Hybrid half-living, half-synthetic bio-computers smaller than a full stop are being tested as a possible solution to the problem of creating truly lifelike artificial intelligence. The computers created by ARC Future Fellow, Associate Professor Dan Nicolau, based at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Oxford University (UK), have the properties of life: they can do calculations in a massively parallel way, just as we do when we walk, talk, breathe and do thousands more things, all at the same time. And, like living things, they use almost no energy to exist. Associate Professor Nicolau says that the problem of how long it was taking a computer to wade through extreme amounts of data kept cropping up, partly because of a computer’s inability to accept imperfection. With support from his Future Fellowship, he is now developing disruptive computer technology that provides a way to solve the ‘unsolvable’ problems at the heart of computer science. So far, the research has led to the creation of ‘living, breathing’ devices powered by microscopic pieces of rabbit muscle and pig brain that are able to do maths at roughly the level of a primary school child. SYNTHETIC BIO-COMPUTERS MAY HOLD THE KEY TO SOLVE THE UNSOLVABLE
“WHEN COMPUTERS WERE FIRST DEVELOPED, THEY WERE SEEN AS BEING ABLE TO SOLVE EVERY POSSIBLE PROBLEM WE COULD THINK OF, GIVEN ENOUGH TIME. BUT MOST OF THE IMPORTANT CHALLENGES WE FACE, FROM DRUG DEVELOPMENT TO REASONING ABOUT OUR WORLD TO FINDING LOVE, TURN OUT TO BE IMPOSSIBLE FOR THEM TO COMPLETE WITHIN A HUMAN LIFETIME, OR EVEN WITHIN THE LIFETIME OF A GALAXY. BIOCOMPUTATION IS AN ATTEMPT TO OVERCOME THIS LIMITATION.” SAYS ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR NICOLAU.
Caption: 'Love' artwork by Amiti Singh, 2019.
UNDERSTANDING OUR WORLD THROUGH FUNDAMENTAL RESEARCH
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