A new discovery in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) draws inspiration from one of the simplest marine creatures in the world-sea slugs. Artificial intelligence is in a state of continuous growth, trying to improve and increase efficiency. A simple sea slug helped researchers break new ground. Researchers from Purdue University, Rutgers University, University of Georgia and Argonne National Laboratory published a study this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study examined some of the most basic components of sea slug intelligence. This helps researchers take steps to make AI-driven hardware more efficient.

Researchers say that such hardware may be efficient and reliable for applications in areas such as autonomous vehicles, surgical robots, and social media algorithms.

Shriram Ramanathan, a professor of materials engineering at Purdue University, told EurekAlert, “By studying sea slugs, neuroscientists have discovered intellectual characteristics that are essential to the survival of any organism.”

In sea slugs, there are two signs of intelligence-habit and sensitivity. Habit means normalization of response to stimuli over time. However, sensitivity is the opposite. It is the part of the organism’s intelligence that responds strongly to new stimuli.

Artificial intelligence often struggles to keep up with these apparently opposite aspects of intelligence. Among researchers studying brain-like computing, it is called the “stability-plasticity dilemma.” As we know today, artificial intelligence cannot store new information without first rewriting the old data. But habit will make artificial intelligence not store unnecessary data, and sensitivity will help retain new information. This will increase stability while also making plasticity possible.

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Researchers rely on nickel oxide to simulate this habitual and sensitive process. Nickel oxide is called a quantum material because properties cannot be explained by the laws of classical physics.

This quantum material shows a intelligent response to stimuli, just like sea slugs. The sea slug barely retracted gills when struck with the siphon, which indicated that it used to it. However, when its tail receives an electric shock and retracts its gills sharply, it will show sensitivity.

Nickel oxide simulates this by showing the difference in resistance. Researchers have found that repeated exposure of materials to hydrogen will reduce their electrical resistance over time. However, when nickel oxide is introduced into a new stimulus such as ozone, the change in its resistance will increase.

Researchers believe that nickel oxide can build artificial intelligence hardware. This kind of hardware combined with appropriate software can make artificial intelligence more efficient.