Editorial 1. India’s moment under the diplomatic sun must be used


India is on a geopolitical high. New Delhi is presiding over G-20 in 2023. At the sidelines of this summit, other meetings and dialogues are taking place, like the Quad foreign ministers’ meeting and the Raisina Dialogue 2023.

India’s rise in a new world order:

For a country that has for far too long inhabited the sidelines of world politics, India’s pivotal position at the G-20, Quad (the United States, India, Australia and Japan), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Global South today has given it a sudden surge in stature and reputation.

For New Delhi, this is an opportunity for a long-awaited pivotal power moment. Since the 75 years of its independence, Indian leaders, from Jawaharlal Nehru to A.B. Vajpayee to Narendra Modi, have often spoken of India’s role in the world — that its culture, history, demography and economic strength provide the country with a strong foundation for such a role.

Treading the fault-lines

Contemporary Indian foreign policy is a textbook example of treading the fault-lines of world politics. New Delhi has become adept at playing both sides (though at a cost). For example, India is currently the chair of both the United States/West-led G-20, and the China-centered SCO. It is seeking to be at the global high table while staking a serious claim to be the leader of the Global South.

On the Ukraine war, New Delhi has not alienated, directly or indirectly, any of the parties involved in the war in a big way. New Delhi is also an active member of multilateral forums which has China in it — BRICS and the SCO. Contemporary India speaks the language of revisionism and status quoism in the same breath, and with ease.

What does India want?

New Delhi’s objective of getting a seat at the global high table, particularly with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), is currently out of reach. It has, therefore, been hinting at the dysfunctionality of the UNSC, and the utility of more inclusive and flexible forums such as the G-20.

Even though the meeting ended without a joint statement thanks to the Ukraine war, it was a success for at least two reasons:

1. It created the environment for the U.S. Secretary of State and the Russian Foreign Minister to have a meeting for the first time since the war began a year ago

2. When most other forums are unable to bring together the warring parties in one room, the G-20 has been able to do it.

New Delhi’s heart may or may not be with the Global South, but it has understood the instrumental utility of the Global South argument in its pursuit of power and status. If China can use the Global South argument for its geopolitical ends, so can we.

Way forward: meeting the challenges

1.Making the most of 2023

Indian chairpersonship of the G-20 and the SCO ends this year, and Beijing will not let New Delhi take over the leadership of the Global South so easily. So, is New Delhi using this crucial year to strengthen strategic partnerships, seek geopolitical concessions, and create structures that enhance India’s national security? In geopolitics, national glory is not necessarily an enduring outcome.

2. Optics and framing

Some of the language that emanates from New Delhi in response to western or the U.S.’s statements/criticisms could be construed as needlessly offensive. While riding high on diplomatic successes, being subtle in one’s assertions has far more utility, notwithstanding the domestic political uses of harsh foreign policy assertions. Indian diplomacy needs to adopt the language of finesse and authority rather than that of aggression. Confident nations need not talk like reactionaries.

3.Limits to balancing opposites

If you play all sides, you might not end up making strong strategic partnerships that should come to your aid if and when something major goes wrong such as a future conflict with China. While bridging the divide in world politics is a noble task, indecisiveness might not yield lasting partnerships.


Finally, there is always a danger of governments using diplomatic highs such as this towards domestic political ends rather than for geopolitical objectives. So, will New Delhi utilise 2023 to prepare for ‘2024’ or to strengthen the country’s place in the comity of nations?

Editorial 2. What are ‘bio-computers’ and what can they tell us about the human brain?


Scientists at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) recently outlined a plan for a potentially revolutionary new area of research called “organoid intelligence” or OI, which aims to create “biocomputers”.

About biocomputers:

When brain cultures grown in the lab are coupled to real-world sensors and input/output devices, we can use real human brain cells to make computing “more brain-like.”

Biocomputers revolve around using organoids, or clusters of living tissue grown from stem cells that behave similarly to organs, as biological hardware that powers algorithmic systems.

The premise of this technology

Understanding how the human brain works has been a difficult challenge. Traditionally, researchers have used rat brains to investigate various human neurological disorders. While rats provide a simpler and more accessible system to study the brain, there are several differences in structure and function and obvious differences in the cognitive capacities of rodents and humans.

In a quest to develop systems that are more relevant to humans, scientists are building 3D cultures of brain tissue in the lab, also called brain organoids. These “mini-brains” (with a size of up to 4 mm) are built using human stem cells and capture many structural and functional features of a developing human brain. Researchers are now using them to study human brain development and test drugs to see how they respond.

However, the human brain also requires various sensory inputs (touch, smell, vision, etc.) to develop into the complex organ it is, and brain organoids developed in the lab aren’t sophisticated enough. The organoids currently also don’t have blood circulation, which limits how they can grow.

Significance of biocomputers and OI:Scientists hope that it will facilitate more advanced learning than a conventional computer can, resulting in richer feedback and better decision-making than AI can provide. The technology can harness the processing power of the brain and understand the biological basis of human cognition, learning, and various neurological disorders.

About the new ‘bio-computer’

The JHU researchers’ scheme will combine brain organoids with modern computing methods to create “bio-computers”. They have announced plans to couple the organoids with machine learning by growing the organoids inside flexible structures affixed with multiple electrodes (similar to the ones used to take EEG readings from the brain).

These structures will be able to record the firing patterns of the neurons and also deliver electrical stimuli, to mimic sensory stimuli. The response pattern of the neurons and their effect on human behaviour or biology will then be analysed by machine-learning techniques.

Recently, scientists were able to grow human neurons on top of a microelectrode array that could both record and stimulate these neurons. Using positive or negative electric feedback from the sensors, they were able to train the neurons to generate a pattern of electrical activity that would be generated if the neurons were playing table tennis.

The opportunities for ‘bio-computers’

While human brains are slower than computers at, say, simple arithmetic, they outshine machines at processing complex information.

Brain organoids can also be developed using stem cells from individuals with neurodegenerative diseases or cognitive disorders. Comparing the data on brain structure, connections, and signalling between ‘healthy’ and ‘patient-derived’ organoids  can reveal the biological basis of human cognition, learning, and memory.

They could also help decode the pathology of and drug development for devastating neurodevelopmental and degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and microcephaly.

Way forward: Bio-computers for commercial use

1. Currently, brain organoids have a diameter of less than 1 mm and have fewer than 100,000 cells (both on average), which make it roughly three-millionth the size of an actual human brain. So scaling up the brain organoid is key to improving its computing capacity – as will incorporating non-neuronal cells involved in biological learning.

2. Researchers will also have to develop microfluidic systems to transport oxygen and nutrients, and remove waste products. These hybrid systems will generate very large amounts of data (i.e. of neural recordings from each neuron and connection), which researchers will need to store and analyse using ‘Big Data’ infrastructure.

3. They will also need to develop and use advanced analytical techniques (with help from machines) to correlate the structural and functional changes in the brain organoids to the various output variables.

4. The next challenge in this technology is now to establish long-term memory. Then applying this to patient cell-derived brain organoids, like autism and Alzheimer donors, is already on the way. We might see benefits for drug development in this decade.


Biocomputers and OI is an emerging technology with associated challenges. There is also a proposal to have an ethics team to parallelly identify, discuss, and analyse ethical issues as they arise in the course of this technology.


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *