Steve Morris clued me in to this article: Worm ‘Brain’ Uploaded Into Lego Robot | Singularity HUB.
Can a digitally simulated brain on a computer perform tasks just like the real thing?
For simple commands, the answer, it would seem, is yes it can. Researchers at the OpenWorm project recently hooked a simulated worm brain to a wheeled robot. Without being explicitly programmed to do so, the robot moved back and forth and avoided objects—driven only by the interplay of external stimuli and digital neurons.
The article comes with this accompanying video:
Now, the C Elegans worm has about the simplest central nervous system in nature, with only 300 neurons and 7000 synapses (compared to human’s 86 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses). Still, the fact that putting that connectome (the map of a brain’s connections) into a robot produced behavior that resembles what an actual C Elegans would do is intriguing.
The article ends by asking the obvious question:
In this example, we’re talking very simple behaviors. But could the result scale? That is, if you map a human brain with similarly high fidelity and supply it with stimulation in a virtual or physical environment—would some of the characteristics we associate with human brains independently emerge? Might that include creativity and consciousness?
There’s only one way to find out.
Of course, many will insist that we shouldn’t even try. But I suspect that train will leave the station regardless.