back to article Now we're building computers from lab-grown brain cells

A new field of research dubbed "organoid intelligence" is emerging as scientists look to build computers from lumps of brain cells grown in a petri dish. These organoids are cultured from stem cells harvested from skin samples, and are tiny lumps of brain cells containing a jumble of neurons. Researchers believe they can store …

  1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    I can see some ethics issues on the horizon...

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Frankenstein: “Whose brain is this?"

      Igor: “Abby someone.”

      Frankenstein: “Abby someone? Abby who?”

      Igor: “Abby Normal. Yes, I am almost sure it was Abby Normal.”

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Abby? How about two?!!

        Only one upvote to give! You have it!!

        Signed Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr

      2. elkster88
        Gimp

        Came to the comments for this reference...

        ... and I was not disappointed.

        Have a jolt from my electrode.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I didn't know Frankenstein could talk? I thought he just grunted and such like.

        1. James Loughner

          The Dr.

          Frankenstein was the doctor and could speak the monster is what the good Dr created. Have you nor read the book or seen any movies?????

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The Dr.

            Of course I have. It's a common misconception for those that haven't. It's also Friday afternoon which by my clock is time for a bit of silliness before we are released for the weekend.

    2. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

      And closing fast, I should think.

      Ethics aside, how does one go about backing up the data you've managed to squirt into these defenceless grey cells? What happens when they inconveniently drop dead? Does your data go with them?

      And if you can back them up somehow, does that mean they could use to the same technique to backup a proper brain?

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        I expect they will be used as trained neural networks, with the input and output being backed up, but not the network itself.

        So you'd have to retrain it (the new organic blob) with the same stimulation to, perhaps, get a new network doing the (almost) same job.

        It does seem to have many drawbacks. But perhaps it can last 80 years or more...

        1. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

          It does seem to have many drawbacks. But perhaps it can last 80 years or more...

          Hopefully not becoming increasingly forgetful. I've managed to stagger over the half century mark, and already I lose my keys, my phone etc on a regular basis!

          1. chivo243 Silver badge
            Windows

            I lose my keys, my phone etc on a regular basis!

            I find that it's someone "that's gone and tidied up, and I can't find anything!" Said Mr. Dolby...

            1. Evil Scot Bronze badge
              Coat

              All my tubes and wires and antiquated notions... I shall leave before I start singing again. -->

              1. chivo243 Silver badge
                Go

                Bom bum bim...

        2. Bartholomew

          Yea, but there is only so fast that you can train an organic brain, and you probably need to give it rest as well. Lets say that the task is driving a taxi, how long would it take to train a brain in a box to drive around the streets of London. And once fully trained, how many hours can it function before it starts to screw up badly. And then there is the whole insurance thing, what happens when a brain in a box crashes the taxi and kills one or more people.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge
            Alert

            brain in a box

            Suddenly had a flashback to Tales Of The Unexpected - 'William and Mary'. I wasn't traumatised by this at all, oh no.

            1. chivo243 Silver badge
              Boffin

              brain in a box?

              Spock's brain!

              1. Dan 55 Silver badge

                Brain and brain, what is brain?

                1. chivo243 Silver badge
                  Thumb Up

                  Nice come back! +1! Remember, it's all "child's play" to reintegrate a brain! Eh Bones!

  2. Filippo Silver badge

    It's easy to win against software neural networks. I wonder how they'd stack up against a neuromorphic chip.

  3. John H Woods Silver badge

    What's going on in their minds?

    I don't understand this. We are biological thinking machines that are increasingly against enslaving other sentient beings. Why would we make sentient beings to enslave?

    Starting to think these people are either dualists, who don't believe we can make conscious machines (because "magic") or completely amoral.

    1. Filippo Silver badge

      Re: What's going on in their minds?

      Or maybe they do believe we could eventually be able to make conscious machines, and they also do believe slavery is extremely immoral and that it would apply in that case, but they just have no reason to believe these organoids are sentient, any more than software NNs are? Isn't that the most likely explanation by far?

