Hirnorganoiden Frankenstein will come
"Can we copy the Brain" - immediately we think of any form of artificial intelligence run on machines. But what about actually creating artificial biological brains? After all, such ideas have been around for a long time. An ethically problematic approach and, as I thought, far from realization - until I came across the article "Consciousness in the Petri dish" by Sara Reardon in the journal "Hirn & Geist" No. 03/2021 p. 45.
In this article the author reports about mini-brains, consisting of complex, tiny cell clusters. Neuronal progenitor cells form neurons that interconnect. The article goes more into detail about the status of several research papers on animal, but also human organoids. For example, the 2017 study by Quadrato, G. et al. called "Cell diversity and network dynamics in photosensing human brain organoids", Nature 545, 2017, published in the journal Nature, in which light-sensitive organoids formed from such cells as those found in the retina. These organoids began to fire when exposed to light and showed this through corresponding EEG signals.
These are amazing results, but they are still far from thinking brain organoids. The whole thing has a considerable ethical dimension, which is also critically discussed in the article.
In my opinion, we need clear regulations here as to what is ethically acceptable and what consequences such systems with brain organoids could have. The cyborgs that are popularly portrayed in science fiction are already greeting us from afar.
Since reading the article, I have been concerned with the question of whether and how such organoids could be used to build cyber-biophysical systems (CBPS) to perform specific tasks. For example, these CBPS could be equipped with artificial organoids capable of sensory perception and processing. Their EEG signals are then processed by the cyber part of the CBPS in order to control corresponding physical action systems or processes.
Conceivable in this context would be the formation of an odor sensor made of artificial organoids derived from the olfactory sensory cells of dogs. The electrical activity of these cells acts as an input variable in the form of spike trains to a spiking neuronal network (SNN) implemented on a neuromorphic chip. The SNN could then, for example, detect corresponding diseases, such as Covid 19 SARS 2 (C19). Or one step further, the organoids are augmented to form a brain organoid. These can then detect C19, as in dogs, in addition to sensory perception. This result is then intelligently processed by the cyber part.
Perhaps the engineering of restricted and specialized brain organoids is a real alternative, for example to the development of a physical-chemical odor sensor, which at best can rival the dog's nose.
It remains exciting!