ROBOT: The reality of cyborgs moves closer

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Tue Oct 30 2001 - 11:42:58 MST

THE creation of a real-life cyborg, the part-human, part-machine character
made famous in Hollywood blockbusters like Robocop and The Terminator, has
moved a step closer.

Scientists in Germany have succeeded in melding living nerve cells and silicon
to create the world's first neuronal chip. The neuron cell allows the passage
of nerve impulses.

The breakthrough, linking nerve cells from a snail and a chip, opens the door
to the sci-fi world of cyborg technology, and a double-edged sword for
science: the technology could lead to computers with living brains and
implants that can repair damaged spinal cords or eyes.

The former is a vision of half-living machines, with the ability to think
creatively for themselves.

However, rather than Blade Runner or the more recent example of the genre,
Artificial Intelligence, becoming reality, scientists appear determined that
their discoveries are used in life- enhancing ways.

Peter Fromherz and Gunther Zeck, from the Max Planck institute for
biochemistry in Munich, Germany, were the ones who succeeded in linking the
snail cells and the chip.

The magazine, Physics World, reported the chip contains an array of cells
enclosed by "picket fences" which allow the connection to be maintained as the
cells grow. An electrical signal passes from the silicon into a neuron, and
can then move into a neighbouring neuron along a link. The signal then passes
back into the chip to complete the circuit, just like a conventional silicon

Bruce Wheeler, from the electrical and computer engineering department at the
University of Illinois in America, said: "The work has an element of vision
that will excite future generations of scientists."

--- --- --- --- ---

Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment, malevolent AI

We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.

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