The Unconventional Computing Laboratory (UCL) from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) has showcased its mushroom motherboard. 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 his previous studies, 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.
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.
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.
Source: Popular Science
Image: Andrew Adamatzky