In news straight from the pages of a science horror novel, scientists are optimistic that we could soon be able to upload our brains, digitising our thoughts. Come on people, did we learn anything from Blade Runner?!
Despite reported billions of dollars in funding towards achieving the realization of this nightmare, there are understandable ethical questions being raised by the wider scientific community.
"The bold advances in artificial intelligence as well as its increasing prevalence in various aspects of life are raising concern about the ethical and humanistic side of technological applications,” says Mikko Voipio, chair of the Weisell Foundation, designed to promote the well-being of nature and society by supporting scientific research and education and to preserve the environment, maritime safety and the maritime cultural heritage.
“Are the ethics of the relevant field of application also taken into consideration when developing and training such systems? The Moralities of Intelligent Machines research group is concentrating on this often forgotten factor of applying technology,” explained Voipo, following his foundation’s €100,000 recent donation to studies.
While the concept of uploading our brains to computers seems far off, it’s actually already been achieved, with scientists successfully replicating the nervous system of a worm, with the replicated Lego robot worm able to independently move and avoid obstacles.
Another group of scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, have also recently modeled 31000 brain cells to recreate a rat’s somatosensory cortex (aka brain).
Applications of this technology would allow for personalities, thoughts, and ideas to be passed on from generation to generation, as well as enormous potential life-changing developments for the disabled. The technology could allow ‘mind uploads’ to be transferred to a chimpanzee, computer, or android suggest fans of the research.
However these dramatic scientific discoveries beg the question; just because we can, should we?
"Mind upload is a technology rife with unsolved philosophical questions," says researcher Michael Laakasuo from the University of Helsinki.
"In the first sub-project, where data was collected in the United States, it was found that men are more approving of the technology than women," explains Laakasuo, going on to suggest that religion also played a significant role in the public’s acceptance of digitising our brains.
The science raises a huge question around humanity, and what it means to be truly human. As the scientists and Laakasuo explain, uploading thoughts removes sexuality, an essential aspect necessary for the human experience and reproduction. A computer-brain can simply divide to reproduce, removing a severely human element.
"The inability to biologically procreate with a person who has digitised his or her brain may make the findings seem reasonable. In other words, technology is posing a fundamental challenge to our understanding of human nature," reasons Laakasuo.
Look, while the thought of being trapped in a sexless computer is scary enough, we have one major question that still needs to be answered; how would we eat? We’re not sure that the promise of eternal life inside a computer is worth giving up that luxury just yet.