Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

O Brave new world…

Posted by sanityinjection on August 14, 2008

Agence-France-Presse reports that British scientists have succeeded in creating a robot with a biological brain made from rat neurons. The neurons are attached to electrodes and communicate with the physically separate body wirelessly. Scientists do not control the robot but allow the brain to do so, and have observed it learning not to bump into walls, for example.

Actually, the robot, named “Gordon”, has multiple interchangeable brains, each of which displays a different “personality” or type of behavior based on the particular chemical bath inhibiting or enhancing particular neural pathways. Without sufficient external stimuli, however, the brains die after a couple of months.

I find this absolutely fascinating and creepy at the same time. I’m not troubled by the idea of humans with cyborg limbs, but what these scientists have really done is to create a new, partially biological life form. I have no doubt that all kinds of scientific discoveries about how the brain works can come from this research, with possible benefits for people with certain brain conditions. But I am troubled by the line we are crossing here. As usual, scientific achievement is way ahead of the ethical framework that needs to be in place to guide it.


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