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IEET > Rights > Neuroethics > FreeThought > Personhood > Privacy > ReproRights > Life > Access > Enablement > Innovation > Implants > Health > Vision > Futurism > Contributors > Dick Pelletier

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Simulating The Deceased

Dick Pelletier
By Dick Pelletier
Ethical Technology

Posted: Jul 12, 2013

Although today, technologies that can accurately simulate a deceased person’s life experience, their consciousness, emotions, and memories do not exist, many experts believe that exponential advances in computers, artificial intelligence, and communications technologies could bring this dream into reality by mid-century or before.

First, neuroscientists must unravel the meaning of quadrillions of neuron firings; how thoughts turn into memories; how personalities are molded and how consciousness arises from the brain. Success in this area has just received a boost from Vanderbilt University researchers who recently discovered the procedure in how neurons create our decisions, and HHMI progress in behavior control research.

Once the human mind is completely understood (which optimistically could happen within the next two-to-three decades), it may be possible for tomorrow’s computers to simulate brain activities of a deceased person’s last few years, or even their entire life; then dispatch nanobots to scan the brains of every living person who knew of the deceased to gather more information.

All this data could then be used to simulate the deceased person’s mind and current state of consciousness; and then program this simulation into an artificial brain fashioned from ‘nano-neurons’ ready for upload into a newly-constructed body resembling the lost loved one.

Would the cloned ‘copy’ believe that he or she was the original person who died, and would others be convinced of the replicate’s authenticity? If the neurons were programmed correctly, no one would have reason to believe otherwise.

It could be argued that every time we rise in the morning, we’re a little different from the person who went to bed last night. So it just makes sense, to experience death; then be reanimated into a new body could be accepted; especially if the brain was programmed to live in an enhanced body.

Will this futuristic technology, which theoretically could become a popular procedure by mid-century, be accepted by mainstream humanity? The alternative would be to consign our lost loved ones to a state of being dead forever. How boring is that?

What are the chances of a radical concept like this happening? If computer technologies continue advancing exponentially as they have done for the last 50 years, and artificial intelligence develops as most futurist predict; mind simulation could one day become a routine practice. Comments welcome.

Dick Pelletier was a weekly columnist who wrote about future science and technologies for numerous publications. He passed away on July 22, 2014.
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Frank Tipler wrote “The Physics of God” on this concept, which doesn’t seem far-fetched given enough computing power.

Human consciousness requires connection with the environment (in extremely complex ways), and is a biological function. Disembodied information probably does not equal consciousness as we experience it…consciousness may be guided digitally, but separated from basic biological function?

“simulate brain activities of a deceased person” - this is obviously only possible if the data have been collected before death.

Dick falls into the common trap of reducing personality to cerebral neuronal processing.  Neurons throughout the body, especially the spine, hormones and other chemical agents, subneuronal and subcellular structures in general are all likely contributing to creating and shaping what we perceive as personality.  The idea of being able to replicate it purely through simulation of neuronal traffic in the brain is laughable.

This does not imply that personality replication will remain unattainable, but it is time we stop spreading the infantile notion that it can be achieved by imaging brain structure and function.

Another untouched question is why we would want to simulate (or ‘resurrect’ as religionists like to call it) dead people, and which.  For scientific reasons ?  For sentimental and egotistical ones trying to alleviate our own losses ?  To be nice to them and give them ‘another chance’ ?  Then the question becomes are only the remembered and sufficiently documented ones deserving ?  Or could/should we somehow access the akashic records and retrieve all of them, including homo heidelbergensis, mastodons, diplodocus and trilobites ?  What about plants, and those unfortunate unicellulars who did not make it ?

Clearly this whole discussion is currently futile and a waste of time.  I have not come across information that indicates that any reasonable person has even begun to think this through.

“dispatch nanobots to scan the brains of every living person who knew of the deceased to gather more information.”

This alone would be enough to create a person apparently identical to the deceased one.

By Jove, when I first had that kind of resurrection ideas some decades ago, I thought it might take millions of years before we would be able to do that!

Now I believe that people at the Metabody Conference ( could find very soon the key for creating sentient robots. I believe also that sentience is a unitary phenomenon in the sense that it is always the same in any being. Thus, if a person is to be resurrected, and if that must be done in a convincing and fair manner, then the difficulty would not be to give back sentience but to get the precise details about that person’s inner sense of herself. That seems more complex than just ‘simulating’ a deceased. The ‘akashic’ records, as someone said, are involved… If an AI singularity happens, that would follow, of course, but otherwise, it might still take a few hundred years…

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