October 22, 2004

Hello, I'm a collection of rat neurons, and I'll be your pilot today

Scientists have created an entity that believes the world consists of the inside of a computer-generated cockpit. Whether or not it contemplates the meaning of life is an open question.

A University of Florida scientist has grown a living “brain” that can fly a simulated plane, giving scientists a novel way to observe how brain cells function as a network.

The “brain” -- a collection of 25,000 living neurons, or nerve cells, taken from a rat’s brain and cultured inside a glass dish -- gives scientists a unique real-time window into the brain at the cellular level.


“Initially when we hook up this brain to a flight simulator, it doesn’t know how to control the aircraft,” DeMarse said. “So you hook it up and the aircraft simply drifts randomly. And as the data comes in, it slowly modifies the (neural) network so over time, the network gradually learns to fly the aircraft.”

My question is, how does the artificial rat brain have any sense of what the concept "flying a plane" even means? That is to say, how is it aware of when it is successful at flight simulation and when it is not?

(Via Boing Boing.)

Posted by Francis at 02:43 PM | TrackBack

My question is, how do they keep the thing from crashing immediately? If I woke up in the cockpit of a plane that was drifting, I think I'd be dead before I learned how to fly it.

Posted by: Lance at October 22, 2004 04:57 PM

typical boston driver

Posted by: Ken/Cazique at October 22, 2004 10:38 PM