Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
AI Science Technology

An Organic Computer Using Four Wired-Together Rat Brains 190

Jason Koebler writes: The brains of four rats have been interconnected to create a "Brainet" capable of completing computational tasks better than any one of the rats would have been able to on its own. Explains Duke University's Dr. Miguel Nicolelis: "Recently, we proposed that Brainets, i.e. networks formed by multiple animal brains, cooperating and exchanging information in real time through direct brain-to-brain interfaces, could provide the core of a new type of computing device: an organic computer. Here, we describe the first experimental demonstration of such a Brainet, built by interconnecting four adult rat brains."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

An Organic Computer Using Four Wired-Together Rat Brains

Comments Filter:
  • by random coward ( 527722 ) on Thursday July 09, 2015 @05:25PM (#50078073)
    Really! What could possibly go wrong?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 09, 2015 @05:26PM (#50078077)

    id make a comment about mice being input devices but this is just rediculos

  • Ethics? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Anyone?

    • Why do you expect from scientists what politicians and economists dumped ages ago? Get with the times!

      • Well at least they didn't use human brains. Although I expect I should add Yet to the statement....
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by blue trane ( 110704 )

          Experiments should require the informed consent of all subjects. Until we can communicate with rats, we should not use them in experiments. Get informed consent from humans. If you can't, then do a non-destructive experiment, a simulation. Do not use live creatures without their consent.

          • Re:Ethics? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Thursday July 09, 2015 @05:57PM (#50078273)
            I take it you won't be using any antibiotics or other medication anytime soon then. No one seemed to ask those poor bacteria or viruses if they consented. If you have an issue with that, why is your arbitrary line that covers rats any better than the one I've suggested?
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by alexgieg ( 948359 )

              The line the OP suggested isn't arbitrary, it's pretty objective. Beings with a nervous system and a brain suffer more than beings with just a nervous system, which in turn suffer more than being with mere nociception, which in turn suffer something, compared to being with none of those, who suffer nothing.

              Not harming being who can feel excruciating pain would cause our scientific research to stop? No, it'd just advance at a slight slower speed.

              So, why then do we harm them? For most people, because we can.

              • by Anonymous Coward

                If I use your own logic against you: Without communicating with lifeforms who do not have a brain, how do you know they suffer less?

                • There's no channel through which nociception can travel.

                  • There's no channel through which nociception can travel.

                    You don't know what any being, or any thing, feels or thinks.
                    In fact, you don't know that anything other than yourself feels or thinks.
                    There is no physical explanation for the manifestation of consciousness.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by alvinrod ( 889928 )
                Suffering is rather subjective and considering that the outcome of a lot of research is the death of the subject, does it matter much whether it was a rat or a paramecium? Neither appear to have shown any sapience so pain is a useless metric unless someone is testing pain responses.

                Let's turn the question around and ask how much suffering would you be willing to inflict to rats if it would yield a cure for cancer? Can you contemplate or measure the reduction in suffering that would reduce to humanity? Wh
                • Re:Ethics? (Score:4, Interesting)

                  by alexgieg ( 948359 ) <alexgieg@gmail.com> on Thursday July 09, 2015 @07:44PM (#50078891) Homepage

                  The problem with this line of reasoning is that it assumes a linear progression in research, when by all measures it seems to be exponential.

                  From a certain perspective this might seem like the argument works against my point, because the earlier we do something would mean its result would be multiplied by orders of magnitude later on. However, that'd be a stochastic reasoning, because there's a point at which the result was achieved. Therefore, the distinction is between a linear delay vs. an exponential growth.

                  In other words, if we wait 50 years because we don't want to cause excessive suffering to animals, the trillions of human beings in our future light cone would most probably "feel" it as a delay of seconds, if that much.

                  IMHO then, reasoning from the perspective of extremely future benefits isn't useful. At most, only the near future is actually affected. And even that might be just a minor delay, since computation and simulated models are themselves advanced so much that in a few years they'll outpace anything doable by directly manipulating living beings.

