Tech companies make computer chips from human cells, but is it ethical?

Tech companies make computer chips from human cells, but is it ethical?

Tech companies make computer chips from human cells, but is it ethical?

Cultivating neurons for use in computer components opens up the whole ethical debate about donor consent.

Melbourne-based cortical laboratories have developed clusters of neurons (brain cells) embedded in a computer chip.
Melbourne-based cortical laboratories have developed clusters of neurons (brain cells) embedded in a computer chip.

This is 2030 and we are at the world’s largest technology conference, CES Las Vegas. Crowds gather to watch a major tech company introduce its new smartphone. The CEO stands on stage and announces Nyooro, which contains the most powerful processor you have ever seen in a mobile phone. Nyooro can perform stunning quintillion operations in seconds, which is a thousand times faster than the 2020 smartphone models. It is also ten times more energy efficient, with a battery that lasts for ten days.

The journalist asks the question: “What technological advances have allowed this huge increase in performance?” The CEO responds: “We created a new biological chip with human neurons that were grown in a laboratory. These biological chips are better than silicone because they can change their internal structure, adapt to the user usage pattern and lead to tremendous efficiency. ”

Another journalist asks the question: “Are there no ethical problems with computers using human brain material?”

However The name and parameter are fictitious, This is an issue that we now have to deal with. In December 2021, Melbourne-based cortical laboratories developed clusters of neurons (brain cells) embedded in a computer chip. The resulting hybrid chip works because both the brain and the neurons share a common language.: Electricity.

In silicon computers, electrical signals flow along metal wires that connect various components.. In the brain, neurons communicate with each other using electrical signals in synapses (connections between nerve cells). In the Dishbrain system of Cortical Labs, neurons grow on silicon chips. These neurons act as system cables that connect different components. The biggest advantage of this approach is that neurons can change shape, grow, multiply or die in response to system requirements.

Dishbrain could learn the arcade video game Pong faster than conventional artificial intelligence (AI) systems. The developers of Dishbrain explained: “Nothing like it used to exist … This is a completely new way. Fusion of silicon and neuron. ”

The resulting hybrid chip works because both the brain and the neurons share a common language: electricity.
The resulting hybrid chip works because both the brain and the neurons share a common language: electricity.

Cortical Labs thinks its hybrid chips can catch the key to such complex reasoning that today’s computers and artificial intelligence cannot generate. Another company that manufactures computers from laboratory-raised neurons, Koniku, believes its technology will revolutionize several industries, including agriculture, healthcare, military technology and airport security. Other types of organic computers are also in the early stages of development.

However Silicon computers have changed society, they still surpass the brains of most animals. For example, a cat’s brain stores 1000 times more data than the average iPad and can use this information a million times faster. The human brain with trillions of neural connections can perform 15 quintillion operations per second.

Today this can only be compared to massive supercomputers that use huge amounts of energy. The human brain consumes only 20 watts of power, just like a light bulb. It will require 34 coal-fired power plants that generate 500 megawatts per hour to store the data contained in the human brain in modern data storage centers.

Tissues, Cells, and Donations

Cultivation of neurons Raises questions about donor consent. Companies do not need brain tissue samples from donors, but can simply grow the neurons needed in the lab from ordinary skin cells using stem cell technology. Scientists can create cells from blood samples or skin biopsies to turn them into stem cells that can become any type of cell in the human body.

The technician examines the silicon wafer with a microscope in a clean room with the production of computer chips
The technician examines the silicon wafer with a microscope in a clean room with the production of computer chips

However, this raises questions about donor consent. Do people who provide tissue samples for research and technological development know that they can be used to make neural computers? Do they need to know that their consent is valid?

Humans will undoubtedly be much more willing to donate skin cells for research than their brain tissue. One of the drawbacks of brain donation is that the brain is considered to be related to your identity. But in a world where we can grow a mini-brain from virtually any type of cell, Does this kind of difference make sense?

If neural computers become commonplace, we will face other issues related to tissue donation. In a cortical lab study with Dishbrain, they discovered this Human neurons learn faster than mice. Could there be differences in performance depending on which neurons are used? Will Apple and Google be able to build lightning fast computers using today’s best and brightest neurons? Can anyone take fabric from dead geniuses like Albert Einstein to create specialized, limited edition neural computers?

The case of Henrietta

These questions are very speculative, but address broader issues of exploitation and compensation. Let’s think about it Henrietta scandalAn African-American woman whose cells were widely used in medical and commercial research without her knowledge and consent.

Henrietta cells continue to be used in applications that generate huge revenue for pharmaceutical companies (most recently including the development of COVID vaccines). The verse family has not yet received compensation.. If donor neurons use products like Imaginary Nyooro, should they be eligible to receive a portion of the profits from these products?

If neural computers become commonplace, we will face other issues related to tissue donation
If neural computers become commonplace, we will face other issues related to tissue donation

Another opinion The main ethic for neural computers is whether they can develop any form of consciousness and experience pain. Will neural computers have more experience than silicon-based computers? In a pong video game experiment, Dishbrain is exposed to a noisy and unpredictable stimulus when it receives the wrong answer (the rocket misses the ball) and a predictable stimulus when it receives it correctly. At the very least, it is possible for a similar system to begin with a sense of unpredictable stimuli as pain and predictable as a feeling of pleasure.

“Complete informed consent of donors It matters a lot. “Any donor should be able to enter into a compensation agreement as part of this process, and their body autonomy should be protected without coercion,” said Brett Kagan, chief scientific officer at Cortical Labs.

“As recently discussed in the study, there is no evidence that neurons on the plate have any qualitative or conscious experience, so they can not be disturbed and, Has no pain receptorsThey can not feel it. Neurons that are generated to process all kinds of information, fully stimulated, as is the case in laboratories around the world, are not a natural state for the neuron.. All of this work allows neurons to behave as nature intended to at its most basic level.Or, “he added.

Humans have used animals to perform physical labor for thousands of years, despite the often negative experiences for animals. There will be more trouble after that Ethical view of using organic computers For cognitive work rather than using a bull to pull a car?

We are in the early stages of nervous calculation and have time to think about these questions. We need to do this before products like Nyooro move from science fiction to stores.

BBC World

Source: La Nacion

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