While most experts in the field of neuroscience have been focusing on ways to improve our current brain, there is another field of brain science that is looking beyond the physical and biological constraints of the brain itself. This new breed of “mad” scientist is working on ways to allow normal human beings to upload their brains into a computer, and then subsequently download this information into a new brain. The ultimate goal? Immortality of the brain.
Whole Brain Emulation
The concept of “whole brain emulation,” whereby people are able to have their brain’s information and identity put into a new brain, has been around for almost 100 years, when The World, the Flesh, the Devil was written by J.D. Bernal. Although the book was science fiction at the time, Bernal estimated that some day in the future humans would be able to live forever, as emulating the brain would remove the restraint of the biological tissue of the brain. Fast forward to 2014, and much of this research is being fronted by Dutch neuroscientist Randal Koene, who has received millions of dollars in financial backing from “transhumanists” who believe that humans are just their brains’ cognitive data.
Neurons, Axons, Dendrites, and Synapses
Neurons, the billions of brain cells that comprise the brain, have extensions called axons and dendrites. When an axon meets a dendrite, the gap that forms between them is called the synapse. The electrochemical signals that pass through at the synapse are what makes up our personality, memory, and cognitive abilities. Scientists like Harvard University researcher Kenneth Hayworth have been actively mapping mouse brains and making startling discoveries. What they are learning about the brain could bring about brain uploading within several decades. Understanding how the human brain learns is one of the key hurdles for modern researchers. However, these forward-thinking scientists may be able to get the job done more quickly – the US government just pledged $100 million for brain research through the BRAIN program (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies). Until this becomes a reality, you will have to stick to watching science fiction, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The 6th Day, Johnny Depp’s Transcendence, or one of several episodes of Star Trek.