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The Biomedical Engineering blog is the place for conversation and discussion about topics related to engineering principles of the medical field. Here, you'll find everything from discussions about emerging medical technologies to advances in medical research. The blog's owner, Chelsey H, is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) with a degree in Biomedical Engineering.

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Upload Your Mind to a Robot and 'Live' Forever

Posted March 23, 2016 9:44 AM by HUSH

Despite any media hype to the contrary, we will not be the generation that lives forever (whether you are part of Gen X, Gen Y or Gen Z). Yes, there are credible, regular advances in anti-aging bioscience. In fact, in January 2014 researchers at the University of New South Wales reversed the aging process in mice. Yet considering how impactful an anti-aging medicine could be, there is little progress to report.

If any of us want to achieve immortality--in any sense of the word--we're basically left hoping for the Futurama resolution: dismember your head from your body, and stick it in a jar with a magic solution the keeps you thinking and talking. With the world supply of magic solution tragically short, we'll have to compromise with a digital analog: permanently linking your brain to a computer that will emulate you for eternity.

Which is exactly what Dmitry Itskov would like to do. Since you can't be a Russian billionaire and not fund something eccentric, Itskov backs the 2045 Initiative, a bioscience non-profit with the goal "to create technologies enabling the transfer of an individual's personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality."

The 2045 Initiative networks Russian neuroscientists, roboticists and biomedical researchers to create cybernetic-enabled immortal individuals by the year 2045. The developmental timeline for 2045I looks like this:

1. By 2020: android avatars controlled by brain-to-computer interfaces

2. By 2025: development of brain-only life support systems to integrate brain into avatar

3. By 2035: ability to transfer biological consciousness to digital mediums

4. By 2045: digital consciousness can be transferred to a hologram, robot or synthesized human

2045 might seem relatively soon to pioneer completely new technologies, but there is precedent. In late 2014 the OpenWorm project mapped the 302 neural connections in the brain of the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans. Software that mimicked the brain of the roundworm was uploaded to a Lego Mindstorms robot that was equipped with wheels for locomotion and sensors that recreated the worm's nose, taste and touch senses. According to researchers the Lego robot acted just like the roundworm--I'll have to take their word for it.

Yet scaling up from a roundworm to a human brain is obviously quite different, as the human brain has a minimum estimate of 100 trillion neural connections. Not only must brain mapping techniques improve, but computing power must advance significantly. Around the time that the OpenWorm project was beginning to blossom, the K computer at the RIKEN Advanced Institute of Computational Science in Kobe, Japan (currently the world's fourth fastest supercomputer) simulated 1.73 billion nerve cells and 10.4 trillion synapses operating for just one second. It took this super computer 40 minutes to process the equivalent of 1% of the human brain operating for one measly second.

It is impossible to predict if my grandkid's grandkid's Little League team will be coached by me as a robot, a synthesized human, or a head in a jar, but it seems increasingly likely I'll be there.

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#1

Re: Upload Your Mind to a Robot and 'Live' Forever

03/23/2016 10:18 AM

Suppose you could duplicate a person's entire body making a perfect copy, as in a Star Trek transporter. The copy would have all the same memories up to the moment of duplication as the original.

If the first person dies, the copy can take his place, and to other people on the outside, this person is still alive. (Sort of like celebrities on TV that are no longer alive still seem alive on TV).

But if I were the first person, I would not consider this immortality.

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#2

Re: Upload Your Mind to a Robot and 'Live' Forever

03/23/2016 1:15 PM

How about a clone with a neural upload....

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Re: Upload Your Mind to a Robot and 'Live' Forever

03/23/2016 9:39 PM
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#4

Re: Upload Your Mind to a Robot and 'Live' Forever

03/23/2016 11:54 PM

I think nature (call it God, if you prefer) has done a pretty good job of developing processes whereby organisms very slowly improve (become more successful at whatever it is that the organism attempts to accomplish, including preservation of the species) over long periods of time, and part of that process is discarding earlier versions of the organism.

Although mankind is arguably the pinnacle of that process (some more than others), at least here on Earth, I hardly believe any man or woman is perfect (the ones I see as closest to perfection are probably NOT the same ones that you see similarly, and the ones I saw as close as possible to perfection 20 or 50 years ago are commonly no longer in that category). Thus there is still room for improvement, which includes discarding the earlier versions, including this one (me).

