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"The world is really so surreal these days that it's necessary for us to blunt it somehow in order to stay sane. The artist functions to short-circuit the buffering mechanism, so that people can occasionally perceive the weirdness of things as they are."
- William Gibson

Head Cheese  
  Intelligent paste made of neurons; spread upon a substrate for computing.  

Pilot Joel Kita wasn't very happy about being replaced.

The Pacific Ocean slopped two kilometers under his feet. He had a cargo of blank-eyed psychotics sitting behind him. And the lifter was being piloted by a large pizza with extra cheese...

Ray had been in this very cockpit, watching the pizza being installed and no doubt wondering when the term "job security" had become an oxymoron... The techs were playing with a square vanilla box, half a meter on a side and about twice as thick as Kita's wrist.

Humans had always been able to integrate 3-D spatial information better than the machines that kept trying to replace them...

Until now, apparently...

"It's one of those smart gels," Ray said at last... "Head cheese. Cultured brains on a slab. The same things they've been plugging into the Net to firewall infections."

From Starfish, by Peter Watts.
Published by Tor Books in 1999
Additional resources -

Be sure to see the Science Fiction in the News story Rat Neurons In A Dish Play Flight Simulator for an amazing real-life confirmation.

The term "smart gel" is already in use; it refers to a class of liquids that have unusual properties in response to being compressed. Since smart gels expand or contract in response to external stimuli, they could be useful in applications such as an artificial pancreas that releases insulin inside the body in response to high sugar level. Smart gels might someday be used to make exotic foods, cosmetics, medicines, and sensors. See the article Smart Gels and Shake Gels.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Starfish
  More Ideas and Technology by Peter Watts
  Tech news articles related to Starfish
  Tech news articles related to works by Peter Watts

Head Cheese-related news articles:
  - Rat Neurons In A Dish Now Playing Flight Simulator
  - Rat Brain Robot Uses Cultured Rat Neurons
  - Rat Brain Robot Gets Upgrades
  - Robots With Human Brains
  - Making Drone Aircraft Smarter
  - Artificial Microbrain Memory Cells
  - Neuromorphic Brain-Chip Takes Flight

Articles related to Artificial Intelligence
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Artificially Intelligent Poster - Advert That Writes Itself
LipNet Reads Lips - Until Disconnected, That Is
Pokerbot Libratus Learns To Lie (Bluff)

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