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Mind uploading, whole brain emulation, or mind transfer refers to the process of scanning and mapping a biological brain in detail and copying its state into a computer system or another computational device, for example an artificial neural network in hardware. The computer runs a simulation model so faithful to the original that it will behave in essentially the same way as the original brain, or for all practical purposes, indistinguishably.

Among transhumanist futurists it is an important proposed life extension technology. Whole brain simulation is considered by some scientists as a theoretical and futuristic but possible technology. Substantial mainstream research and development are being done in relevant areas including development of faster computers, animal brain mapping and simulation, and information extraction from dynamically functioning brains.

Even if uploading is theoretically possible the amount of storage and computational power required are difficult to predict. Nevertheless, some theorists have estimated that uploading may become possible within decades if trends such as Moore’s Law continue.

Brain-computer interfaces constitute one of the hypothetical technologies for the reading of information in the dynamically functioning brain. The production of this or a similar device would be essential to the possibility of mind uploading a living human subject.

Another possibility is the idea of more than one running “copy” of a human mind simultaneously. Such copies would allow an individual to experience many things at once, and later sync the experiences of all copies into a central mentality at some point in the future.

The prospect of uploading human consciousness in this manner raises many philosophical questions involving identity, individuality, and numerous problems of medical ethics and morality of the process. Viable mind uploading technology would likely challenge current conceptions of human individuality, identity, mortality, human rights, and property rights.

Since the function of the human mind, and how it might arise from the working of the brain’s neural network, are poorly understood issues, many theoretical approaches to mind uploading rely on the idea of emulation.

A possible method for mind uploading is serial sectioning, in which the brain tissue and perhaps other parts of the nervous system are frozen and then scanned and analyzed layer by layer, thus capturing the structure of the neurons and their interconnections. A more advanced hypothetical technique that would require nanotechnology might involve infiltrating the intact brain with a network of nanoscale machines to “read” the structure and activity of the brain. It may also be possible to use advanced neuroimaging technology to build a detailed three-dimensional model of the brain, as future developments are predicted to substantially improve neuroimaging resolutions.

IEET Links:
Uploading and The Big Freeze
What are the Benefits of Mind Uploading
How Uploading Works

Wikipedia on Mind Uploading