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Pentagon seeks to harness insect brains for ‘conscious robots’


The Pentagon’s emerging technologies unit is seeking proposals that would utilize insect brains to control robots for a range of purposes.

The Federal Business Opportunities website post seeks concepts that explore “new computational frameworks and strategies drawn from the impressive computational capabilities of very small flying insects for whom evolutionary pressures have forced scale/size/energy reduction without loss of performance.”

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has researched a wide range of futuristic capabilities throughout its history and is known for having funded projects that helped lead to the creation of the World Wide Web as we know it.

“Nature has forced on these small insects drastic miniaturization and energy efficiency, some having only a few hundred neurons in a compact form-factor, while maintaining basic functionality,” a document from the post reads. “Furthermore, these organisms are possibly able to display increased subjectivity of experience, which extends simple look-up table responses to potentially AI-relevant problem-solving.”

Horse Fly (Tabanus) with colored flower

Horse Fly (Tabanus) with colored flower
(Getty Images)

The document goes on to state that there’s evidence suggesting “even small insects have subjective experiences, the first step towards a concept of ‘consciousness.'”

DARPA is offering $1 million to whichever company is awarded, with a range of markers set for each phase of the project, according to the post.

Whether the project’s goals will be achieved remains to be seen.



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