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Mind uploading vs Mind Virtualisation I

Interested in having a digital copy of your brain? A start up is offering this service but first they need to kill you. Image Credit: Nectome

Mind uploading, i.e. the possibility to transfer all memories, thoughts and feelings from a person’s brain to a computer, has been the realm of science fiction[1]till few years ago. The development of technologies that allow the monitoring of the brain as it “works” have moved the field from science fiction to science. We are still very far from reaching a true uploading, even on a smaller scale, of a brain, but existing technologies have shown that in principle this might become possible. You can find a collection of articles looking at both technology aspects and to social ethical questions at minduploading.org.

There is even a start up, Nectome, that is offering the service to copy your brain to a computer. There is a small glitch though: first they have to kill you…. If you are interested the waiting list is pretty short.

Moving from something “in principle” to “reality” can be so difficult to actually be “impossible”. And I bet on the impossibility of a real, full, uploading. However, in spite of my skepticism, I have to acknowledge that this is no longer the domain of science fiction, rather it has become a topic of scientific exploration. Watch the clip with the interview to the theoretical physicist Michi0 Kaku.

More limited goals can be pursued with higher hope of success, actually capturing -certain- thoughts has already become feasible (although so cumbersome to have very limited application). The evolution today is in the area of Brain Machine Interfaces where technology can help detecting specific activity in the brain that can be translated by a computer (more and more using artificial intelligence) into a meaning. However, this is not a real mind uploading, it is a way to connect brain activity to the external world without using voice, movements… and this of course is important to overcome some types of disabilities.

We are discussing this in the context of the IEEE FDC Symbiotic Autonomous Systems Initiative and it will be one of the topic addressed in the workshop organised in conjunction with the Technology Time Machine Conference in San Diego, October 30-November 1st that you should not miss!
We are also discussing this in the new White Paper under preparation that will be published later this year.

A more feasible alternative to Mind Uploading is Mind Virtualisation and I’ll discuss this in the next post.

[1]A wonderful description of mind uploading was given in 1981 in “The Mind’s I” a collection of reflection on the self by Douglas Hofstadter

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.