Using lab grown brain cells to play Pong
Cortical Labs has taken hundreds of thousands of cortical cells from dissected rodent embryo brains, placed them in a dish, and are being taught to play Pong. The brain cells were collected from rodent embryo brains and placed in high-density multielectrode arrays. The real-time electrophysiological activity of defined motor regions was gathered to move the pong paddle. If a successful interception occurred, a predictable stimulus was delivered across all electrodes simultaneously at 100Hz for 10ms (briefly interrupting the regular sensory stimulation). If this activity did not result in an interception of the ball by the paddle, an unpredictable stimulus was delivered (150mV voltage at 5Hz for 4 seconds). This predictable/unpredictable stimulus response is apparently a natural response of brain cells.
Apparently this ‘wetware‘ hybrid approach of using real brain cells with electro-chemical interface exhibited better performance more quickly than current AI methods.
While fascinating and ground breaking I must admit it is also disturbing. It raises some serious ethical questions, especially in countries where scientific ethics differ greatly. To what degree do we want to augment our computational devices with real animal – or even human – brain cells? How could those embryonic brain cells be sourced since it seems to imply the death of the animal/person? What if we could use such devices in our own brains to enhance our own learning powers? And the bigger question: what is the end results/goals – and if we even should be considering these kinds of “wetware” brain cell augmented devices?