When Professor Toshiyuki Nakagaki of the Future University Hakodate located in northern Japan observed a brainless slime mold navigate its way out of a maze, he realized the creature has an "intelligence" more sophisticated than the most powerful supercomputer.
Mold's processing abilities shared by humans
During his investigations with the slime mold, Nakagaki also discovered the lowly creature has the innate capability to rearrange its cellular mass and successfully wend its way through a twisting maze towards a waiting food source.
Astonishingly the blob without a brain found the most direct route out.
The research sheds new light on the processes driving what is recognized as intelligence and the processes that create the keys to intelligent behavior. Such insights to the process of intelligent actions and reactions to stimuli in the environment can lead towards better information processing for computers, especially a future generation of sophisticated biocomputers.
The Telegraph reports that Nakagaki also observed: "Humans are not the only living things with information-processing abilities. Simple creatures can solve certain kinds of difficult puzzles. If you want to spotlight the essence of life or intelligence, it's easier to use these simple creatures."
Slime molds, biocomputers, artificial intelligence and robotics
Understanding exactly how a slime mold can find its way through a maze to reach food may open the doors to rapid development in a host of technologies struggling towards better information processing capabilities. Advanced biocomputers can more readily be adopted for artificial intelligence and be utilized for new generations of 'thinking' robots.
Half the technological effort expended on robotics is developing and endowing the machines with a better brain. That goal is hampered by the current limitations in understanding not only the human brain and thinking process, but the process of thinking, reaction and rudimentary judgment found in even the simplest creatures.
Nakagaki's research with slime molds may someday—in the foreseeable future—lead to great leaps forward in battlefield, medical, industrial, and even personal robots.
Intelligence may not all be located in the brain
The research into intelligence by Professor Nakagaki and others supports research by medical doctors who are discovering that various parts of the human body also retain memories. Studies have been done that indicate some of the body's major organs, like the heart, retain memories in their cells.
Such research is galvanizing the quest for a better understanding of intelligence, memory and learning capabilities. The research can lead to eventual eradication of major diseases, stunning new technologies, perhaps even vessels to the stars.
All this from a hungry slime mold intent on getting out of a maze.