back to article Building bits of brain in the lab will change our minds

In Hollywood, brains in jars mean three things. Mad scientists at work, we are tampering with forces we cannot control, and something monstrous is coming. We are now making brains in jars for real: the mad scientists are at Johns Hopkins University and the forces they are tampering with include video gaming. Yes, there will be …

  1. Richard 12 Silver badge

    Erm, phrasing!

    Human organoids were on the menu.

    Well, the menu at Heston's in 2030...

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Erm, phrasing!

      "Eat the poor"

    2. zuckzuckgo

      To Serve Man

      This may be just the the first chapter in that infamous cookbook.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Erm, phrasing!

      First they created the Impossible Burger then ...

  2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

    Mind boggling

    ...the cerebral organoids in the Johns Hopkins dishes are by neuron count barely one three-millionth of all that.

    That's the bit that's always boggled me since learning a little about this stuff.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mind boggling

      For some reason the words "Florida" and "Texas" come to mind, though..

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Mind boggling

      You can generally make the stem cells turn into a few different things. It's very hard to get the stem cells in the same dish to turn into multiple different things at the same time. So whilst you can make little blobs of neurones, you can't make little blobs of neurones with all the plumbing like glial cells, astrocytes and capillaries required to keep them alive and happy enough to do anything particularly interesting or complex.

  3. Forget It

    That Hideous Strength - CS Lewis Chap 8

    “And you think that some day we shall really find a means of

    keeping the brain alive indefinitely?”

    “We have begun already. The Head himself . . .”

    “Go on,” said Mark. This at last was the real thing. “The Head

    himself has already survived death, and you shall speak to him this


  4. b0llchit Silver badge

    Optimistic future

    Call me when Blade Runner IRL is running in the streets.

    The live film of life performed before a live audience.

  5. Primus Secundus Tertius

    Get rich quick

    This seems to have been stirred up by a recent academic paper, see I was led to that URL by an article ( in The Spectator, a British weekly magazine of news and arts.

    That paper does read like a begging letter for research grants. It says nothing about how early multi-cellular life evolved specialised brain cells, and how their mutual connections became useful control systems. AI/ML, and now OI, all look to me like get rich quick schemes.

  6. Howard Sway Silver badge

    brains in jars actually guard against mad scientists

    They won't guard against the Zuckerbergs, Musks and Bezoses of this world, who'll have 30 ton huge ever growing brains at the centre of the metaverse as soon as they can to profit from them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: brains in jars actually guard against mad scientists

      Ah, but this is how you can tell when such brains (and AI) mature: when they start asking for privacy. Then it's time to be vewwy, vewwy afraid..

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: brains in jars actually guard against mad scientists

      I seem to recall an episode of Blake's 7 like that.

  7. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Brain Power

    It's not hard to imagine that future computers will be specified with the brain power, like cars today use horse power as a reference.

    "This computer here has a brain power of 180 people".

    "How long does it take for it to change a lightbulb?"

    "Well, it will get split in half, then it will have a period infighting, then it will question the concept of lightbulb, then changing a lightbulb will be considered a blasphemy and any brain suggesting it would be quartered or drowned. Then there will be a period of apology and lessons learned. Then it will split again..."

    "So how long?"

    "Mate, I have no idea."


    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Brain Power

      How many AI specialists does it take to change a lightbulb?

      Thought experiments like this are fun. It takes us years to develop this skill. So I buy my MeatBot9000 and.. it just sits there. Unless it comes pre-loaded, I then would need to teach it what a light bulb is. Especially as it's a lamp, not a bulb. Then I might have to teach it not to change the desk lamp into a plant pot. But I might have to teach it about all the different ways a lamp could fit into a lamp holder, how to order the right one from an online store. Then find where the package has been thrown, open it and dispose of the packaging in an environmentally friendly manner. Then I may have to teach it what a step ladder is and how to use it, or not to extend it's proboscis into a lamp holder to see if it's been isolated or not..

      Or I may just send it back for a refund and do it myself.

      1. LionelB Silver badge

        Re: Brain Power

        I already have a MeatBot9000*. In fact I'm his dad.

        *Minus the proboscis upgrade.

        1. zuckzuckgo

          Re: Brain Power

          Me too. But I have never been able to locate the right programming manual.

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

            Re: Brain Power

            Clu-Bi V4.

          2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Brain Power

            Me too. But I have never been able to locate the right programming manual.

            You're not a parent, are you?

            Most of those are already experienced in the challenges and rewards of programming a neural net. Some sadly don't allow me to help, having discovered how easily that can be corrupted.

  8. Lil Endian Silver badge


    They say good authors often imagine the future accurately, are ahead of the game. *ahem*

    Obligatory xkcd :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pong

      Or, for longer term:

      “We are no longer particularly in the business of writing software to perform specific tasks. We now teach the software how to learn, and in the primary bonding process it molds itself around the task to be performed. The feedback loop never really ends, so a tenth year polysentience can be a priceless jewel or a psychotic wreck, but it is the primary bonding–the childhood, if you will–that has the most far-reaching repercussions.”

      From Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, the text for the Digital Sentience upgrade.

  9. aks


    I remember reading somewhere that birds have more efficient brains than mammals.

    Once the scientists start using the compute power of these organoids, they may find it better to use cells from birds rather than humans.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Birdbrains

      Define efficient.

  10. imanidiot Silver badge

    "The scientists are no madder than anyone else who chooses to work in academia these days"

    Hmmm, a phrase involving a comparison to a box of frogs comes to mind. And my experience that the standard for academia seems to be mostly the question of whether they can, never whether they should.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Heaven or hell

    Article: "are carrying on work that's been brewing worldwide or nearly two decades"

    I see visions of brains being grown in vats of beer.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

      Re: Heaven or hell

      Is that a control inhibitor?

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: Heaven or hell

        Neither heaven nor hell really -- just a very limited implementation of the brain. Way back in the '80s Bob Ornstein pointed out the (rather obvious actually) fact that the brain is primarily a body controller. The "mental bit" is very subsidiary to the multiplicity of tasks that keep the physiology running smoothly without us being much aware it's going on. He (quite reasonably) postulated that in the absence of a body to control, the brain would not be very happy working for very long. After all pong would pretty soon get rather boring.

        Nevertheless this is indeed interesting research that may give us better insight into the low level processes of mentation (and even possibly consciousness).

        1. CatWithChainsaw

          Re: Heaven or hell

          I wonder what the maximum life cycle of such organoids can be.

        2. that one in the corner Silver badge

          Re: Heaven or hell

          Ah ha, so you are saying that it is our ethical duty to put these brains-in-jars to work for us?

          And that it'll be in their own self-interest to keep on doing all the tasks like continual aircon optimisation and improving vehicle flow on the roads by controlling traffic lights?

          And nuclear power plant as well?

          Excellent (rubs hands together) - Smithers, bring me my petri dishes.

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