      These are neural networks made of neurons, but they are not brains. There are a lot of neural structures all around our bodies, e.g. the structures around our guts that regulate digestion, but nobody would call these things sentient in themselves, any more than any other organ.

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: What's going on in their minds?

        We don't know when sentience "starts" (it's probably a continuum) and there's no indication of anyone trying to set a mass or neuron count limit.

        Perhaps we should think about when we're going to stop before we really get started.

        Portia, the puzzle solving spider, has a pinhead sized brain, in the order of a million neurons. Corvids, probably the most intelligent birds, have brains between 15 and 30g, in the order of a billion neurons. Chimps and Humans have brains in the order of 1kg and 10s of billions of neurons.

        I'd like to stop pre-corvid. I can understand people having different boundaries, but by the time we get to chimp level, I think we have a real moral problem. I also don't see a significant moral difference between carbon based and silicon based, as I'm not a dualist.

        1. Filippo Silver badge

          Re: What's going on in their minds?

          But the thing is, it's not about neuron count. There are plenty of animals with way bigger brains than humans, and they are not smarter by any definition. Or look at LLMs: they're getting to trillions of parameters, but they still can't reasonably be called sentient, and it doesn't look like merely increasing their size is going to get there.

          You're right to say that we don't know when sentience "starts", but it wouldn't be reasonable to call e.g. the enteric nervous system sentient, even though it's bigger than many animals' entire brains. In terms of sentience, we've little reason to think that these organoids are any more sentient than your liver.

          I also don't see why you would assume that the researchers would not immediately stop and rethink everything extremely carefully, if one of these experiments showed any signs of sentience at all. They are not comic book villains. They have exactly the same morals as you do.

      2. Evil Scot Bronze badge
        Joke

        Re: What's going on in their minds?

        Does that mean it will be ethical to experiment on politicians?

        I mean, the output is the same.

        1. ShortLegs

          Re: What's going on in their minds?

          "Does that mean it will be ethical to experiment on politicians?

          I mean, the output is the same."

          'garbage out' regardless of the input?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's going on in their minds?

      You and I are increasingly against enslaving other sentient beings as I'm sure a lot of people are however there is a large contingent who would very much like for slavery to still exist. In fact they are currently working towards it without people realising.

  4. RobThBay

    Sounds like a Dalek.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Angel

      Sounds Like ANGEL One & Two From Earthsearch

      The Angels are organic integrated circuitry (the more sophisticated androids also have organic components, though they don't have freewill).

      1. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Sounds Like ANGEL One & Two From Earthsearch

        pretty sure Angel 1 & 2 did have free will... given what they got up to with the crew.... and their reactions to the crew getting away from them somewhat.

        Have a Friday pint for mention of a book/radio drama that not many have heard of.

    2. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

      Sounds like a Dalek.

      "It's a Dalek! Very primitive, but undeniably a Dalek!"

  5. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Someone else's brain

    How would you call it?

    Cloud is taken...

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Someone else's brain

      Management?

      1. oldstevo

        Re: Someone else's brain

        You're not implying that management have a brain are you?

        Because all the evidence would dispute that!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Someone else's brain

          They do manage to float to the top, so I suspect I know what they are full off.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. spold Silver badge

    Some organs have always seemed to have a mind of their own...

  8. TimMaher Silver badge
    Pint

    Hackers

    Will start using alcohol to break through the defences.

    Icon———> because.

    1. Charlie van Becelaere

      Re: Hackers

      Oh dear, we have a system failure due to cirrhosis of the computer.

  9. Sanguma

    Cordwainer Smith and the semi-sentient ornithopter

    "Birdbrain. Old model. Birdbrain. Good they don't use those any more. The

    thing could have hurt a Man. Now, I'm printed from a mouse, a real mouse

    with lots and lots of brains."

    No matter what it is, it seems someone's thought of it previously.

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