A wetware computer is a new prototype that uses living neurons connected to silicon chips. It is also referred to as an organic or neurocomputer. The prototype is still in its infancy. In 1999, biological engineer William Ditto created a viable wetware computer utilizing leech neurons. The model could perform elementary addition.
The scientific community has become curious about developing fully functional wetware devices as a result of technological advancements. Startups working on the release of their wetware devices include Koniku and Cortical Labs. The idea of wetware computers and their uses will be discussed in this article.
Evolution of Wetware Computers
The fundamental rule guiding the production of computers is Moore's law. It claims that in order to increase efficiency, silicon chips will use a transistor count that doubles every year. However, it is anticipated that Moore's law will come to an end due to size restrictions.
The industry started to concentrate on neurocomputers made with living neurons to get around these constraints. Binary states are used by conventional computers. However, neurocomputers can switch between tens of thousands of states. A computing device's efficiency will increase as a result.
Although the concept is highly unconventional, William Ditto's first successful attempt to build a neurocomputer utilizing leech neurons marks a significant advancement.
In the most recent development, researchers from Cortical Labs showed that human neuron cells can function more effectively than mouse neurons. In 2022, a biological plant and an artificial organic synapse were combined with synthetic organic neurons. The totally biological wetware computer will evolve in the near future thanks to these new developments.
How Does a Wetware Computer Work?
The basic building blocks of our neurological systems are neurons. They have the ability to take in information from the outside world and send it to our brains. They relay the instructions from our brain to other body organs. The information transmitted by neurons allows us to feel touch, sound, or light. The neurons can be excited electrically.
The chemical makeup of the neurons can be changed to switch between thousands of states. They have thousands of channels through which they can reroute electrical pulses. Only binary commands can be used to control a conventional computer. A computer's efficiency will be increased by neurons because they can form and reform new connections.
Living neurons are incorporated into the silicon chip of a wetware computer. The neurons will respond to the commands and carry out their processing more precisely. They are also capable of independent thought. Both hardware and software are combined in a wetware computer.
William Ditto created a prototype employing leech neurons while he was at the Georgia Institute of Technology. It had the ability to perform simple addition. A computer program that reads and interprets electrical pulses from neurons was created by neurobiologist Eve Marder. Wetware computers will become a reality in more ways thanks to recent scientific advancements.
Applications of Wetware Computers
- A better knowledge of brain disorders will be possible due to wetware devices.
- In order to test novel medications and their effects, wetware will be useful.
- Wetware technology will improve the efficacy of genome editing.
- Wetware developments pave the way for additional insights into artificial intelligence.
- The wetware devices will make it easier to comprehend how the brain functions.
- A California-based startup called Koniku created wetware devices that can detect smells and can be used to forecast air quality.
- The wetware devices created by Koniku have more applications in the defense sector.
- The device designed by Koniku can be used to find explosives and toxicity in the air.
- The proposed fungal computer and test results in agriculture demonstrate the extensive uses in soil and environmental testing.
- It will be possible to connect brain organoids with other nerve cells for medical uses.
“Computers themselves, and software yet to be developed, will revolutionize the way we learn.”
— Steve Jobs
Challenges to Wetware Computer
It will take more research and development to create fully operational wetware devices because wetware is still mostly a theoretical concept. Living neurons function autonomously. More research is required before designing a technology that decodes neurons.
Building a machine that follows our commands is challenging since neurons can function independently. Additionally, the wetware might be able to feel pain and have sentience. As a result, their operation as autonomous devices will become chaotic.
According to research, human neurons are more active than those of other living things. Consequently, obtaining human neurons may present privacy concerns. The Chilean government has formed a neurolaw to protect their citizens' free choice and mental privacy.
Economical limitations also endanger wetware because developing practical wetware requires a significant financial and technological investment. The demand for human labor will decrease as machines are able to think and operate for themselves. The fact that unemployment is a problem in many parts of the world will destabilize the labor market. But at the moment this is not a significant obstacle.
Wetware Computers are Going to Transform the World
Wetware is a highly theoretical idea for a computer. To make it a reality, extensive research and work are required. Wetware startups like Koniku are experiencing some initial success. Creating a wetware gadget that is completely functioning, however, is still a long way off.
The world could be changed by a wetware gadget. Humans will benefit from improvements in wetware in the areas of agriculture, defense, and the discovery of novel medicines. Let's use all of our energy to improve the world.
- Sci/ Tech Biological Computer Born. BBC News, June 2, 1999. Accessed December 30, 2022.
- Human Brain Cells in a Dish learn to plan pong faster than an AI. Michael Le Page, New Scientist, 17, December 2021. Accessed December 30, 2022.
- In Vitro Neurons learn and exhibit sentience when embodied in a simulated game world. December 03, 2021. Accessed December 31, 2022.
- The Birth of Wetware. Alissa Greenberg, Neo.Life. Accessed January 02, 2023.
- Towards Fungal Computer. Andrew Adamatzky, National Library of Medicine. October 19, 2018. Accessed January 02, 2023.
- The ethics of cerebral organoid research: Being conscious of Consciousness. National Library of Medicine. September 10, 2019. Accessed January 02, 2023.
- Artificial neurons swaps dopamine with rat brain cells like a real one. Alex Wilkins, New Scientist August 08, 2022. Accessed January 03, 2023.
- High-tech smell sensors aim to sniff out diseases, explosives, and even moods. Daniela Hernandez, The Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2022. Accessed January 04, 2023.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2023 Jagatheesh Aruchami