founded and holds equity interests in TISMOO, a company dedicated to genetic analysis and human brain organogenesis, focusing on therapeutic applications tailored to autism spectrum disorders and other neurological disorders of genetic origin.
The terms of this arrangement have been reviewed and approved by the University of California, San Diego, in accordance with its conflict of interest policies. BK is an inventor on patents for technology related to this paper along with being employed by and owning shares in Cortical Labs Pty Ltd, Melbourne, Australia.
No specific funding or other incentives were provided to participate in this publication.
The remaining authors declare that the study was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be perceived as a potential conflict of interest.
About this artificial intelligence and biocomputing research news
Author: Press office
Source: Cortical Labs
Contact: Press Office – Cortical Labs
Image: The image is in the public domain
Original Research: The results will appear in Frontiers in Science