The Unconventional Computing Laboratory (UCL) from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) has showcased its mushroom motherboard to Popular Science. As its name conveys, the lab, led by professor Andrew Adamatzk, focuses on eccentric approaches to computing, like wetware, the notion of applying the concepts of hardware and software to living creatures.
Fungi connect to a root network under the ground (sometimes called the “wood wide web”) using their mycelium, very slim hyphae that are the size of a thread. The fungal motherboard utilizes the mycelium as a conductor and a substitute for other electronic components, such as the processor or memory. In a previous study, Adamatzky demonstrated that mushrooms could communicate with each through electric signals via the mycelium. The mycelium is capable of sending and receiving electrical signals and retaining memory.
The neurons in the human brain utilize spiking activity for communication, and Adamatzky’s investigation shows that mycelium uses a similar model. As a result, scientists can utilize the presence or absence of a spike as the basis for zeroes or ones, akin to the binary language the conventional computer uses. Additionally, Adamatzky highlighted that researchers could increase the speed and reliability of the communication if they stimulate mycelium at two separate points to enhance conductivity. This process helps develop memory, comparable to how the brain creates habits.
Mushroom computers can’t rival regular computers with the best CPUs in terms of performance. However, there are some benefits to mushroom computers. For example. they flaunt enhanced fault tolerance because of their self-generation property and better reconfigurability because they grow and evolve. In addition, mushroom computers draw minimal power, so they have excellent energy efficiency.
“Right now it’s just feasibility studies. We’re just demonstrating that it’s possible to implement computation, and it’s possible to implement basic logical circuits and basic electronic circuits with mycelium. In the future, we can grow more advanced mycelium computers and control devices,” Adamatzky told Popular Science.
Admittedly, there's still a lot of work and research to be done on the topic. We'll unlikely see the first fungal motherboard, much less a living computer populated by fungi, in a few years. The concept is interesting, though. In contrast to all the hype about AI, imagine speaking to your favorite mushroom to have it Google something.
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The motherboard photo is just for publicity, I think. The Popular Science article has other photos that are more representative of how it works.Reply
Apparently April arrived early this year...Reply
Also, I suggest people at least look at the pictures in the original article as a couple are of this actual "mushroom computer", and it's more like a 1950's computer on a tiny scale, essentially it exists to study, and that's it.
I wonder if mushroom computer ai follows the same philosophy as that of mushroom managementReply
Are we the Borg in this situation? Have we assimilated the hive mind of fungi to do our deeds? I find it inevitable that the fungi will assimilate us as we teach it how we communicate.Reply
I find the idea of a mushroom brain rather fascinating, even if it's relatively simple by comparison with what exists in the animal kingdom.Reply
We shouldn't get ahead of the research, though. They've found some underlying mechanisms similar to the nervous system, but have they even found anything that could be characterized as "learning behavior"?
Do you want "clickers"? Cuz that's how you end up with clickers.Reply
If that's a Last of Us reference... you know that's fiction, right? I wouldn't even call it science fiction.J_E_D_70 said:Do you want "clickers"? Cuz that's how you end up with clickers.
There are a lot of things to be afraid of, in the world, but that's not one of them. Even among fungus-based threats, mycotoxins are the main thing to worry about. Infectious fungal diseases are a real thing, but it's more like athlete's foot (there are worse examples, in that same vein).
While things like this are impractical on the large scale, look at how they can be applied to the very small scale. Look at all the use one disposable electronics which researches are trying to make green with biodegradable casings and paper based motherboards, replacing most of the electronics with mushrooms could help that problem.Reply
Admin said:Mushroom computers can’t rival regular computers with best CPUs in terms of performance. However, there are some benefits to mushroom computers. For example. they flaunt enhanced fault tolerance because of their self-generation property and better reconfigurability because they grow and evolve. In addition, mushroom computers draw minimal power, so they have excellent energy efficiency.
Why compare low power mushroom computers to the best CPUs? This seems like a mismatch. We gonna compare Threadrippers to Raspberry Pis?
Wouldn't comparing mushroom to some ARM (perhaps Apple M1) along with some Ryzen GE CPUs and mobile Alder Lake and RISC-V make more sense?
It's a shameless plug they always seem to do, especially in their articles about general tech. I guess they're hoping these sorts of articles draw in new readers who might not be aware of the site's resources on PC advice.ezst036 said:Why compare low power mushroom computers to the best CPUs? This seems like a mismatch.
I wouldn't compare them with conventional machines, at all. IMO, there are three interesting aspects/avenues of this research:ezst036 said:Wouldn't comparing mushroom to some ARM (perhaps Apple M1) along with some Ryzen GE CPUs and mobile Alder Lake and RISC-V make more sense?
To understand what communication, computation, and memory is occurring by these means, in the wild.
As a tool to use, in bio-engineering.
For composition of biodegradable computers usable in sensitive ecosystems or perhaps even medical implants.Regarding the second point, there's a whole field of biology that's concerned with computational mechanisms. I think most of the work, to date, has focused on chemistry. The mycelium provides a very interesting avenue for exploring new computational mechanisms.
As for point #3, we might be talking kHz and not MHz. Think of very simple, low-tech purpose-built circuits. Not anything on the level of a general-purpose microcontroller.