Imagine mapping out the entire human brain, taking all of the pulses and electrical signals, and then uploading them into a machine. You could become immortal, in theory, living forever as a digital being. If that sounds like an ethical quagmire then you will be pleased to hear that scientists are a long way from achieving anything that sophisticated. But they have managed to pull off a similar feat using a tiny worm and some Lego.
In 2014, neuro-robotic researchers mapped out the brain of a small ringworm, all 302 neurons, and turned it into a digital simulation. Simulating an entire brain is remarkable in itself, but the scientists decided to feed their virtual brain into a Lego robot. The Lego bot was hardly sophisticated; it had a sound sensor for a nose and two motors to act as its motor cortex. But, with a little tweaking, the virtual worm brain was able to control the robot, driving it around a test station and stopping it from bashing into the walls.
Eventually the researchers hope to be able to simulate not just the brain but an entire worm, building the world’s first digital life form.