Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
SYFY WIRE brains

FinalSpark's Bioprocessor Is a Computer Made of Brain Organoids

The supercomputers of the future might be made of human brain tissue.

By Cassidy Ward

In our fictional futures, computers become so powerful that they outpace humanity’s own intelligence and abilities. In an attempt to create better tools, we accidentally create malicious mechanical beings that threaten humanity’s existence. Almost without exception, M3GAN and the rest of the murder machines are made of metal with silicon computer chips, or some fictional future evolution of those technologies, but reality might play out a little differently.

If you want a computer with brain-like abilities in a brain-sized package, you might as well just use brains. Tech company FinalSpark is using blobs of living human brain tissue in a Neuroplatform, instead of silicon microchips, to perform computations.

Building Computers from Living Human Brain Tissue

Organoids are frequent tools in laboratory settings, allowing researchers to run experiments on actual human tissues instead of model organisms like lab rats. They’re used to test new medications and treatments, but lately they’ve been used to crunch information and perform tasks. We’ve written previously about a brain organoid that learned to play Pong, and that was only a demonstration of the computing power brain organoids are capable of.

FinalSpark grows their organoids, 10,000 neurons packed into a blob of tissue half a millimeter thick, from stem cells derived from human skin. Each organoid is then implanted with eight electrodes and connected to three other organoids in an array. Those four organoids can send and receive electrical signals, courtesy of 32 total electrodes, allowing them to learn and perform tasks. Teaching the organoids can be done through electrical stimulation or with chemicals like dopamine.

For More on Computing:
Did a Supercomputer Predict the End of Humanity?
Scientists are Helping A.I. to Learn by Making Them Take Naps
A Plant Battery Powered This Computer for a Year With Photosynthesis

Illustration of stomatocyte, budding, and branching organoid morphologies.

“We release dopamine precisely at the right time directly to the brain organoid by using a process called uncaging,” Dr. Fred Jordan, FinalSpark co-founder, told Technopedia. “We encapsulate dopamine in a molecular cage, invisible to the organoid initially. When we want to ‘reward’ the organoid, we expose it to specific light frequencies. This light opens the cage, releasing the dopamine and providing the intended stimulus to the organoid.”

The organoids live in a microfluidic incubator kept at 37 degrees Celsius (body temperature). The system automates the flow and maintenance of cellular media, providing a stable environment free of bacteria and viruses. In the beginning, the organoids were only operational for a few hours but now they survive for more than 100 days. FinalSpark’s system has been active 24 hours a day, year round, for the last four years and in that they’ve used more than 1,000 organoids to collect more than 18 terabytes of data, according to a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence.

While access to organoids has historically been limited to the lab, FinalSpark is offering remote access to their organoid arrays, so anyone with the right project and $500 can get in on the action. While neuroprocessing is still in its infancy, FinalSpark believes it could be a solution to the environmental problems associated with intense computing.

The New Yorker estimates that ChatGPT uses as much energy as 17,000 households every day. Biological computers could take the place of existing artificial neural networks, at a fraction of the energy cost. FinalSpark estimates their system could provide computing alternatives that are a million times more efficient than conventional computers. If FinalSpark gets their way, the supercomputers of the future (evil or otherwise) will be made of flesh.

Catch M3GAN in all of her artificial glory, streaming now on Peacock.

Read more about: