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Head in the cloud?

Head in the cloud?

04.08.2023
4 min.
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When will humanity be able to duplicate mind and consciousness, bringing them into virtual space? The so-called mind uploading may arrive sooner than we think. The idea, which has intrigued humankind since the 1950s, is getting clearer contours, and not only in science fiction.

To transfer one’s mind to a machine, thus protecting oneself from the influences that threaten our bodies, and in the best (or worst?) case scenario to achieve immortality, is the dream of many people. Although science has been making progress in this respect, the millennial generation of today is unlikely to live to see a mass use of such technology. Still the idea of mind uploading remains in some way tempting to us. It makes one wonder how such a transmission would work – would it be necessary to arrange it during one’s lifetime or would it be possible to “scan” consciousness from the brain after death? Would we become a conscious computer or robots with human minds? Then there is the question of ethics: would this technology be the beginning of an end?

Are we there yet?

In 2016, an unnamed Russian millionaire unveiled his ambitious plans for The Immortalist programme, according to Claudia Lorenzo Rubier of theconversation.com. The founder of The Immortalist stated his intention to cooperate with scientists from various fields with the view of transferring human consciousness to a computer and thus ensuring immortality. This should happen by 2045. Although such deadline seems very unlikely, humanity has been taking small but significant steps towards some form of immortality.

According to Professor Masataka Watanabe from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Tokyo, we are already quite close to the possibility of mind uploading from a living, conscious mind. Watanabe works in theoretical and experimental neuroscience and consciousness, and one of the main questions he asks is what consciousness really is in relation to neural mechanisms.

Watanabe’s deliberations are not just fantasies. According to him, the transfer of consciousness is possible when the left hemisphere is connected and transferred to a device substituting the role of the right hemisphere (and vice versa). He has proposed a three-step process:

  1. prepare a device with neutral consciousness that connects to a living brain and into which the memory is transferred;
  2. connect the device to a hemisphere and transfer consciousness;
  3. merge both mechanical hemispheres filled with transferred memories and consciousness.

Simple, isn’t it? But don’t try this process at home. After all, Professor Watanabe’s work is still only theoretical, according to researchfeatures.com.

Is there a virtual reality after death?

One episode of the Black Mirror series (on Netflix) depicts the possibility of a “life after life” as a vast virtual space where people go after their physical death. They can go there for a “test drive” during the last months or years of their lives. Although this is only a fictional story, the creators raise a rather serious question: Do we really want to live forever? It is quite impossible to separate the scientific question that fascinates humanity, from philosophical ethical dimensions. Who deserves a beautiful afterlife? Will it be a matter of money, merit or will it be open to everyone? Will it be possible to leave? And will it really be beautiful?

While the scientific community is working on the best technical execution, artists and visionaries are exploring the human psyche and society. What would society look like if it were possible to transfer one’s consciousness to a cloud? Would such technology mean a utopia or an apocalypse?

San Junipero
Black Mirror – San Junipero

Keep calm and keep your brain warm.

So far, the research remains on a theoretical level. Scientists are still studying the actual functioning of the brain as such. Uncovering what consciousness, intuition, personality, or identity really is, is a gigantic task. Until this “ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything” is resolved, we can probably keep calm about mind upolading.

(Although all Douglas Adams fans know well that the answer is 42. 😎)

How do you see mind uploading? Would you “migrate” to a computer or a cloud?        

Sources:

https://theconversation.com/how-uploading-our-minds-to-a-computer-might-become-possible-206804

https://researchfeatures.com/rethinking-consciousness/

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