Last year, scientists in Australia grew a colony of 800,000 human brain cells on a computer chip. It took the cluster of cells five minutes to learn to play the old video game Pong.

Now researchers at Australia’s Monash University are merging that “brain on a chip” with artificial intelligence “to create programmable biological computing platforms [that] may eventually surpass the performance of existing, purely silicon-based hardware,” Monash neuroscientist Adeel Razi said in a press announcement.

“The project aims to merge the fields of artificial intelligence and synthetic biology to create programmable cyborg computing chips,” Australia’s National Intelligence and Security Discovery Research Grants Program said when it funded the work.

Unlike humans, today’s AI systems are prone to “catastrophic forgetting”—when learning new skills, old ones can disappear. The new “silicon brain chips” not only don’t forget when learning new things; they also can apply old knowledge to new tasks and challenges.

As an additional benefit, brain chips’ lifelong memory saves computing power and electricity.

Monash has partnered with the Australian company Cortical Labs, the firm that made the Pong-playing brain chip, to advance the research and commercialize the results, which could include improved capabilities in everything from urban planning to drug development.

Bioethicists are part of the research team, Cortical Labs noted.

TRENDPOST: Technology continues to gallop while humans’ ability to grasp and confront its implications moves at a crawl. 

Bioethicists, psychologists, and sociologists would be as valuable to tech development ventures as any programmer or engineer.

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