So, what did you do today, anything interesting?
No, not much, just a simple ole neural network from some DNA that we had lying around.
As funny as that might sound it is exactly what some researchers at the California Institute of Technology have done – created the world’s first artificial neural network from DNA molecules; but not happy to just stop there they have also been able to get that neural network to answer questions – correctly.
Taking their cue from the limited intelligence exhibited by single-celled organisms, the researchers built four neurons made up of 112 distinct DNA strands (by contrast, the human brain has some 100 billion neurons).
This rudimentary neural network works on a simple input-output mechanism called a strand-displacement cascade. Essentially, synthesized strands of DNA float around in water and join to other strands that have complementary base pair structures, creating an input. When such a union occurs, a strand of DNA will be shed, creating an output.
The technique was previously used to build the largest-ever DNA circuit, one that can compute square roots, according to Caltech.
In the latest research, the team trained the neural network to play a memory game in which it would correctly “identify” four scientists based on specific yes or no questions–for instance whether the scientist was British.
Players dropped DNA strands representing an incomplete set of answers into a test tube. The network then provides the answer–the identity of the correct scientist–by fluorescent signals.
When presented with 27 different ways of answering the questions, the DNA “brain” responded correctly each time.
Now about that Skynet thing……