Lakshmi Sandhana writes in about an Australian robot arm that draws pictures and is powered by the brain of a rat, which is sitting in a petri dish in the U.S.

The arm holds three colored markers above a white sheet of paper, and makes drawings that resemble those of a three-year-old child. The brain and arm communicate with each other through the internet.

“We are looking at future scenarios where geography won’t matter,” says Guy Ben-Ary, whose lab in Australia contains the robot arm. “The brain of the semi-living could be anywhere in the world, while the body will interface and be fed off it.”

Steve Potter, whose lab in Atlanta contains the brains, says, “I would not classify [the cells] as ‘an intelligence,’ though we hope to find ways to allow them to learn and become at least a little intelligent.” While the drawings of three-year-old humans may not seem like much to us, that’s pretty sophisticated for a rat.

Another project is being developed called Symbiotic Fish & Chips, in which scientists plan to grow fish neurons over silicon chips that will control a robotic arm that produces both drawings and music.

As long as they don’t plan to start hooking up primate (or human!) brains to robots?or is this what they’re aiming for? If so, it could be the final hour for us ordinary humans.

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