Better computing through brain power

A new paper in Frontiers in Science details one research group’s case for organoid intelligence—the practice of using tiny clumps of human stem cells to power computers.  

Wait, what happened? You read that right. Brain organoids (also dubbed “mini-brains”) are 3D pieces of stem cells modified by scientists to mimic the basic structure and functions of the brain, which the paper’s authors believe could be used to super-charge computers.

  • It’s closer to The Matrix than any science fair project. Building organoid-powered computers would mean creating networks of mini-brains that are trained using machine-learning methods to send and receive information via connected sensors.   

Why it’s happening: Computers are great at processing simple information like sets of numbers, but human brains are far superior at dealing with complex or incomplete data. 

They’re also way better at storing information—one brain can hold an estimated 2,500 terabytes of data, roughly equal to your laptop storing three million hours of TV shows.

Why it matters: If researchers can make a computer that functions like a brain, the storage capacity and processing capabilities could solve problems beyond the realm of current possibility while consuming less energy and providing new insights into how our brains work.

Yes, but: One critic told the FT, “This is very much science fiction and, while intriguing, the science just isn’t there yet.” And this is without bringing up ethical questions around whether lab-grown brains are conscious. So don’t expect to be firing up an iBrain anytime soon.