Move Over Siri, Here Comes Neuri
Neuri is a 10,000 neuron Brain Organoid connected together in a lab and trained on language inputs. Neuri outperforms Siri on answering questions.

Ethicists are outraged! "We don't know at what threshold of complexity a Brain Organoid could attain consciousness or even if complexity is the correct metric to use," said Joaquim Hontoran, ethicist specializing in synthetic biology issues.

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I imagine if this could be accomplished then Brain Organoids could be assembled or grown to perform a lot of tasks as "controllers". There was a science fiction TV show from the late 1990s or early 2000s that had an alien species which uses organically-controlled technology. I can't think of the show off the top of my head. It might have been one of the Star Treks, but could have been something else - maybe Earth: Final Conflict.

I know that in Star Trek: Voyager they explained how "gel packs" were used throughout the ship, and they could become infected with some kind of virus or something. But these aren't the same thing I'm trying to remember.

Using Brain Organoids as proposed above kind of solves both the limit of Moore's Law (how do we keep reducing the size of computational electronics) and the challenge of developing independent artificial intelligence (that is not necessarily self-aware). What most people think of as AI today is really just machine learning (as I'm sure you're QUITE aware, Dr. McCaffrey).

For people who aren't computer scientists, machine learning was developed for pattern analysis - a lot of the major breakthroughs of the 1980s and 1990s upon which today's ML science draws heavily came out of optical analysis (for spy systems where satellite photos needed to be correlated with maps).

Google has pioneered significant advances in the field with its Transformers technology (much more mundane than the self-aware machines of Anime and movies), but BERT and its derivatives are used to build what are essentially large, complex look-up tables (based on analyzing patterns in large bodies of text). To get from a lookup table to an application like Apple's Siri takes a lot more work.

But to be able to grow something like a Brain Organoid that could combine the learning with the problem solving - that would be amazingly futuristic technology. And one need not fall back on the old tropes of things becoming self-aware and deciding to rid the world of mankind.

You'll have new types of viruses and security threats, and ethical considerations indeed. We even try to protect fungi and plants from extinction today. At some point, lab-grown life might be extended similar ethical considerations.

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