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The Feasibility of Uploading Your Brain to a Computer

By Katie Lee on 2018-10-18

MIT computer scientists are currently assessing the possibility of uploading a person’s brain - including their knowledge and personality - onto a computer monitor, but they have found issues in doing so.

Has anyone seen the scene in Captain America: Winter Soldier where Arnim Zola is found to have been uploaded to a series of monitors in order to capture all of his knowledge prior to his inevitable death? No...just me? Well, currently researchers are finding out if this is actually possible (though they are probably not motivated by Captain America).

Robert McIntyre, a former MIT researcher, believes he can freeze a brain in order to preserve the memories and knowledge that it holds to be later uploaded to a computer once the human race is advanced enough to do such a thing. This sounds great since all the experience you have accumulated over the years will not be totally lost. But, McIntyre has revealed that he will only be able to do this if you willingly arrive to the designated location alive but leave dead. This is because once a person dies, their brain will no longer be in mint condition thus the memories will not be well preserved.

McIntyre’s company Nectome is currently pushing the possibilities of cryogenic science thus why he is researching the idea of freezing brains to preserve memories for the future. This startup has even been collaborating with McIntyre’s alma mater - MIT. That is, until it became known that people would have to die unnecessarily in order for this cryogenic stasis of the brain to occur.

Having to end their life, however, has not deterred some people as McIntyre has received nearly 10,000 dollars in kickstart money from people who want to keep their memories “alive.”

MIT cut collaboration with Nectome as they were naturally concerned about the ethical implications involved in the experiment. As a representative of the MIT media labs said, “To understand this will require new science that represents a nonlinear jump from the neuroscience occurring today and some people regard this as an unsolvable problem.” MIT is essentially concerned with the repercussions if any problems arise since cryo science is relatively new compared to other fields like biology. They also feel as if we do not yet know enough of the brains mysteries in order to jump on board of such a task.

Despite the loss of MIT as a partner, McIntyre has continued to experiment with this possibility using lab rats. He has even been stressing the fact that he is not currently using live humans since he wants to ensure that the experiment is safe and possible before beginning to freeze any human brains.

Robert McIntyre claims that it is theoretically possible to replicate brain functions using algorithms on a computer saying “The brain is an immensely complicated physical object, and so by virtue of it being physical, you can simulate it. You can capture the processes that it’s doing computationally, and so you should be able to reproduce the computations that the brain is doing in other mediums the same way you can emulate one computer on another computer.”

McIntyre, moreover, is not lacking in support since the US government and the National Institute of Mental Health have provided nearly 1 million dollars to his cause of memory preservation.

The project, while possibly being ethically controversial, could be very important for the future. Preserved brains would allow for further study into evolution in the event that thousands of years from now, humans become more evolved. Further, historians of the future would be able to analyze the memories of people to further understand different battles and events that occur through history without having to rely on possibly biased sources.

McIntyre is hopeful for the future of his project, claiming “our position is that brain preservation has the potential for immense benefits to society, but only if it is developed with the participation of the neuroscience and medical ethics communities.”

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