Transhumanism: Can We Upload Our Minds To a Computer?

We may see mind-uploading technology within the lives of our children or grandchildren. Let’s understand the scope and feasibility of Transhumanism ie, Uploading our brains to a computer.

Transhumanism: Can We Upload Our Minds To a Computer?
In the science fiction series Altered Carbon (2018), based on the novel of the same name by Richard Morgan, human identity can be stored on a digital medium and transferred from one body to another, allowing humans to survive physical death. by ensuring that their memories and consciousness are “inserted” into new bodies.

Imagine brain scanning technology improving enormously in the coming decades, to the point where we can observe how each individual neuron communicates with other neurons. Then, imagine that we can record all this information to create a simulation of someone’s brain on a computer.

This is the concept behind mind uploading—the idea that we can one day transition a person from their biological body to synthetic hardware. The notion originated in an intellectual movement called transhumanism and has several key proponents, including computer scientist Ray Kurzweil, philosopher Nick Bostrom, and neuroscientist Randal Koene.

The central hope of transhumanists is to transcend the human condition through scientific and technological progress. They believe that mental uploading can allow us to live as long as we want (but not necessarily forever). It could even allow us to improve, for example, by having simulated brains that work faster and more efficiently than biological ones. It is a dream of the future for the “techno-optimists.” But does it have any basis?

The feasibility of mental loading is based on three fundamental assumptions:

  • The first is the technological assumption: the idea that we will be able to develop mind-uploading technology in the coming decades.
  • The second is the artificial mind assumption: the idea that a simulated brain would give rise to a real mind.
  • And the third is the survival assumption: the idea that the person created in the process is really “you.” Only then does the mental load become a way for you to continue living.

But how plausible is each of these assumptions?

The Technological Assumption of Transhumanism

Trying to simulate the human brain would be a monumental challenge. Our brains are the most complex structures in the known universe. They house about 86 billion neurons and 85 billion non-neuronal cells, with an estimated one million trillion neuronal connections. For comparison, the Milky Way galaxy is home to about 200 billion stars.

Where are we on the path to creating brain simulations? Neuroscientists are currently making three-dimensional diagrams of connections (“connectomes”) of the brains of simple organisms. The most complete connectome we have to date is that of a fruit fly larva, which has around 3,000 neurons and 500,000 neuronal connections. We could hope to map a mouse brain within the next ten years.

Transhumanism: Can We Upload Our Minds To a Computer?
Tractographic reconstruction of neural connections by DTI.

However, the human brain is approximately a thousand times more complex than that of a mouse. Would it then take 10,000 years to map a human brain? Probably not. We have seen astonishing efficiency gains in similar projects, such as the Human Genome Project.

About 20 years ago, mapping the first human genome took years and hundreds of millions of dollars. Today, the fastest labs can do it in a matter of hours for about $100. With similar gains in efficiency, we could see mind-uploading technology in the lives of our children or grandchildren.

That said, there are other obstacles. Creating a static map of the brain is only part of the job. To simulate a functioning brain, we would need to observe individual neurons in action. It is not clear whether we could achieve this shortly.

The artificial mind assumption

Would a simulation of your brain generate a conscious mind like yours? The answer depends on the connection between our minds and our bodies. Unlike the 17th century philosopher René Descartes, who thought that the mind and body are radically different, most academic philosophers today think that the mind is ultimately something physical in itself. Simply put, your mind is your brain.

Still, how could a brain simulation give rise to a real mind if it is just a simulation?

Well, many cognitive scientists believe that the complex neural structure of your brain is responsible for creating your conscious mind, rather than the nature of its biological matter—which consists primarily of fat and water.

Nick Bostrom - Transhumanism: Can We Upload Our Minds To a Computer?
Nick Bostrom is founder of Humanity Plus, an international cultural and intellectual movement whose ultimate goal is to transform the human condition through the development and manufacture of widely available technology, which in turn also improves human capabilities, both physically and psychologically. intellectuals, based on nanotechnology, genetic engineering and cybernetics.

When implemented on a computer, the simulated brain would replicate the structure of your brain. For every simulated neuron and neural connection, there would be a corresponding component of computing hardware. The simulation would replicate the structure of your brain and therefore reproduce your conscious mind.

Current artificial intelligence systems provide useful—although not conclusive—evidence for the structural approach to the mind. These systems are based on artificial neural networks, which copy some of the structural principles of the brain. And they can perform many tasks that require a lot of cognitive work.

The Survival Assumption

Suppose that it is possible to simulate a human brain and that the simulation creates a conscious mind. Would the uploaded person really be you, or maybe just a mental clone?

This refers to an ancient philosophical puzzle: what makes it so that when you get out of bed in the morning you are still the same person who went to bed the night before?

Philosophers divide broadly into two camps on this question. The biological field believes that the morning self and the night self are the same person because they are the same biological organism—connected by a biological life process.

The larger mental field thinks that having a mind makes all the difference. The morning self and the night self are the same person because they share a mental life. The morning self remembers what the night self did—they share the same beliefs, hopes, character traits, and so on.

What makes it so that when you get out of bed in the morning you are still the same person who went to bed the night before?

So which camp is right? Here’s a way to test your intuition: imagine your brain is transplanted into the empty skull of another person’s body. Is the resulting person, who has your memories, preferences and personality, you, as the mental field thinks? Or is it the person who donated her body, as the biological field thinks?

In other words, did you get a new body or did you get a new mind? A lot depends on this question.

If the biological field is right, then mental uploading wouldn’t work, assuming the entire point of uploading is to leave our biology behind. If the mental field is right, there is a possibility of uploading, as the uploaded mind could be a genuine continuation of your present mental life.

Wait, there is a problem

But wait: what happens when the original biological you also survive the loading process? Would you split, along with your consciousness, into two people, resulting in two “you”—one in biological form (B) and one in charged form (C)?

No, you (A) cannot literally split into two separate people (B ≠ C) and be identical with both at the same time. At most, only one of them can be you (either A = B or A = C).

Transhumanism: Can We Upload Our Minds To a Computer?

It seems more intuitive that, after a split, your biological form would continue as the real you (A = B), and the upload would simply be a mental copy. But that calls into question whether you can survive as the cargo even in the event that the biological you is destroyed.

Why would destroying you biologically magically elevate your mental clone to the status of the real you? It seems strange to think this would happen (although one view in philosophy claims it could be true).

Is it worth the risk?

Unfortunately, the artificial and survival mind assumptions cannot be conclusively tested empirically; In fact, we would have to load ourselves to find out.

Therefore, loading will always involve a huge leap of faith. Personally, I would only make that leap if I knew for sure that my biological hardware wasn’t going to last much longer.

By  Clas Weber

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