                • I'm fine with the use of animals in medical research as long as the animals are properly cared for, the minimal number are used, the minimal procedure is used, ethical reviews have been undertaken, the appropriate animals are used, their suffering is minimize, and only when there is absolutely no alternative available. (There's probably a couple more but that's just off the top of my head.) I don't want animal research used for cosmetics, toxicity, or for things just because we can do them. This definite

          • You must hate that plants feel pain and just playing the sound of a caterpillar eating a leaf causes them to react defensively. Look it up.
          • Look! The rat brain computer has learned to post on Slashdot!

        • Using consenting humans would be far more ethical than using non-consenting animals.

        • by quenda ( 644621 )

          Well at least they didn't use human brains. Although I expect I should add Yet to the statement....

          You could study rare naturally occurring two-headed humans, with two brains connected at the spine (so one CNS).
          They are able to coordinate surprisingly well.
          Unfortunately, all anybody seems to care about is their sex life, which is scientifically dull.
          (Except for the original Siamese Twins who had 22 kids between them, so must have been doing something extraordinary.)

    • Re:Ethics? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Duhavid ( 677874 ) on Thursday July 09, 2015 @05:35PM (#50078147)

      Anyfour.

      Humor aside,there are serious ethical issues here.

      If an alien race as much above us as we are above rats were to come here and began to use Humans in like manner, how would we react/feel/moralize?

      • Well maybe they could also put our brains into a kind of simulation, so that we didn't know that they were using us in this way. Like we could be sitting in little pods, wired up to drive their computing power, while we think we're walking around in the world, living our lives. In that case, we wouldn't feel anything about it.

        That is, we wouldn't feel anything about it until Keanu Reeves liberates us using magic kung fu.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gurps_npc ( 621217 )
        What makes you think aliens aren't doing it already? If they are doing it, we wouldn't care. Because we couldn't notice - anymore than the rats do. Those rats will definitely do a lot better than the rats that I called the exterminator on last week.

        The main problem with your argument is that you are granting greater capabilities to the rats than they have. I'm not talking about hypothetical souls, I'm talking about comprehensive power. The rats are not smart enough to understand any of what we are

        • by Duhavid ( 677874 )

          "What makes you think aliens aren't doing it already?"

          A La the Matrix? Perhaps.

          "If they are doing it, we wouldn't care."

          Once we knew, we would care.

          "Because we couldn't notice - anymore than the rats do."

          They don't? How do you know?

          "Those rats will definitely do a lot better than the rats that I called the exterminator on last week."

          Not necessarily. Are they confused, frightened, in pain? Dead might be better.

          "The main problem with your argument is that you are granting greater capabilities to the rats

      • Re:Ethics? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Krishnoid ( 984597 ) on Thursday July 09, 2015 @06:38PM (#50078481) Journal

        If an alien race as much above us as we are above rats were to come here and began to use Humans in like manner, how would we react/feel/moralize?

        Well, there's one way to find out -- keep wiring rat brains together until they become smarter than us, give them instructions on human testing, and see what they come up with and how we feel about it.

        Get your paws off me, you damn dirty multirat!

      • Right now there is a rat infestation in my yard and house. I don't have any ethical issues with getting rid of them by any manner possible. We tried live traps and got one. Next it is going to be lethal traps and poisons and I am beyond caring about whether the lethal traps are painless or not. So ethically, what's the diff between these lab rats and my pests? Just a rhetorical question, as intuitively it seems there is a difference but I can't figure out what it is.

        • by LesFerg ( 452838 )

          I put a trap in my ceiling space to conquer a rat invasion. The first strike was within hours, but the next one I never heard and a few days later when I got up there to check it, there was a scattering of chewed bone pieces around the trap, none larger than a centimetre, and not a trace of anything else, not even fur.
          So where is their ethics cut-off, and how to we measure ours against theirs?

          Still, I would rather NOT be part of a project which uses coercion (torture?) such as depriving a bunch of rats of

        • by Duhavid ( 677874 )

          I understand your dilemma.

          I think that part of the difference is
          A, the harm they can do to you
          B, the inability to have cooperation with them.