I've lived through absolutely incredible technological development, and contributed at least a little to it, over the last 3/4 of a century, and hope to continue a while longer, but to wish for immortality seems to me the pinnacle of arrogance.

On the other hand, it is a real tragedy that the knowledge and experience of a lifetime is suddenly and totally lost when a clever person dies. I do hope (and am beginning to believe) that some day it will be possible to "download" the contents of such a person's brain to some kind of a searchable database. On the other hand, I'm virtually certain that all of us have some things we'd rather NOT have others know, so there needs to be some kind of a filter used in that downloading process.

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Re: Upload Your Mind to a Robot and 'Live' Forever

03/24/2016 1:32 AM

Yes this at first blush seems to be sound reasoning....I would add that as we age each day becomes a smaller percentage of the time contained in our memories, to us it seems that time starts to pass faster, but this is an illusion, as such it would seem to me that after a couple of hundred years that the ability to relate meaningfully to someone of say 30 or 40 years of age would be like a teenager and a 60 something trying to relate now, times about 3....Then you have the problem of constant change and trying to keep up, at some point most of your wisdom becomes dated and more difficult to relate, your entire way of life is in danger of becoming obsolete and superfluous, your explanations become longer and more stories of how it use to be, rather than knowledgeable relevant dissertations....I believe what you propose is already available through google and Wikipedia and the world wide web of endless and constantly updating information....better to live well and die appropriately...to live forever is another of those romantic notions that seem like it would be great, but the reality I'm afraid would be quite different than imagined....

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Re: Upload Your Mind to a Robot and 'Live' Forever

03/24/2016 8:40 AM

Totally agree, and if you are interested in exploring more of how that life would look there's a good movie called The Man From Earth. I know I watched it on Netflix a few years ago. Hopefully it's still there.

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Re: Upload Your Mind to a Robot and 'Live' Forever

03/24/2016 11:18 AM
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Re: Upload Your Mind to a Robot and 'Live' Forever

03/24/2016 11:03 AM

Not to hijack, but two questions for those who read this thread:

There is a SF story about an alien artifact on the Moon, but anyone who enters dies. So they use something like a transporter to make copies of people to go in. Trouble starts when one of the copies lives. Anyone remember the name of this story?

Another SF story included putting the personality of a loved one in a small cube, and a space traveler could experience and converse with this ersatz person. What was that story?

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#9

Re: Upload Your Mind to a Robot and 'Live' Forever

03/24/2016 11:29 AM

First - the way things are going with accidents, injuries, law suits , and such, I doubt there will be a "little league" by the time of you grandkids' grandkids. Sports will be too dangerous for youth and too much of a liability for any community to support.

Now to the point of this post. What about the dark suppressed desires most harbor, but control? What will become of them if the individual is transferred and suddenly feels some what invincible in a mechanical device? Will such a person then act on such repressed desires with potential dire consequences? Or what if the desire is for another being, and now the mechanical device one is transferred to can not act on such, ever. Will said being then be distraught forever? Would this be a good extension of life? There are many unknown psychological problems to consider on such a plan. (I see some good sci fi plots here - the kind Rod Sirling enjoyed)

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#10

Re: Upload Your Mind to a Robot and 'Live' Forever

03/24/2016 11:59 AM

Oh, I recommend the movie Ex Machina for an ominous take on AI.

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Re: Upload Your Mind to a Robot and 'Live' Forever

03/24/2016 2:27 PM

Even if it were possible to "map" the your mind somehow into another medium than "your brain", (somehow porting the software to new hardware), why would you assume that "you" would just go to sleep and wake up living in the new machine? What if two copies were made or a hundred? Would your "consciousness" wake up in multiple places? I would think it would be more likely there would be multiple copies of "you", identical twins.

It seems that whatever is happening inside the brain, it not only involves the strength of the connections between brain cells but also a dynamic condition of circulating neural circuits. It has to stay powered up to continue working, somewhat like a computer with no static memory. As far as I know, nobody presently has a clue how a brain can be conscious or what consciousness is.

I think it's a crazy idea, but it's his money.

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