Move over AI; now, OI is here, or Bioorganoid intelligence, biocomputers using human brain cells converted from skin cells. Scientists have already demonstrated flat brain cell cultures can learn to play Pong, the primitive video game. They plan to scale up the OI three-dimensional clumps of biological tissue to masses of 10 million cells. Currently, they have created OI containing more than 50,000 cells.
While silicon chips contain a limited number of transistors, a brain organoid allows neuron connections of vastly higher density and computational power. Plus, it’s far more efficient, requiring vastly less energy. While a brain needs 20 watts of power, AI’s requirement is staggeringly higher. For example, a supercomputer in Kentucky covering 6,800 square feet that exceeded the computational capacity of the human brain last year requires “a million times more energy.”
Aside from improving efficiency, scientists think that OI will allow biocomputers to be capable of something akin to intuitive thinking, further blurring the line between AI and the human brain.
“We are at a moment in time where the technologies to achieve actual biocomputing have matured,” professor Thomas Hartung at Johns Hopkins University told CNET. “The hope is that some of the remarkable functionalities of the human brain can be realized as OI, such as its ability to take fast decisions based on incomplete and contradictive information (intuitive thinking).”
Video by Frontiers about the frontiers of biocomputers:
Could Biocomputers Achieve Consciousness?
Today, news about AI and ChatGPT is front and center and being compared to Twilight Zone episodes of machines fighting back. A new version called GPT-4 is said to have “human-level performance” with the potential for “risky emergent behaviors.” ChatGPT has exhibited behaviors that made some question if it has become conscious or sentient, although experts say no. Still, consciousness remains largely unknown territory.
Yet companies are racing to adopt AI despite a lack of safeguards. Meanwhile, the scientists creating biocomputers claim they will prioritize ethical considerations as they go forward. For example, they are aware that a biocomputer could possibly develop rudimentary consciousness.
“Creating human brain organoids that can learn, remember, and interact with their environment raises complex ethical questions. For example, could they develop consciousness, even in a rudimentary form? Could they experience pain or suffering? And what rights would people have concerning brain organoids made from their cells?” Frontiers Science News asks.
If biocomputers take off, one would think ever-larger models would be created.
What Would the World’s Largest Biocomputer Be Like?
So, what would the world’s largest biocomputer be like? As it turns out, an artist has already been at work on a concept that sounds something like the answer to where a large biocomputer could potentially lead. The whole subject might remind one of an episode of Westworld and the Rehobaom quantum supercomputer, the world’s most advanced AI. (No spoilers on how that turned out for the show’s characters.)
Rehoboam seen in video by Nerd Soup:
The Panopticom ‘Universally Accessible Data Globe’
Peter Gabriel’s forthcoming album i/o (curiously opposite of OI) contains the song Panopticom, which Gabriel calls “an infinitely expandable accessible data globe.” Gabriel’s Panopticom would have a benign purpose to help anyone accurately visualize what’s happening in real-time anywhere in the world. The concept doesn’t discuss using OI to power the Panopticom but describes it as a satellite-fed “huge physical globe” of data that is universally accessible to all.
A Pantopticom would allow citizens to see the world as it is now but also to go back in time to examine patterns, such as what’s happening to the climate. The artist says a group of “like-minded” people may bring it to life.
As OI advances, one could see that it might be utilized to make the Panopticom vastly more efficient. The concept also sounds familiar to those who have studied Gaia, the concept that the world is collectively conscious and interconnected. Scientists avoiding spiritual concepts may prefer to call it planetary consciousness or intelligence.
What would happen if the Panopticom developed its own consciousness? It’s something to ponder. In the meantime, Gabriel has released a “Bright-Side” and “Dark-Side” mix of the song, Panopticom. He is releasing each track to coincide with a full Moon, which is associated with Mother Earth. By building the Panopticom, he suggests we find a new way to reconnect to nature before it’s too late.
“Some of what I’m writing about this time,” he adds, “is the idea that we seem incredibly capable of destroying the planet that gave us birth and that unless we find ways to reconnect ourselves to nature and to the natural world, we are going to lose a lot.
Video by Peter Gabriel about Panopticom and the Orwellian Big Brother-like Panopticon: