Brain and Body

Could Mind Transfer Be the Key to Immortality?

September 17, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

Photo credit: Youtube | Ray Kurzweil — Immortality by 2045

In the next few decades, it may become possible for human consciousness to achieve immortality in an astonishing way.

Will it ever be possible to transfer human consciousness from mind to mind? Imagine a world where brains like Einstein’s or Stephen Hawking’s could be transferred to younger bodies, sharing their intelligence with future generations.

Scientists haven’t yet discovered how to transfer minds between humans, but they’ve discovered other possibilities to bring about immortality of the mind. The workings of the brain have been compared to computers, with the tissue acting as hardware and electric activity as software. It would seem that mind transfer would be as easy as transferring data between computers. But as complex as computers are, the brain is more complicated still.

SEE ALSO: In the future, human thoughts will transcend the brain

In an interview with Popular Science, Charles Higgins, a neuroscientist and electric engineer at the University of Arizona, informs that the “self” is defined by the interconnection of 100 billion neurons as well as the individual shapes of neurotransmitters and receptors. He says if surgeons could successfully transplant a brain, they would also have to transfer the spinal cord or else the subject might be stripped of a lifetime of muscle memory.

The most logical way to transfer a mind would involve cloning. If a clone was built with a structurally identical central nervous system, it could possibly be stimulated with electric signals that mimic the original. Science is closer to achieving brain cloning over mind transfer from human to human. So far, neuroscientists have only mapped the connections between about 100,000 neurons at once, which is the equivalent of a worm or fish brain.

However, science may be on its way to transferring minds to a computer. Stephen Hawking voiced his belief in the possibility of one day copying the human brain to a computer to retain a digital version of it after the body dies. Many scientists studying the prospect of immortality are looking for ways to prevent physical decay of the body, but a lot of futurists now believe that the key to extending human life is in the brain.

At the Global Future 2045 International Congress, Google’s director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, suggested that in just four decades we’ll be able to transfer the entire human mind to a computer. He says that we do need bodies, but that they don’t have to be our current “frail biological bodies that are subject to all kinds of failure modes.”

Kurzweil, a futurist and transhumanist, says that the future of “immortality” could lie in avatars and virtual reality. Picture the movie Avatar and the strikingly beautiful world, Pandora — that’s what the future of brain uploading and virtual reality could look like. Kurzweil says that we will feel like we’re actually in the avatar body and that the atmosphere around us could feel as tangible as actual reality. “In addition to radical life extension, we’re going to have radical life expansion. We’re going to have millions of virtual environments to explore,” he envisions.

So, mind transfer between human brains is definitely not something to look out for in the near future. But the possibility of uploading the inner workings of your brain to a computer and living immortally in an avatar might just be a few decades away.

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