Inserting a hard electronic chip into a squishy organic brain is a bit like fitting a square peg in a round hole, but quantum computing may help us probe exotic materials for improved compatibility.
If society is heading down the road of connecting human brains with artificial intelligence, it may require the use of materials that can facilitate bio-organic electronics for compatibility purposes.
“With quantum computers we should be able to probe more deeply into the properties of complex molecules and exotic materials” – Dr. John Preskill
Whether or not our brains, which deal with “generalized intelligence,” would be able to handle the “specialized intelligence” of algorithms and not explode from sensory overload is a question for another story — not to mention that science has no idea what role consciousness plays in all of this.
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Here we explore quantum computing and question how it might facilitate a more compatible and seamless interface between human and “machine” by exploring exotic materials like those that organic electronics have to offer.
Caltech theoretical physicist Dr. John Preskill, who wrote one of the most highly cited papers on quantum computing, said that a big potential of quantum computing is how it may help us understand exotic materials and molecules.
Now, if we couple that with what MIT associate professor Dr. Polina Anikeeva said about the need to create a brain-computer interface (BCI) using new materials that are actually compatible with the brain, then we start to build a case for quantum computing’s potential role in the process.
We know that machines don’t operate the same way that a biological brain does, and because of this, Dr. Anikeeva advises that we shouldn’t upload our brains to a computer, but rather explore better methods of integration.
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“Development of the neural interface hardware requires significant infrastructure, training, and investment. And it also requires a paradigm shift from machine-inspired electronics to biology-driven design of new materials and architectures,” said Dr. Anikeeva at the conclusion of her TED talk above.
Carbon-based Organic Electronics
To set the record straight, this is not a peer reviewed article. I am not a scientist. I’m just a journalist turned tech blogger who is simply connecting dots in the way that I see them fit.
That being said, fascinating work is being done with “biology-driven design,” especially in the field of organic electronics, which, according to Science Direct, “is a branch of modern electronics, and it deals with organic materials, such as polymers or small molecules. The materials used in this kind of technology are carbon based, which is the same as the molecules of living things.”
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Out of curiosity, have you ever heard of an Organic Semiconductor?
“Organic semiconductors are a class of carbon-based materials that exhibit optical and electronic properties” — Science Direct.
“The low processing temperature, combined with the mechanical flexibility of organic materials, provides great opportunities to access flexible integrated circuits, electronic paper (or fabric), and foldable organic electronics.”
Electronic paper and foldable organic electronics sound quite similar to the neural lace that Elon Musk’s Neuralink is working on if we take organic electronics a step further into the chemical realm.
According to Gizmodo, a neural lace is “a mesh that grows with your brain, it’s essentially a wireless brain-computer interface. But it’s also a way to program your neurons to release certain chemicals with a thought.”
As far as compatibility goes between human brains and current organic semiconductors, I haven’t a clue, but I thought it was an interesting place to look.
Still A Long Way To Go
John Preskill, theoretical physicist at Caltech, coined the term NISQ for a keynote speech he delivered at Quantum Computing for Business on December 5, 2017.
We may take for granted how efficient the human body actually is. Wrapped up in our DNA and dispersed throughout our nervous systems hide extraordinary mechanisms that allow us to intuit, compute, feel, and process information in ways that no computer can ever come close to doing.
At the same time, computers can kick our asses at GO, poker, and chess.
A computer doesn’t “learn” as humans do. Humans know that fire will burn them by physically experiencing it through touch. A computer knows this based on what humans have written about it.
Putting important ethics aside for the purpose of this article, how do we balance human intelligence with artificial intelligence, so that they can co-exist within our fragile frames of bone, blood, and plasma?
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“The nervous system is just really a huge [scientific] problem, and being able to develop tools to understand it and study it I think will be a task sufficient for a lifetime,” Dr. Anikeeva told MIT News.
“That’s especially true if we start looking at not just the brain but also interactions between the brain and the peripheral nervous system, because it turns out we are wired to the max. Every single one of our organs is wired, and we have no idea of what that wiring is doing,” she added.
“We have good reason to believe that a quantum computer would be able to efficiently simulate any process that occurs in Nature” – Dr. John Preskill
To me, quantum computing offers great potential in not only probing the materials that would be compatible with the human brain, but quantum computing may also be able to simulate the brain and nervous system, so that Dr. Anikeeva’s worry about having no idea of what our wiring is doing could finally be answered.
She told Forbes, “I think seeing advances in materials that can match properties of the nervous system to address the signaling complexity to interface with the nervous system will be very important.”
Could quantum computing help us advance these materials? All comments are welcome because I’m sure as hell I’ve overlooked decades of research!