I posted some time ago a news on the development of protonics, a new kind of electronics based on proton exchange rather than electrons exchange. The latter is what your cell phone chip uses, the former is what your brain uses.
Now I stumbled upon an invention by a doctoral student at the University of Linkoping in Sweden that goes beyond the interface based on protonics exchange to interface bio communications with electronic devices. The chip itself uses ions and molecules.
The result stems from previous ones that have provided means to use both positive and negative ions and biomolecules to activate a sort of transistors. By combining these results into a single package it is now possible to have a chip that understand both the electrical messages and the chemical messages used within our body for communications.
As Magnus Berggren, professor of Organic Electronics and leader of the research group in which Klaus Tybrandt (who invented the chip) works:
“We can, for example, send out signals to muscle synapses where the signalling system may not work for some reason. We know our chip works with common signalling substances, for example acetylcholine”
It is a very exciting evolution: we have learnt that our brains (and bodies) use both chemical and electrical signals and having the possibility to interface both mechanisms is going to open up great perspectives.
It is also going to be very challenging since the electrical communications, although occurring through protons exchange rather than electrons, is based on a Turing paradigm, signal in – signal out. However, chemical communications, with very few exceptions, is based on a different paradigm. One can say that whilst electrical communications between cells passes instructions to be processed, in chemical communications there is a change in the context in which information is being processed and this changes the way it is processed. It is a sort of holistic communications; when you are excited you react in quite a different way, and that is because of a communication based on dopamine, a neurotransmitter that “floods” your brain and changes its response to electrical signals.
To really operate these new chips we need to take a departure from pure Turing machine and start looking at autonomous systems theory. Curiously, one may say that each monad in these systems is a Turing machine, however the resulting behavior cannot be understood through a Turing machine paradigm. We usually speak about “emerging behavior”. It is therefore an exciting progress also in terms of conceptual processing paradigms.