We are often quick to espouse the outcomes of technology driven innovations that could bring about major changes in our lives. One such luring notion is that of attaining immortality. The body may age and wither away, but the mind and its contents, if learnt to be preserved and passed on, can lead us to perpetuity.

Mind uploading, a hypothesis closing in swiftly with reality, is a way to mind – based immortality. It is the concept of scanning a human brain precisely enough to reproduce it and preserve it in digital form. The brain is the treasure of the human body. Not only does it control all other parts of the body, but also stores memories. These memories make us who we are. Personalities, choices we make, reminiscent of our past, are all stored as moments and experiences in this vital organ. As time passes, memories fade, wounds heal and love blooms. But what if technology made all these instances and feelings register in a place, where it is never lost to the battle of time?

Although the idea may seem quite surreal, we already have the majority of tools and ideas to create technology making this a reality. The mind could be copied and stored in virtual reality, or can be transferred to a 3D simulation of a human body, creating an equally valid version of the human. There is on-going work in the field of brain simulations, where scientists have made it possible to imitate the brains of insects and animals, such as flies and mice.

The information and processes in mind have no “death” and hence, if separated from a biological body, can exist alone. If consciousness is transferred into the internet, it can potentially live forever, accessible to anyone who desires it. Transferring a mind into a simulated human body might give one a second chance at life. The simulated human however, would still be naïve to the real world, experiencing everything for the first time.

Although it is a futuristic idea, mind – uploading does have many advantages. It can be implemented in lieu of cryonics, which is the low temperature freezing of human corpses with the hopes of resurrecting it. A computer based version of the mind can think faster. This could also serve as a means to preserve human society and its culture in case of global disasters. Not just that, these mind – files can help us assist in long and arduous space exploration.

Like any other technological innovation, mind – uploading is also coupled with challenges. One of the main problems being, the biological brain may not survive the process of copying, since this process could result in the brain self-destructing. And this is the basis for the idea of saving the downloaded mind in a robot or simulated human body. There are many ethical and moral questions that come up too. Death is the greatest equalizer. Death is a part of the life process that makes us human. The feeling that something might end, gives it sweet meaning and value. So what would happen to humans, if the fear of death and death itself, are subtracted from the equation of life?

Finally, we come to the question: Is mind uploading really possible?

Moore’s law states that the computing power of technology doubles nearly every 1.5 years. Research is already underway involving new forms of memory storage that are exponentially more efficient than current technologies. Some futurists and scientists already claim that by 2045, mind uploading might actually become a reality.

People’s tendencies to separate mind and matter becomes especially relevant in this context, when the implications of such a revolutionary concept is being discussed. Soon enough, we can all choose to be immortal. We can digitize ourselves, making our minds accessible to anyone - breaking the barriers of any real privacy we have now .

What would you choose?

Natasha Das