December 29, 2011
Slime Mold Intelligence - A New Path to AI?
A brainless, primeval organism able to navigate a maze might help Japanese scientists devise the ideal transport network design. Not bad for a mono-cellular being that lives on rotting leaves.
Amoeboid yellow slime mold has been on Earth for thousands of years, living a distinctly un-hi-tech life, but, say scientists, it could provide the key to designing bio-computers capable of solving complex problems.
Toshiyuki Nakagaki, a professor at Future University Hakodate says the organism, which he cultivates in petri dishes, "organises" its cells to create the most direct root through a maze to a source of food.
He says the cells appear to have a kind of information-processing ability that allows them to "optimise" the route along which the mold grows to reach food while avoiding stresses - like light - that may damage them.
"Humans are not the only living things with information-processing abilities," said Nakagaki in his laboratory in Hakodate on Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido.
Slime molds can create much more effective networks than even the most advanced technology that currently exists. The researchers say that among applications of so-called "slime mold neuro-computing" is the creation of new algorithm or software for computers modelled after the methods slime molds use when they form networks.
Masashi Aono, a researcher at Riken, a natural science research institute based in Saitama, says his project aims to examine the mechanism of the human brain and eventually duplicate it with slime molds.
"Ultimately, I'm interested in creating a bio-computer by using actual slime molds, whose information-processing system will be quite close to that of the human brain," Aono said.
"Slime molds do not have a central nervous system, but they can act as if they have intelligence by using the dynamism of their fluxion, which is quite amazing," Aono said. "To me, slime molds are the window on a small universe."