In addition to short-term concerns about issues like job losses and the spread of misinformation, artificial intelligence is also coming under increased criticism from those who believe the technology could fundamentally redefine — or even eradicate — humanity.
A new report suggests that Australia’s Office of National Intelligence might be accelerating that process with an investment in research aimed at merging human brain cells with AI.
The intelligence agency and the nation’s Security Discovery Research Grants Program reportedly delivered $600,000 to Monash University and Cortical Labs, where researchers are currently conducting trials.
Adeel Razi, an associate professor at Monash University’s Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, is leading the so-called “DishBrain” project, which is described as a “semi-biological computer chip with some 800,000 human and mouse brain cells lab-grown into its electrodes.”
While such a program clearly opens itself up to moral and ethical questions, Razi defends the research, asserting: “This new technology capability in future may eventually surpass the performance of existing, purely silicon-based hardware.”
He claimed that merging AI and human brain cells could represent the next step in technology by forgoing the need for programming and reducing the amount of memory and energy needed to produce new platforms.
“The outcomes of such research would have significant implications across multiple fields such as, but not limited to, planning, robotics, advanced automation, brain-machine interfaces, and drug discovery, giving Australia a significant strategic advantage,” Razi bragged.
He went on to credit the recent grant for allowing his team to “develop better AI machines that replicate the learning capacity of these biological neural networks,” which “will help us scale up the hardware and methods capacity to the point where they will become a viable replacement for in silico computing.”
Thus far, the research team has reportedly been successful in teaching brain cells to play Pong, the classic Atari video game.
Computer chip with built-in human brain tissue gets military funding
Last year, Monash University scientists created the "DishBrain" a semi-biological computer chip with some 800,000 human and mouse brain cells lab-grown into its electrodes. pic.twitter.com/63CSJWZqIE
— Pat Winston (@timelesspat) July 23, 2023
It is worth noting that the other entities — including the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s venture capital arm — have previously provided funding for Cortical Labs. Earlier this year, the facility secured a total of $10 million in new grant money.