Of MEART and Men

Today, via Cracked’s 9 real life mad scientists (one of the people involved came in at number four), I became aware for the first time of MEART.

In brief: MEART consists of a collection of rat neurons wired up to circuits in Atlanta. These are connected via the internet to a robotic arm in Australia. The arm is capable of drawing, and sends feedback to the neurons.

The creators put it like this:

MEART is suggesting future scenarios where humans will create/grow/manufacture intuitive and creative “thinking entities” that could be intelligent and unpredictable beings. They may be created by humans for anthropocentric use, but as they will be creative and unpredictable they might not necessarily stay the way they were originally intended.

We refer to the wetware/software/hardware hybrid we have created as a Semi-Living artist as it is made of both living and artificial components; part grown – part constructed. While the artistic values of the outcomes of the process (the marks on paper left by the drawing arm) are still in the eye of the beholder, the questions regarding the possibilities are real. What will happen when such a system starts to express qualities that are considered uniquely human aptitudes such as art? Its identity extends beyond our cultural comprehension of living systems. Made from living biological matter, mechanics and electronics simultaneously, it questions the viewer’s perceptions of the concept of sentience.

MEART has a technologically created identity. It is an identity created as a result of the progression and combination of various technologies. Its “brain” is growing in Atlanta and its “body” (or multi bodies) could be anywhere in the world thus highlighting the ubiquitous nature of its existence and identity.

I think my brain just melted.

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