A Living PC: Scientists showcase a working demo of a PC powered by mushrooms


Thanks to the popularity of Last of Us, many people are now left wondering what would happen if the Cordyceps fungus actually infected humans and turned them into zombies. Well, a group of scientists got thinking, about what would happen if such a fungus would “infect” a PC, and boy were they surprised by the results.

Popular Science has reported that the Uncommon Computing Laboratory or UCL from the University of the West of England, Bristol has showcased its mushroom motherboard. The lab, headed by professor Andrew Adamatzk, focuses on unconventional computing methods, such as wetware, which is the idea of applying the concepts of hardware and software to living creatures.

The “Mushroom” computer 
In the natural world, fungi connect with other fungi just like various computers in a network connect with each other. They are also sometimes called the “wood wide web.”

Fungi use mycelium, very thin hyphae the size of a thread, to link to a root network beneath the earth. 

The mycelium on the fungal computer serves as a conductor and a replacement for other electrical components such as the CPU or memory. 

Adamatzky previously showed that mushrooms could interact with one another via electric signals via the mycelium in a previous study. Mycelium is capable of transmitting and getting electrical impulses as well as storing memories.

How does the Mushroom computer work?
The neurons in the human brain communicate using spiking activity, and Adamatzky’s research demonstrates that mycelium uses a similar mechanism. 

As a result, scientists can use the existence or lack of a spike as the foundation for zeroes or ones, similar to how a traditional computer employs binary code. 

Furthermore, Adamatzky stated that researchers could improve the speed and dependability of communication by stimulating mycelium at two different locations to boost conductivity. 

This procedure, similar to how the brain forms routines, aids in memory development.

Will “Mushroom” based CPUs wipe out silicon-based CPUs?
That’s very unlikely. In terms of raw speed and performance, mushroom computers cannot compete with regular computers equipped with the finest CPUs. 

However, fungus computers have some advantages. They have increased fault tolerance due to their self-generation characteristic and improved reconfigurability as they develop and change. 

Furthermore, mushroom computers consume very little power, resulting in a high energy efficiency.

“Right now, all we have are viability reports. We’re just showing that it’s feasible to perform computation, as well as fundamental logical and electrical circuits, using mycelium” said Adamatzky.

“We can cultivate more sophisticated mycelium computers and operate devices in the future,” Adamatzky told Popular Science.

Just to clarify, there is still a lot of effort and research that needs to be done on the subject. We’re unlikely to see the first fungal motherboard, let alone a sentient computer inhabited by mushrooms, at least for a few years, if not decades.

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A Living PC: Scientists showcase a working demo of a PC powered by mushrooms
A Living PC: Scientists showcase a working demo of a PC powered by mushrooms
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