Does a brain in a dish have moral rights?

Inventors of brain-cell-based computer work with international team of ethicists exploring ethical applications of bio-computing

No longer limited to the realm of science fiction, bio-computing is here, so now is the time to start considering how to research and apply this technology responsibly, an international group of experts says.

The inventors of DishBrain have partnered with bioethicists and medical researchers to map such a framework to help define and address the problem in a paper published in Biotechnology Advances.

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Brain cells living on the edge

DishBrain reveals how human neurons work together to process information

Living model of brain could give insights into the mechanisms of how we understand and experience the world

A paper published in Nature Communications shows that when neurons are given information  about the changing world around them (task-related sensory input) it changes how they behave, putting them on edge so that tiny inputs can then set off ‘avalanches’ of brain activity, supporting a theory known as the critical brain hypothesis.

The researchers, from Cortical Labs and The University of Melbourne, used DishBrain – a collection of 800,000 human neural cells learning to play Pong.

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Real AI will need biology: computers powered by human brain cells

The future of computing includes biology, says an international team of scientists.

Brain organoid.

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 development of the DishBrain project, in which human cells in a petri dish learnt to play Pong.

In an article published today in Frontiers in Science, the team outlines how biological computers could surpass today’s electronic computers for certain applications while using a small fraction of the electricity required by today’s computers and server farms.

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Human brain cells in a dish learn to play Pong

Live biological neurons show more about how a brain works than AI ever will

A Melbourne-led team has for the first time shown that 800,000 brain cells living in a dish can perform goal-directed tasks – in this case the simple tennis-like computer game, Pong. The results of the study are published today in the journal Neuron.

Now they are going to find out what happens when their DishBrain is affected by medicines and alcohol.

“We have shown we can interact with living biological neurons in such a way that compels them to modify their activity, leading to something that resembles intelligence,” says lead author Dr Brett Kagan, who is Chief Scientific Officer of biotech start-up Cortical Labs, dedicated to building a new generation of biological computer chips. His co-authors are affiliated with Monash University, RMIT University, University College London and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

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