Biomedical engineers at Duke University have created an encoder/decoder using bacterial growth patterns. Because such growth patterns tend to be regular, they can be reduced to an encoding scheme they call “emorfi”:
The encoding is not one-to-one, as the final simulated pattern corresponding to each letter is not exactly the same every time. However, the researchers discovered that a machine learning program could learn to distinguish between them to recognize the letter intended.Ken Kingery, Duke University, “An AI message decoder based on bacterial growth patterns” at Phys.org (September 23, 2022) The paper requires a fee or subscription.
Go here to see how it works and test it yourself.
We tried it with “Bacterial growth patterns can spell out your inmost thoughts” and sure enough, the bacteria obliged. The message from the whirling squiggles that typify bacterial growth translated back as “Bacterial growth patterns can spell out your inmost thoughts”.
So what use is this? Well, it’s a possible form of encryption:
To encrypt real messages, the encoder ends up creating a movie of a series of patterns, each correlating to a different letter. While they may look similar to the untrained eye, the computer algorithm can distinguish between them. So long as the receiver knows the set of initial conditions that led to their creation, an interloper should not be able to crack the code without a powerful AI of their own.Ken Kingery, Duke University, “An AI message decoder based on bacterial growth patterns” at Phys.org (September 23, 2022) The paper requires a fee or subscription.
We are living in a world where bacterial growth patterns can be formed intoa code that can send messages involving abstract ideas and it would take a “powerful AI” to crack the code. That means we are living in a world of information, primarily, not of matter.
You may also wish to read: In what ways are bacteria intelligent? As antibiotic resistance grows, researchers are discovering that these microbes are not just single, simple cells. We must understand the surprisingly complex ways bacteria “think” in order to keep them in check.
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