OpenWorm: The First Digital Organism

Alessia Andreotti
May 22nd 2014

OpenWorm is an open science project aimed at building the first digital organism, a microscopic worm called C. elegans.

The idea is to create an interactive worm based on its real biology. Living in a browser, the virtual simulated model will be accessible to anyone with a computer.

Users will be able to click on parts of the worm and interact with it in a 3D environment. It will be possible to inspect the digital animated WormSim and try to figure out what makes it tick. Each cell lights up and reveals its activity.

The project, which release is scheduled in a year, has been presented with a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to raise money to create OpenWorm to increase our understanding of the human brain.

As its creator, Stephen Larson, says: "If we cannot build a computer model of a worm, the most studied organism in all of biology, we don’t stand a chance to understand something as complex as the human brain. OpenWorm gives the world front row access to the cutting edge of digital biology.”

Read more on Extreme Tech

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Adam L
Posted 22/05/2014 – 20:34

To a far more advanced level, what if someday we create digital people for experimentation or as toys? If they are capable of suffering, would we be indifferent to their suffering simply because they aren't biological life forms? There would be massive practical implications for digital simulated people, but its no secret people find pleasure in mistreating things we don't perceive as "real" (aka some video games such as Surgeon Simulator go so far as making this suffering hilarious and encourage the player to find amusement in the harm the dole on their virtual victims).
So, how far can we take this before its considered unethical to mistreat these creations? Would we have any empathy for them, or perhaps "dumb them down" so they're not aware of what is happening? And if we didn't have empathy for them, what would that say about us, and could this relationship with technology change the way we treat each other? Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps we should write an instruction booklet outlining the treatment of digital people.

Should men be able to give birth to children?


Joyce Nabuurs: To me this question seems to be a logical next step in the emancipation movement of the past century. More and more women entered the workspace, but the responsibility for pregnancy and childrearing remained female.

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