The human brain is still one of the biggest enigmas in nature. A map of the human brain would have far-reaching implications way beyond the field of medicine, but it’s such a fantastically complicated organ that scientists are still only just getting started at.
Currently, scientists are utilizing a technique that involves staining, slicing, and scanning of the brain in order to map out the structures. But a breakthrough in mapping techniques could very well speed up the process and open the door to a world of exciting possibilities.
The practical applications of mapping the brain would be on a scale similar to the mapping of the genome. Who knows? A working computer model of the human mind could make it possible to alter our memories, store and create artificial intelligence, or even upload human consciousness to a computer!
This hypothetical process of scanning mental state (including long-term memory and “self”) of a particular brain substrate and copying it to a computational device, such as an analog, digital, or software-based artificial neural network, is known as mind uploading. The device could then run a simulation model of the brain’s information processing, such that it responds essentially the same way as the original brain and experiences having a conscious mind.
Mind uploading may be accomplished by either of two methods:
Mind uploading would be achieved by scanning and mapping the salient features of a biological brain, and then by copying, transferring, and storing that information state into a computer system or another computational device. The simulated mind could be within a simulated world of virtual reality, supported by a 3D body simulation model.
- The gradual replacement of neurons.
The simulated mind could reside in a computer that is inside (or connected to) a (not necessarily humanoid) robot or a biological body in real life.
Among some futurists, mind uploading is treated as an important proposed life extension technology. It is believed that mind uploading is humanity’s current best option for preserving the identity of the species, as opposed to cryonics. The main aim of mind uploading is providing a permanent backup to our “mind-file”, and a means for functional copies of human minds to survive interstellar space travels or a global disaster.
Whole brain emulation is known as a “logical endpoint” of the topical computational neuroscience field. It is discussed in artificial intelligence research publications as an approach to strong AI. Computer-based intelligence, such as an upload, could think much faster than a biological human even if it were no more intelligent. Mind uploading is a central conceptual feature of numerous science fiction novels and films.
Substantial mainstream research in related areas has been conducted in animal brain simulation and mapping, development of virtual reality, faster supercomputers, computer interfaces, connectomics, and information extraction from dynamically functioning brains. Many of the tools and ideas needed to achieve mind uploading already exist or are currently under active development; however, they will admit that others are, as yet, very speculative, but still in the realm of engineering possibility.