The Paradox of Consciousness and Mind Digitization.

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and his feelings as something separate from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. “ — Albert Einstein

The true meaning of consciousness is the ability of being aware of our surroundings and internal states. But thinking about consciousness leads to a never ending thought spiral. This is because there is no definitive way of explaining what consciousness is. The fact that you can think of yourself as you is proof of consciousness.
Many philosophers, thinkers and scientists have tried to define consciousness but none of them can agree to a single definition.

Personally, I am of the opinion that consciousness is the result of our thoughts, experiences and the response of our brains on these experiences. It is possible that the millions and billions of synapses in our brains are able to collectively form a vague concept of conscience in itself. Because we are essentially a group of trillions of dead things together forming a living thing that became conscious.

Now imagine if your “mind” could be made to live forever.
If we assume the brain houses our consciousness, that means, a detailed enough replica of our brain should result in a replica of our conscience.

Dmitry Itskov, a Russian billionaire, has launched a project called the 2045 initiative. He believes that by the year 2045 you will be able to upload your brain to the cloud. You’ll be able to create a digital version of your human consciousness, stored in a synthetic brain and an artificial host.
Here’s how it is possible.

The Connectome

The connectome, it’s believed, is responsible for the things that make you who you are. The human brain contains an estimated 100 billion individual neurons, each one connected and firing messages to as many as 10,000 other neurons. This signaling, which may be neurons firing simultaneously or in a sequence, is how the brain encodes and processes information. It’s possibly also the very essence of being human, including your personal memories, your talents and all the quirky things that make up your individual personality. That’s all contained in your connectome.

The first step would be to perform such a detailed scan of the brain that it captures a snapshot of the connectome. To give you a clue about how much advancement in technology it is going to need, an MRI is able to scan a living human brain with the resolution of half a millimeter. To detect a synapse, we’ll need to scan at a resolution of about a thousandth of a millimeter. The distinguish the type of the synapse, we’ll need even more resolution. For this, we need a completely new and better scanning system.

The next step would be to translate this information in the form of data. To recreate our brain structure, we will need to process this digitally. Mind-uploading, or creating substrate-independent minds, involves transferring the contents of your human brain to a new synthetic brain — a digital copy of not just your memories, but the particulars of your personality and your very consciousness.

After we have collected and translated our connectome, we will need to house it somewhere. It will need a hologram to host its digital self. This requires storage space and processing power. Both these fields are improving and evolving at a very fast rate. In fact, we might be much closer to attaining this technological capacity than we are to understanding our brain.

At every step of this scanning, translating and uploading process, we need to be extremely certain to capture necessary information and its sequences accurately. Or else who knows what twisted version of the human mind would get created.

While Mind Digitization is theoretically possible, it’s realization will come with a different unique and highly important question. Would that brain be you?

The continuity of consciousness if broken would mean you died and came back to life as a mind without a body. You would still be conscious and alive because the neural network running your hologram would still be your brain. But will you be you?

I will be covering this discussion in another blog next week. Do tell me your thoughts and opinions on this topic in the comments. Subscribe for more such interesting articles.

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P.S. — PART 2 IS OUT NOW!! —



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Shaunak Inamdar

Shaunak Inamdar

Shaunak Inamdar is a CS undergrad with a passion for writing about technologies and making them accessible to a broader audience.