          If you could negotiate with them ( stay away from the house, I'll refrain from killing you, maybe spend part of the money saved on traps and poisons on some food, left away from the house periodically ), maybe you would. I would. But, we cant. So, what are our alternatives? Kill them, drive them away, or put up with the damage they do,

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The human race, in overwhelming majority, accepts the killing and/or use of animals for various purposes. We do this because they can't fight back. We are apex predators.

      Should aliens come and do the same to us, c'est la vie. You win some, you lose some.

      Consistency is the primary virtue of ethics. If you're unhappy with that, perhaps you should re-examine your position and admit to yourself that you don't really hold a given position. Hypocrisy is a primary evil.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    All hair our new four-brained overlords!

  • imagine a Beowulf cluster of these...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    .. Welcome our new RatNet overlord.

  • Mod article (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Thursday July 09, 2015 @05:30PM (#50078109)

    +1, Creepy

    • There's a special place in hell for those who torture small mammals; it likely resembles the inside of Richard Gere's ass.

  • Welcome our cute and fuzzy, already pretty intelligent long-tail enabled distributed multiprocessing overlords.

  • Rat-Borg of Nine (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Thursday July 09, 2015 @05:36PM (#50078155) Homepage Journal

    Isn't this how the Borg operate? Collective thought working towards a single goal. Interconnected minds sharing problem solving, which is how they quickly adapt.

    I for one welcome our new rat overlords....

    • I never thought about it quite like that before, but it makes me wonder: If the Borg operate by using biological brains as processing units, does the nature of the brains have any impact on the outcome of the processing? Like if the Borg assimilated a race with very different brains, might their presence in the collective affect the decisions made by the collective? Could you flood the collective with so many pacifists that the Borg become peaceful?

      I guess it applies in real life, to this rat experiment.

      • by dissy ( 172727 )

        Going off of TV episodes, some books, and the borg documentary, the borg queen has said on a few occasions that certain species are put to certain tasks to be most efficient.

        The Klingons were assimilated for physical strength requiring tasks, not brain/CPU power.

        The Voth however were assimilated for their technology (roughly equal to the borg) and their brain power, and used mainly to advance the borgs theoretical physics and such.
        The Voth also had transwarp technology independently developed, and while it

        • Don't apologize for a nerdy post. You're responding to a message on Slashdot where someone's talking about Star Trek. It's a little off topic, but who cares? I started it.

          I didn't know all of that, since I just watched the series and have not read the books. Mainly, what struck me was an idea that I only mentioned for a second, which was the idea of giving a poison pill to the Borg. That's essentially what they did when they taught individuality to Hugh, which was successful in disrupting the Borg. H

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Read "Destination Void" by Frank Herbert to see some ways this could go haywire.

  • by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Thursday July 09, 2015 @05:57PM (#50078275) Journal

    How long will it take someone to port Doom on them/it? I'm sure nothing would go wrong with that.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Thursday July 09, 2015 @06:10PM (#50078357)

    is as dumb as ALL of us. Now the wisdom of crowds can generate tulip manias faster than *ever* before. What a great time to be alive....

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Planescape Torment developers came up with this concept years ago. Individual rats were virtually harmless, but swarm was much more powerful.

  • Yeah...no (Score:4, Insightful)

    by krray ( 605395 ) on Thursday July 09, 2015 @06:32PM (#50078461)

    I think they crossed the line. Just wee bit. I mean, I'm not a rat lover or anything. But if kept clean, as in a pet, they are pretty damn cute. Smart too. Not as smart as my dog IMHO -- HEY! Let's wire up four dog brains next! Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket. How about a monkey? Why not!

    These animals have a consciousness. You can't deny that. No, it is not at the human level, but a life none-the-less. How fucking freaky cruel is it to take a consciousness and tie it together with three others in some form to just see what happens? How freaked out were these rats in their little disembodied brains.

    Cruel.

    • How fucking freaky cruel is it to take a consciousness and tie it together with three others in some form to just see what happens?

      Ask the people who run MMORPGs, I guess.

    • I think they crossed the line. Just wee bit. I mean, I'm not a rat lover or anything. But if kept clean, as in a pet, they are pretty damn cute. Smart too. Not as smart as my dog IMHO -- HEY! Let's wire up four dog brains next! Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket. How about a monkey? Why not!

