Could you imagine what it’d be like to have the body of a robot? Well if you can keep body and mind together for another thirty years or so you might get the chance to find out. According to Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering, a human’s entire mind could be uploaded to be stored and operate within a digital framework. He also maintains that these dislocated clouds of intelligence could control mechanical elements that would mimic that of the host’s body.
Is he mad or could this really happen? Brain activity is just a series of sparking electric pulses after all, so as long as the “brain” is “plugged in” it should be able to send messages as it organically would.
This idea isn’t science fiction – elements are already reality!
Cochlear implants are now relatively common, enabling a previously deaf host to hear via electronic stimulus of the brain’s cochlear nerve. Research is now being made into the restoration of motor skills following nervous system damage, and artificial limbs are programmed to act from thought alone.
Research carried out at the Nicolelis Laboratory at Duke University found that monkeys were able to be conditioned to receive a treat through thought alone, and further developed this technology in order for it to control a robotic arm. Have a look at this video if you don’t believe me!
This same vein of study is leading the US military to develop weapons that will fire with nothing more than a conscious thought from their operators. It’s not inconceivable that these mind control methods could even be carried out wirelessly.
So we’ve established that the brain can actively control non-organic connected elements, but what if the body could be reconstructed into organic form and not reliant upon mechanical means? Medical researchers at Cornell University have this year produced a prosthetic ear from actual cartilage cells (not very pretty, granted), and with the strides being made in genetic sequencing and 3D printing, this new science may soon be as commonplace as cochlear implants are today.
The idea of uploading the brain to a digital store implies that we could all one day become digitally immortal. The only real issue in the coming years is how soon the technology will be able to cope with the connectivity and storage of the human brain. There are doubters, such as Princeton’s computer science researcher Timothy B. Lee, but dependent upon the price of such a transformation, would it be for you?