Uploading Our Consciousness To a Computer. But Should We?

2 min read
Uploading Our Consciousness To a Computer. But Should We?
Photo by Aideal Hwa / Unsplash

In the movie Self/Less, an extremely wealthy man dying from cancer undergoes a radical medical procedure that transfers his consciousness into the body of a healthy young man. While this might sound like pure science fiction, many experts in the fields of neuroscience and computer science believe that it's possible to transfer human consciousness to a computer. But the question remains, should we do it?

Let's start by understanding the process of uploading consciousness to a computer.

First, we would have to read the source brain to learn how we store memories. Unlike computers, neurons don't store one bit of information; instead, each neuron can create up to 1,000 connections with those around them. Next, we would have to write to the new brain, which involves biochemically modifying neurons and their connections to other neurons. There are trillions of these synaptic connections in each person's head, so this process is incredibly complex.

Assuming we can read and write to brains, we would then have to copy that information. However, the human brain isn't a finite storage system like a hard drive; there could be a lot of space in there, ranging from a few gigabytes to a few million gigabytes. Copying 2.5 petabytes over a USB 3.0 connection, for example, would take more than 80 days.

The biggest issue with uploading consciousness to a computer is accurately mapping the brain. Computer scientists from giant companies, major universities, and world governments have been working on mapping and translating the brain network to a computer network for decades. However, thoughts don't live on a single neuron, nor are they processed in a single place. Instead, they exist as a patterned network of brain cells picking up and processing information.

While the technology to upload human consciousness to a computer isn't quite there yet, it's only a matter of time until we can learn to emulate a brain in a computer and map consciousness on top of it. The question is..

Should we?

One argument for uploading consciousness to a computer is that it could extend human life indefinitely. If we could transfer our consciousness to a computer, we would no longer be limited by the lifespan of our physical bodies. This could allow us to live for hundreds or even thousands of years, which could be incredibly beneficial for scientific research and other fields that require a lot of time.

However, there are also a lot of potential downsides to uploading consciousness to a computer. For one, it's possible that the resulting "uploaded" consciousness would not be the same as the original consciousness. This could result in a loss of individuality or even identity. Additionally, there could be ethical concerns about creating new life forms in the digital realm.

Another potential issue is the impact on society. If only the extremely wealthy could afford to transfer their consciousness to a computer, it could lead to an even greater divide between the rich and the poor. It's also possible that the creation of digital immortality could lead to a lack of motivation and productivity in society, as people would no longer feel the same sense of urgency to accomplish things in their limited lifespan.

To summary, while the technology to upload human consciousness to a computer is advancing rapidly, the question of whether we should do it is complex and multifaceted. While it could offer benefits such as extending human life and advancing scientific research, there are also many potential downsides such as loss of individuality, ethical concerns, and negative societal impacts. Ultimately, the decision of whether to pursue this technology will likely involve a balance of scientific progress, ethical considerations, and societal implications.

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