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Half-Human, Half-Machine ‘Biocomputers’ Are In Early Development

Half-Human, Half-Machine ‘Biocomputers’ Are In Early Development

Imagine a world where biocomputers are the norm — where computing power and efficiency have been pushed beyond their limits, thanks to the power of human brain cells. Well, that world might not be too far away, according to a new study on “biocomputers” from Johns Hopkins University.

The study explored the potential of biocomputers, which could be created using brain cells taken from human skin samples. Researchers have been experimenting with brain tissue the size of a pen dot, containing neurons and other functions that can learn and memorize. The team envisions constructing a “supercomputer” with these cells that could begin to alleviate the energy-consumption demands of supercomputing, which are becoming increasingly unsustainable.

It’s an exciting prospect, but it’s important to break down the implications of this technology.

One of the key advantages of biocomputers is that they could revolutionize drug testing research for neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegeneration. By comparing brain cells from typically developed donors to those from donors with autism, for example, researchers could better understand changes in neuronal networks that are specific to these conditions.

And beyond the potential applications in drug testing, biocomputers could also help us understand how the human brain  actually works. Because the biocomputer is essentially a biological system, researchers can manipulate it in ways that would not be possible with a living human brain.

Of course, the technology is still in its early stages, and there are many challenges to overcome before biocomputers can become a reality. But experts anticipate the cracking the code on biocomputing could be the key to understanding more of humanity.

“Computing and artificial intelligence have been driving the technology revolution, but they are reaching a ceiling,” said Professor Thomas Hartung, who led the study. “Biocomputing is an enormous effort of compacting computational power and increasing its efficiency to push past our current technological limits.”

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