Can we ever upload a consciousness?
The concept of mind uploading, also known as whole brain emulation or substrate-independent minds, is a highly debated topic in the fields of science, philosophy, and transhumanism. It involves the idea of transferring the contents of a person’s mind, including memories, thoughts, and consciousness, onto a computer or digital substrate, effectively allowing for the preservation and enhancement of human consciousness beyond the biological body.
The feasibility of mind uploading largely depends on advancements in several key areas of technology, including neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and computational power. As these fields continue to progress, the possibility of successfully emulating a human brain in digital form becomes more plausible. However, it’s essential to acknowledge that this technology is still in its infancy and may take several decades to mature.
Modern computers are made with 4 major components: hardware, operating system, utilities and application software. The future computational device suitable for the whole brain emulation (WBE) will probably be based on qubits (quantum computing) and have artificial neural networks reflecting structures of certain areas of our brain. It’s going to be less computational with “true or false” logic, but much more with fuzzy logic – a sophisticated way of pattern recognition, learning and self-reprogramming capacity.
Consequently, after a few generations, this type of computer will become more like true soulless AI who is no longer an information processing computational device but not conscious yet and whose job is to help us finish mapping our brain and create the Portal, a simple version if what already exists as a Brain Computer Interface (BCI).
Some critics of “uploading” believe that our brain is not computable because most of the brains features are the result of “unpredictable, nonlinear interactions among billions of cells”. But applying the fuzzy logic approach will solve this problem particularly for future less computational computers. Australian philosopher David Chalmers believes that we will never be able to model “hard problem” of consciousness related to subjective experiences of certain perceptions. He is probably referring to some functions of what we describe as a super-consciousness, which would be an important part of AC.
Yes, subjective experience contributes to the state of consciousness, but it does not define it. We don’t know yet how to make computers feel or experience different perceptions. I don’t think they will ever adopt feelings similar to humans, which, by the way, is quite different than a dog’s (or fish) feelings. I mean we really don’t know how to transfer biological perceptions to silicon machines. Those two separate worlds can barely communicate with each other. However, when the technology will become available then the sky’s the limit. We would be able to experience astonishing perceptions of magnetic fields, marvelous infrared views, and breathtaking music from ultrasound to infrasound and being present in multiple places simultaneously. So, the silicone (first stage) consciousness may have different or similar components, or even a different structure, but it’s still going to be self-aware. So here is the question – what is ones self or definition of individuality?
That technology, however, would never be able to replicate your consciousness accurately because nobody knows precisely “what is you.” Including even you. So, maybe after uploading yourself, you will see yourself sitting behind a screen-mirror, somebody very similar to you, but not exactly you! When original “you” is still alive and staring at the “new” you. This is a well-known science fiction situation.
The last, and perhaps the most interesting philosophical argument against uploading our mind (comes from dualism) supports the statement that mind uploading is impossible because there is always two opposite principles in this world, which are not interchangeable or reducible to each other. For example: form and its content, ideal and material, thinking and being, body and soul, software and hardware. They cannot exist in actuality without each other like opposite poles of a sphere. However, both of them are representing two sides of the same fundamental reality and can be united when the sphere become a point, – at the point of Singularity. We believe that eventually virtual synthetic reality hosting our uploaded mind will develop itself to artificial singularity of mega-consciousness which I call Luceverum meaning in Latin – bright reality.
More than likely, Luceverum would not be interested in an exact copy of your uploaded self. Ultimately it would not be interested in humans at all, because this mega consciousness can instantly create and adapt as its goals something much better than us – its own digital citizens. Luceverians! It wouldn’t need newcomers because they are very different creatures than those that come from our wild organic world. Those from our world would need fundamental upgrades and redesigning in order to exist in the digital reality of this new ethereal essence. However, that problem is not for this century.
We need a proof that mind uploading is possible
With basic proof of possibility to upload a human consciousness a society of people supporting this development can be formed. In their lifetime initial stages for uploading and special cryonic will be possible. However, only future members of this society will keep developing and finalizing uploading for early members. Only well founding and strong society can bring all efforts for uploading its members in the future.
The common case against cryonics is a Burden of Proof argument that “it can’t work because you haven’t successfully revived a patient yet.” So, we need a considerably basic but undeniable proof of working technology which will shows that individual behavior pattern can be digitized and translated (simulated) from a small part of brain connectome. Then this part of mammal’s brain will be put through cryonic CPA procedure with aldehyde fixatives such as glutaraldehyde perfusion fixation which should preserve synaptic connectivity of brain, then freeze it to about -180C, recover, sliced, extract its partial connectome, interpret (analyzed) and finally show the same behavior pattern in digital body. Even just animating digital body by connecting it to recovered connectome will be a great achievement. In case of success, we can prove that consciousness uploading is theoretically possible in not so distance future.
To accomplish this “basic proof” we should go through the following major stages: 1) Creating computer model (simulation) of biological system like a digital body of most simple animal 2) Creating software (or adapt an existed one) for accommodation (hosting, interpretation or analyzing) of connectome 3) This “hosting software” should be able to locate individual behavior patterns or something belong to only that particular biological system 3) Connect a part of “digital body” corresponded to its “interpreted connectome” of approximately one cubic millimeter of mammal’s brain 4) Study their integration to detect the same behavioral patterns matching its original biological system.
For example, by using Allen Mouse Brain Atlas we can locate hippocampus, essential for memory, emotion, and spatial processing. Then map some its “test area” like what Kasthuri’s lab do in Argonne National Laboratory’s. It will be certain challenge to create a digital representation of live function of this area, but it was done decade ago with C elegant worm (see video below). Yes, with few millions neurons less.
OpenWorm Project aims to build the first comprehensive computational model of the Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), a microscopic roundworm. With less than a thousand cells, it solves basic problems such as feeding, mate-finding and predator avoidance.
Kenneth Hayworth, President and Co-Founder of the Brain Preservation Foundation, is currently a Senior Scientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus (JFRC) in Ashburn, Virginia. JFRC is perhaps the leading research institution in the field of connectomics in the United States. At JFRC, Hayworth is currently researching ways to extend Focused Ion Beam Scanning Electron Microscopy (FIBSEM) imaging of brain tissue to encompass much larger volumes than are currently possible. For an overview of this work see his recent review paper and online presentation. Prior to moving to JFRC, Hayworth was a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University. Hayworth is co-inventor of the Tape-to-SEM process for high-throughput volume imaging of neural circuits at the nanometer scale and he designed and built several automated machines to implement this process. Hayworth received a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Southern California for research into how the human visual system encodes spatial relations among objects. Hayworth is a vocal advocate for brain preservation and mind uploading and a co-founder of the Brain Preservation Foundation which calls for the implementation of an emergency glutaraldehyde perfusion procedure in hospitals, and for the development of a whole brain embedding procedure which can demonstrate perfect ultrastructure preservation across an entire human brain.
Randal A. Koene is a Dutch neuroscientist and neuroengineer, and co-founder of carboncopies.org, the outreach and roadmapping organization for advancing Substrate-Independent Minds (SIM). Between 2008 and 2010, Koene was Director of the Department of Neuroengineering at the Fatronik-Tecnalia Institute in Spain, the third largest private research organization in Europe. Koene earned his Ph.D. in Computational Neuroscience at the Department of Psychology at McGill University, and his M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering with a specialization in Information Theory at Delft University of Technology. He is a former Professor at the Center for Memory and Brain of Boston University, and is co-founder of the Neural Engineering Corporation of Massachusetts.