Original article was published on Artificial Intelligence on Medium
Live forever as a machine
The human condition dictates that as living beings, our bodies as well as our minds will deteriorate over time until eventually, they stop working completely.
The idea of eternal life has always been in the mind and imagination of humanity, existing throughout history kings and emperors paying whoever could provide this benefit of never dying.
Currently, there is a possible solution, an idea that can allow a person to download his mind and even his consciousness to a non-biological entity and not subject to the normal laws of decay.
What is the reality at the moment?
There is a lot of sensational speculation that ensures that this achievement is just around the corner, however, the reality is different.
Many of the ideas we have of how this could be carried out are based on what we see in movies, where practically downloading the information from the mind is how to synchronize your phone.
Briefly, an explanation of the human brain
The brain is extremely complicated, having close to 100 billion neurons, among which there are tens of thousands of connections called synapses, resulting in nearly 100 trillion synaptic connections.
Explained very simply, this system of neurons has all our memory and knowledge encoded through electrical pulses between them.
What is required?
Having an idea of how our brain works, we can begin to understand the complexity of being able to transfer all this functioning to an artificial entity.
For it to work properly, it would be necessary to make the exact copy of each synaptic connection in our mind to avoid a code error that caused a total system failure.
Simply put, by doing this process, the artificial entity could have all of the person’s memories and learning, at the time their brain was scanned.
An additional challenge rarely mentioned in science fiction movies is that this artificial entity, apart from having the ability to copy the human brain, would have to do the same functions like it.
That is, being able to learn, react or be aware in the same way as a person would.
If we fail at this, we will have the image of a person in an artificial entity caught in an eternal cycle with the same knowledge and behavior.
What progress is there at the moment?
The area of science that deals with the study of the brain is called neuroscience, and this has made very important advances in the area of brain scanning, understanding of brain functions, and many other areas.
However, although the advances have been gigantic, there is still too much that we do not know about the brain, among them is the discussion of consciousness, which continues to be a topic of disagreement among scientists around the world.
Study at the Allen Institute in Seattle
One of the most notable advances has been the one made by a group of scientists in the United States.
Their project artificially reconstructed a cubic millimeter of a mouse’s brain.
Even though a cubic millimeter is no bigger than a grain of sand, this has been the largest representation ever made of a mammalian brain.
This small grain of sand houses nearly 100,000 neurons and more than a billion synapses.
To do this, it took months of work, sectioning the brain into 25,000 layers and millions of images from each microscopic part of the unit.
This gives us a clear idea of what it means to scan and rebuild an entire human brain.
Our technology today
Replicating the human mind would be 100 million times more complicated than the work done by the Allen Institute.
The reality is that currently, we do not have the necessary technology to be able to do a detailed scan of a human brain.
This leads us to the conclusion that to arrive at a replica of a human brain, our tools to do so do not yet exist or have not been developed to the point that is needed.
What would happen when the time came?
If we invoke some science fiction and transfer the necessary technology to today, and we could download a person’s mind into an entity, the questions that arise go beyond what we can answer today.
- Does the replica of the mind guarantee the replica of the person?
- Is the information we know about the brain all there is?
- Is there a conscience or a “soul” that must also be replicated to give identity?
What can we expect in the near future?
The advances that have been made in the area of neuroscience aim to learn more about the brain since it is part of the human body for which we have the least information.
Currently, the objective is to be able to know it to the point of being able to treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, epilepsy, among others, as well as psychiatric diseases that currently have no cure, only treatment.
In other words, the search for eternal life could be the consequence of the infinity of studies that are done with another purpose in mind, which is the understanding of the brain and, if possible, the human mind.
We are not even close to reaching this point
We have not been able to achieve a replica of the smallest mammalian brain, however, it is not all bad news, the way is established regarding how theoretically this point could be reached.
Science and technology have to evolve to see a complete scan of the human brain, the first humanoid, and eventually the successful transfer of a mind to an artificial entity.