Fwd: Wetware

Theta 8008 (ubergoo@hotmail.com)
Tue, 29 Jun 1999 20:50:41 PDT


I got this on another list. I was surprised not to see it on this one, so...

This article appeared in yesterday's TechWeb News:


> Real Computers Don't 'Squish'
> Computers are typically made from silicon, or occasionally from some
> specialized material, but whatever their base, today's computers are made
> out of good, old-fashioned, solid-state components that come out of a
> nice, clean chip foundry. Real computers don't "squish." Real computers
> don't have to be fed (except with electrons) -- right?
> Well, some scientists in Atlanta have now demonstrated a different, very
> organic variation on our nice "normal" computers -- a computer built out
> of leech neurons.
> OK, it's not quite equal to a good Pentium, but when a group of these
> neurons is stimulated in a particular way, they actually do math.
> Correctly.
> Brought to our attention by U.K. RCFoC reader Donovan Taylor and others,
> the leech neurons apparently taught themselves to solve the problem of
> adding two numbers. According to the June 2 BBC News, when individual
> neurons are stimulated in a way to represent numbers, other linked
> then provide the sum. And this is different from the computers we're used
> to in more ways than just being based on carbon
> instead of silicon.
> "The device the team has built can 'think for itself' because the leech
> neurons are able to form their own connections from one to another,"
> Taylor said. "Normal silicon computers only make the connections they are
> told to by the programmer. "The line graph readouts showed the neurones
> holding the numbers 2 and 3, and when they linked [added] the numbers,
> readout showed real activity. You had to take the research team's word
> that the result was a 5, but there was a reaction to the numeric
> Well, that's certainly interesting if we take the results of this very
> early "wetware" work at face value, but it's hardly significant -- is it?
> I mean, what good is a petri dish that can add 3 and 2?
> Of course, I do remember people saying exactly those things about the
> first digital computers that only added 1 and 1.
> Jeffrey Harrow is a senior consulting engineer for the corporate strategy
> and technology group at Compaq.


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