Earlier this year, a group of Japanese scientists reported that with appropriate training, the true slime mold Physarum polycephalum can anticipate the timing of periodic events.
That’s more than some politicians can manage and P polycephalum is only a single-celled amoeba, albeit a talented one. A few years ago a Hungarian team showed that slime mold was able to find the shortest way through a maze.
Clearly, primitive intelligence has cellular origins but how might this work?
Yuriy Pershin at UC San Diego and pals think they know how. They say that this kind of behaviour is identical to the way a simple electronic circuit reacts to train of voltage pulses. The circuit consists of an inductor, capacitor and a memory-resistor, or memristor.
Interestingly, this learning behavior comes from purely passive components. This can easily be reproduced in the lab and the San Diego team say it may turn out to be a useful way to build passive circuits that learn.
Link several of these passive learning circuits together and you might be able to knock up a simple neural net. Suddenly, you’ve got a new kind of AI on your hands and the origins of cellular intelligence don’t seem so obscure, after all.
Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0810.4179: Memristive Model of Amoeba’s Learning