Cortical Labs Trains Human Brain Cells on Computer Chips for Advanced AI


  • Cortical Labs trains human brain cells on a computer chip, showcasing the potential of biological computers surpassing traditional AI.
  • The integration of human brain cells into the chip offers opportunities for pharmaceutical research and drug testing, potentially replacing animal experiments.
  • Cortical Labs’ biological computers provide energy-efficient solutions for AI training, reducing electricity consumption and promoting sustainability.

Cortical Labs, an Australian firm run by CEO Hon Weng Chong, has successfully taught human brain cells on a computer chip to play the classic video game Pong. This achievement marks a significant step towards harnessing the power of biological computers, which Chong believes can surpass traditional artificial intelligence (AI) systems and revolutionize various industries. By integrating human brain cells into a chip and developing specialized software, Cortical Labs aims to create a biological computer capable of performing complex tasks beyond gaming.

Training brain cells for AI

To train the brain cells for Pong, Cortical Labs established a connection between the hybrid chip and a computer running the video game. By receiving electrical signals indicating the position of the ball and its distance from the paddle, the brain cells made independent decisions on how to react. Through continuous feedback from these signals, the cells gradually learned and improved their performance in the game. This groundbreaking approach shows the ability of human brain cells to adapt and learn, offering remarkable potential for applications beyond gaming.

Chong envisions the application of Cortical Labs’ biological computer technology in pharmaceutical research. By leveraging the brain cells’ performance in programs like Pong, the efficacy, and side effects of drugs targeting neurological disorders, including dementia and epilepsy, could be better understood. Chong aims to collaborate with prominent pharmaceutical companies such as Biogen and Eli Lilly to replace animal testing with human cell-based experiments, providing more accurate insights into the effects of drugs on human neurons.

Recognizing the ethical implications of their work, Cortical Labs has been engaged with bioethicists, demonstrating a commitment to the responsible development and deployment of this technology. 

The potential of Cortical Labs’ biological computer

Described by Chong as “a body in a box,” Cortical Labs’ biological computer represents a remarkable fusion of biology and technology. The process involves engineering stem cells derived from adult skin or blood samples, which are then integrated into a chip and housed within a shoebox-sized device. This setup provides the necessary nutrients and air while eliminating waste, allowing the brain cells to function as the central processing unit (CPU) of a conventional computer.

Jonathan Tam, an investor at Horizons Ventures, Cortical Labs’ backer, emphasizes the short-term and long-term potential of the biological computer. In the short term, this technology offers in-vitro solutions that can enhance the understanding of how drugs interact with neurons, paving the way for more effective treatments of neurological disorders. In the long term, synthetic neurons integrated into the biological computer could provide unprecedented insights into brain function, unraveling previously unsolvable mysteries and enabling new pathways for treating neurological conditions.

Aside from advancing medical research, Cortical Labs’ biological computer also presents practical benefits in the realm of energy efficiency. Traditional AI training processes often require massive amounts of electricity to power cloud computing platforms and sustain the learning process. For instance, training GPT-3, the language model developed by OpenAI, consumed an astonishing 1.287 gigawatt-hours of electricity, equivalent to the annual consumption of approximately 120 U.S. homes. In contrast, the human brain operates on just about 20 watts, equivalent to the energy needed to power an LED light bulb.

Chong and his team are focused on advancing Cortical Labs’ biological computers into production. With the recent funding of $10 million led by Horizons Ventures, the company aims to generate revenue by the end of the year through the sale of its biological computers. Bit Bio, a spinoff of the University of Cambridge that specializes in human cell research, has already partnered with Cortical Labs to explore the potential applications of the technology. Also, Cortical Labs intends to offer cloud services by the end of 2024, giving clusters of 120 biological computers for businesses to program brain cells to carry out various activities. The business is actively negotiating to connect its services with several American cloud service providers.

A vision that extends beyond conventional AI

Chong’s vision extends beyond the boundaries of what is currently considered possible. When asked about the feasibility of brain cells learning to trade Bitcoin, he responded with an open mind and a willingness to explore the idea. Cortical Labs embraces the potential of seemingly unconventional ideas, recognizing that they can lead to groundbreaking discoveries and advancements.

Cortical Labs’ achievement in training human brain cells on a computer chip opens up a realm of possibilities. Their biological computers not only have the potential to surpass traditional AI but also hold promise in pharmaceutical research, energy efficiency, and understanding brain function.

Disclaimer. The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decision.

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Aamir Sheikh

Amir is a media, marketing and content professional working in the digital industry. A veteran in content production Amir is now an enthusiastic cryptocurrency proponent, analyst and writer.

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