Saturday, August 16, 2008

Neurons stuck to a robot

A recent article on New Scientist, 'Rise of the rat-brained robots', describes how professor Kevin Warwick and his team have succeeded to incorporate a living culture of neurons into the simple behaviour of a wheeled robot. These neurons are kept disembodied from it, in an oven, and communicate wirelessly. The goal is to create a model of the brain that might be useful in the treatment of diseases like Alzheimers.

It is interesting how behaviours emerge like neurons firing when they are not stimulated to a certain extent. I am not a neuroscientist, but such findings might be the key to understanding things like human creativity on a neuronal basis; it might be just neurons firing randomly out of 'boredom'. It also provokes many questions, such as how it will feel if you would connect some of your neurons to a body somewhere else in the world. You could literally become a spread out being, as if you transformed from a solid to a gaseous state of being.

I personally can't wait for more of these findings, but at the same time am concerned, since any study does not just generate neutral knowledge; it also invites certain developments more than others. And, as with any research, I would like to see not just stating the obvious goals of such research, but also the wider implications and possible future scenarios. I would certainly like to invite discussions on this, so feel free to comment through this blog.

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