Researchers Have Taught An Isolated Group Of Brain Cells To Pay Pong In A Dish

A group of Australian and British academics working in the fields of biomedicine, neurology, and biotechnology proved the incredible potential of the human brain by ‘teaching’ a group of isolated human brain cells to play the video game Pong. The cells just needed 5 minutes to figure out how to play the game.

The researchers write in the paper’s abstract, which is accessible on bioRxiv, a pre-print website for biology research articles that they developed DishBrain, a device that demonstrates natural intelligence by utilizing the neurons’ intrinsic adaptive computation in a structured context.

According to New Scientist, the team developed “mini-brains” comprised of 800,000-1 million living human brain cells in a petri dish, led by researchers at Australian biotechnology startup Cortical Labs. A high-density multielectrode array that analyzed the cells’ activity was used to merge them with in-silico computation. “We think it’s fair to term them cyborg brains,” Brett Kagan, Cortical Labs’ chief scientific officer and the project’s research lead, told New Scientist.

Electric stimulation allows Kagan and his team to teach the neuron network (dubbed “DishBrain” by the researchers). The electric signals inform the DishBrain where the ball is, and the DishBrain figures how to move its “paddle” to hit the ball in just five minutes. The paddle is made up of a network of cells.
Pong is a table tennis–themed arcade sports video game Picture: Wikipedia

According to Cortical Labs, AIs generally take 90 minutes to learn Pong, but this ‘DishBrain’ only took five minutes. However, once both are adequately taught, a good AI will utterly obliterate the cells, according to the researchers.

Even as it is, AIs are already a little insane. Quality aside, they can transform words into lifelike graphics, create Grand Theft Auto, and code just about anything. Tod Howard, the CEO of Bethesda Softworks, wants better AI in games, and the United Nations is advocating for regulation of potentially dangerous AIs. I’m looking forward to seeing what horrifying concoctions DishBrains can conjure in their quest for scary sentience.

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