      These animals have a consciousness. You can't deny that. No, it is not at the human level, but a life none-the-less. How fucking freaky cruel is it to take a consciousness and tie it together with three others in some form to just see what happens? How freaked out were these rats in their little disembodied brains.

      Cruel.

      I'm guessing you didn't read the article, the monkeys have already been done:

      Nicolelis published a second paper, also in Scientific Reports, describing a Brainet that allows three monkeys connected at the brain to control a virtual arm on screen across three axes.

  • ... would disapprove.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • It's designed for all the rat brains you need. The architecture assumes that nobody will ever need more than 640 wired rat brains.

  • ..welcome our new Beorat-cluster overlords!
  • Unlikely (Score:4, Interesting)

    by robi5 ( 1261542 ) on Thursday July 09, 2015 @06:59PM (#50078631)

    Of course I haven't yet RTFA but it must be some really smart experimental setup:

    1. Given the approximately logarithmic relationship between the number of neurons and capabilities, it's a wonder that scaling from 200 million cells to 800 million brain cells was even detectable...
    2. ... especially given that the interface must have been incredibly narrow band, noisy, and in general inferior interconnect among the brains.

    • Re:Unlikely (Score:4, Informative)

      by dinfinity ( 2300094 ) on Friday July 10, 2015 @05:10AM (#50080447)

      From the article:

      "Then, the monkeys' brains were wired together [...]"

      So that doesn't tell us shit. On to the paper:

      "Electrophysiological recordings
      A Multineuronal Acquisition Processor (64 channels, Plexon Inc, Dallas, TX) was used to record neuronal spikes, as previously described15. Briefly, differentiated neural signals were amplified (20000–32,000×) and digitized at 40kHz. Up to four single neurons per recording channel were sorted online (Sort client 2002, Plexon inc, Dallas, TX).

      Intracortical electrical microstimulation
      Intracortical electrical microstimulation cues were generated by an electrical microstimulator (Master 8 , AMPI, Jerusalem, Israel) controlled by custom Matlab script (Nattick, USA) receiving information from a Plexon system over the internet. Patterns of 8–20 (bipolar, biphasic, charge balanced; 200sec) pulses at 20–120Hz were delivered to S1. Current intensity varied from 10–100A."

      So, we're talking about roughly a maximum of 64 * 4 = 256 neurons (at 40KHz) participating per brain. It's not that many, but also not few for an artificial neural network. Because that's what happened. The researcher trained the mice (via reinforcement learning) on specific problems after interconnection. He didn't interconnect them and immediately let them perform some random complex task:

      "In one test, for instance, different rats brains were given different barometric pressure and temperature information, and then the computational power of the Brainet itself was used to calculate the probability that it would rain (given those inputs) at a rate higher than chance.
      Nicolelis said that, essentially, he created a "classic artificial neural network using brains." In that sense, it's not artificial at all."

  • Congress (Score:2, Insightful)

    by frnic ( 98517 )

    Maybe we could replace the US Congress with a bunch of rats wired together, they certainly couldn't do worse than what we have.

  • Of course! If we imprint the circuits with the neural networks of a rat instead of an unstable madman, we will have fewer fatalities and more cheese. Science!
  • Unfortunately we don't have good enough compilers yet to generate code for a multi-core brain. They may as well just use one cat brain rather than four rat brains, compiled code will still run faster.
  • In that one, rats were deprived of water and were given it only if they were able to synchronize their brains together to complete a task. From there, Nicolelis essentiality turned these rats into processors.

    How can they expect poor thirsty rats to sync their brains?

  • "Here, we describe the first experimental demonstration of such a Brainet, built by interconnecting four adult rat brains."

    And the description is: Creepy

  • Yeah, it's only mice. For now.

    Clearly bigger brains would, in principle, allow more complex computations. And while it's animals, I guess we're all cool with that (?). But eventually, they might get to a life form that is less ... compliant. So what other options are there? Well, people can be made to do things they don't want.

    But maybe this is all going to go away. Organic brains are slow, and maybe it will become apparent that silica (or black phosphorus) is better for high performance computation.

"I think trash is the most important manifestation of culture we have in my lifetime." - Johnny Legend

Working...