In Vitro Neurons Learn and Exhibit Sentience
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has long been touted as the next revolution in deep machine learning and the solution to solving mathematical equations that have perplexed mathematicians and physicists for decades. While the computing power of AI is staggering, being able to perform millions, if not billions, of processes per second, AI is still bound by the algorithm’s human input and the boundaries set by the programmer. Organic intelligence and learning processes are at the core of what it is to be human. The ability to learn and synthesize knowledge as well as memorize and consolidate memories into future actions, the essence of sentience, is something AI may or may not ever achieve.
Recently, Australian scientists at Cortical Labs grew hundreds of thousands of cortical neurons on top microelectrode arrays in a petri dish so they could play the retro videogame Pong. The neurons learned to play Pong in 5 minutes compared to AI, which took over 90 minutes to learn to play the same game. The system the scientists created is called “DishBrain,” and was taught to play the single version player of the game. The neurons were trained to know where the ball was using electrical signals sent to either the left or right side of the dish. The neurons would then fire electrical signals to paddle the ball back and forth in relation to where the ball was located on the screen.
Compared to AI, which took 5,000 rallies to learn, the game DishBrain only took 10 to 15 rallies to learn. The scientists have shown for the first time that a monolayer of cortical neuronal cells displays sentient, intelligent, and rationalized behaviors when allowed to self-organize, harnessing the inherent adaptive computational ability of neurons in a structured simulated game-world environment.
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