DishBrain Is Tech That Could Transform Tomorrow

DishBrain Is Tech That Could Transform Tomorrow

The Gist

  • Groundbreaking fusion. AI & Biology — DishBrain, lab-grown neurons play Pong, reshaping technology.
  • Overcoming forgetting. DishBrain learns continuously, reducing AI’s “catastrophic forgetting.”
  • Pioneering brain-machine interfaces. DishBrain’s potential impact on robotics & automation is immense.

In a groundbreaking venture that fuses the realms of artificial intelligence and synthetic biology, a research team led by Monash University and Cortical Labs has developed DishBrain — a cluster of live, lab-grown brain cells capable of playing the vintage video game, Pong. The team will continue its efforts and has won a $600,000 grant from Australia’s Office of National Intelligence and the Department of Defence National Security Science and Technology Centre, and the work could result in a leap toward programmable biological computing platforms that might reshape technology from self-driving cars to advanced automation.

How does it work? According to Associate Professor Adeel Razi, Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health at Monash University, “DishBrain is a system that uses brain cells, called neurons, grown in the laboratory and planted on a dish with electrodes. The cells respond to electrical signals from the electrodes in the dish. These electrodes both stimulate the cells and record changes in neuronal activity. The stimulation signals and the cellular responses are converted into a visual depiction of the Pong game.”

A black retro Atari pong game, representing the work by DishBrain fusing AI and brain cells.
DishBrain has fused AI with brain cells that can play Pong.atosan on Adobe Stock Photo

Overcoming ‘Catastrophic Forgetting’

In essence, DishBrain leverages hundreds of thousands of human and mouse neurons. But training something like brain cells is quite tricky. Utilizing the free energy principle, researchers stimulated these cells to take on unpredictable challenges — like bouncing a virtual ball in the game Pong — thus learning and adapting to new tasks. The aim of the project is to comprehend the biological mechanisms behind continuous learning and to reduce the “catastrophic forgetting” AI faces when shifting from one task to another.

“This continued and improved learning capacity is the hallmark of human intelligence which current AI systems lack. In DishBrain we plan to use various brain cell types that are suited to continued learning,” said Razi.

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Ethical Considerations of the DishBrain Project: Balancing Progress and Responsibility

The experiment, although ethically sensitive, is not some super intelligence we need to be concerned with. At least not yet. The current Dishbrain system isn’t advanced enough to be of concern but Razi warns, “These technologies will eventually become sophisticated enough to mimic some human-like traits, so plenty of caution is required.”

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