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Insect Brains Studied to Enhance Artificial Intelligence


A defense contractor wants to study tiny insect brains as it strives to create capable and efficient forms of artificial intelligence.

Defense One reported on a solicitation published by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which asked for recommendations on building computers the size of insect brains — some of which have fewer than 1,000 neurons.

Human brains, on the other hand, have somewhere around 100 billion neurons.

“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,” the solicitation reads. “Understanding highly integrated sensory and nervous systems in miniature insects and developing prototype computational models . . . could be mapped onto suitable hardware in order to emulate their impressive function.”

DARPA will use its Microscale Biomimetic Robust Artificial Intelligence Networks (MicroBRAIN) program to determine whether it is possible to build artificial intelligence systems that are so small they require far less power and data to operate than normal. At the same time, the agency wants the systems to be as capable as possible.

The military has studied insects in the past, which has resulted in the creation of micro-drones that can fly in swarms and adapt their flying formation on their own.

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