According to the 1991 blockbuster “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” Skynet was supposed to have become self-aware 25 years ago, on August 29, 1997.
I know this because I took my wife to see “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” on our honeymoon … which shows you just how self-aware I was in 1991. It’s amazing she’s stuck with me for so long. But I digress.
Skynet, of course, was the huge national-defense artificial intelligence network that kept sending terminator androids back in time so that they could fail to kill Sarah Connor and her son, John. I thought of the film immediately when I saw that Australian scientists recently taught lab-grown brain cells to play Pong.
Now that I write that down, I can see how some might consider it a stretch. Stay with me, here.
According to this report, which does not appear to have been peer-reviewed prior to its publication yesterday, a culture of 800,000 stem-cell-derived human brain cells and embryo-derived mouse brain cells displayed limited “sentience,” in the sense that they were “responsive to sensory impressions.”
The researchers called their human-mouse-brain-hybrid “DishBrain” — and there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.
“DishBrain offers a simpler approach to test how the brain works, and gain insights into debilitating conditions such as epilepsy and dementia,” Cortical Labs CEO Dr. Hon Weng Chong explained. KOAM described Cortical Labs as a biotech start-up.
I’m sure the team consists of highly qualified professionals, but at times they sound more like frat boys with cool toys. I mean, they develop this lab-grown brain cell concoction and immediately set about teaching it video games? I feel like we’re lucky they didn’t name it “BroBrain” — or something worse.
“The initial proof of principle using DishBrain was to simulate the classic arcade game ‘Pong’ by delivering inputs to a predefined sensory area of 8 electrode,” the study said, and it gets more dense from there. But after multiple tests, the researchers came to a remarkable conclusion: DishBrain was learning. It’s performance at Pong improved over time.
Super cool, right? Also, possibly terrifying.
They also tried DishBrain out on some other games, and got some “nice preliminary results,” but have more work to do. (No word yet on whether DishBrain prefers to play as a Warrior or a Hunter in “Evil Dead: The Game.”)
But don’t worry, CNET reports that the frat boys — er, very smart professional scientists — at Cortical Labs have a very smart professional test next up for DishBrain.
They’re going to get it drunk.
“We’re trying to create a dose response curve with ethanol — basically get them ‘drunk’ and see if they play the game more poorly, just as when people drink,” said Brett Kagan, chief scientific officer of Cortical Labs and one of the six researchers who wrote the report.
Speak for yourself, Kagan. My “Dance Dance Revolution” performance only improves after a couple of drinks.
On the other hand, it’s hard to say for sure, since I’d never set foot on “Dance Dance Revolution” without first having had a couple of drinks. At least.
I don’t know — it’s Christianity that made science possible in the first place, by removing God from nature and thereby subjecting weather, oceans, plants and animals to human understanding instead of ignorant worship. Maybe this is just the next logical step in mankind’s obedience to God’s command to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen. 1:28)
On the other hand, today Pong, tomorrow Global Thermonuclear War? Maybe Skynet is about to become self-aware.