Mind uploading: mind blowing technology!

He straddles the bike, revs the engine and takes off out of the drive way. Rounding the corner, he loses concentration for just a moment. That moment changed everything. In that moment, he lost so much: his arm, his career, his belief in himself.

‘He’ is my brother. In 2005, a terrible motorcycle accident left him with one arm which is now completely useless. He has had to readjust, adapt, and take a new path. But what if he can get it all back? What if he can have two functioning arms that allow him to work as the electrician he spent years training to become, only to become qualified just before his accident? What if he can compete against world class able-bodied Tae Kwon Do athletes to become, not the Para World Champion that he currently is, but the World Champion?

My brother could now enter the realm of Robocop, or Elysium – part man, part machine. A robotic arm has provided rhesus monkeys with sensation and movement by connecting electrodes to the monkey’s brain. Despite human trials being far into the future, he is excited by this prospect. 

We have seen the blurring of the line between robotics, computers and humans played out on the silver screen (think Hayley Joel Osment in Artificial Intelligence: A.I. and Robin Williams in Bicentennial Man) but this may no longer be restricted to fictional stories.

A project to create the first computer replica of a human brain kicked off in Switzerland this October. Worth over $2billion AUD, the Human Brain Project aims to provide better a understanding about how the most enigmatic ogran in the human body operates. To do this, members of the project will need to create an exascale computer – i.e. a computer 1,000 faster than today’s computers. The computer will be so powerful that it is expected to be able to help build itself!

While this feat may help us understand how the brain functions, how humans learn, experience the five senses of touch, sight, sound, taste and smell, and brain pathologies amongst other things, this does not quite compare to the ambitious ‘Avatar’ aim of a Russian millionaire to transplant a human brain into a robot; one day completely removing the need for human tissue and uploading a brain into a robot! Similar programs are also being explored by the United States defence department for warfare.

With all the developments in technologies, my brother could well have two fully functioning arms in the coming decades. He may be too old by that stage to compete at the World Tae Kwon Do Championships, but then again he may also have the choice to live forever! This is the plan of Google’s executive, Ray Kurzweil. The engineer predicts advances in biotechnology where people can replace parts of their own body using biological and/or non-biological transplants, opening up an apparent fountain of youth.

As much as I understand my brother’s desire to have the use of his arm back, I wonder if he would actually take up any of these technological advances. The experience has helped shape who he is today: someone I look up to, respect and admire beyond many others. He has achieved great things with only one arm and can appreciate things differently to how he did before the accident. He would not be the incredible person he is today if it weren’t for that moment.

 Before we all slide down that slippery slope of apparent immortality, we as individuals, and as the human race need to reflect deeply on this path and where it will lead us.

He straddles the bike, revs the engine and takes off out of the drive way. Rounding the corner, he loses concentration for just a moment. That moment changed everything. In that moment, he lost so much: his arm, his career, his belief in himself.

‘He’ is my brother. In 2005, a terrible motorcycle accident left him with one arm which is now completely useless. He has had to readjust, adapt, and take a new path. But what if he can get it all back? What if he can have two functioning arms that allow him to work as the electrician he spent years training to become, only to become qualified just before his accident? What if he can compete against world class able-bodied Tae Kwon Do athletes to become, not the Para World Champion that he currently is, but the World Champion?

My brother could now enter the realm of Robocop, or Elysium – part man, part machine. A robotic arm has provided rhesus monkeys with sensation and movement by connecting electrodes to the monkey’s brain. Despite human trials being far into the future, he is excited by this prospect.

We have seen the blurring of the line between robotics, computers and humans played out on the silver screen (think Hayley Joel Osment in Artificial Intelligence: A.I. and Robin Williams in Bicentennial Man) but this may no longer be restricted to fictional stories.

A project to create the first computer replica of a human brain kicked off in Switzerland this October. Worth over $2billion AUD, the Human Brain Project aims to provide better a understanding about how the most enigmatic ogran in the human body operates. To do this, members of the project will need to create an exascale computer – i.e. a computer 1,000 faster than today’s computers. The computer will be so powerful that it is expected to be able to help build itself!

While this feat may help us understand how the brain functions, how humans learn, experience the five senses of touch, sight, sound, taste and smell, and brain pathologies amongst other things, this does not quite compare to the ambitious ‘Avatar’ aim of a Russian millionaire to transplant a human brain into a robot; one day completely removing the need for human tissue and uploading a brain into a robot! Similar programs are also being explored by the United States defence department for warfare.

With all the developments in technologies, my brother could well have two fully functioning arms in the coming decades. He may be too old by that stage to compete at the World Tae Kwon Do Championships, but then again he may also have the choice to live forever! This is the plan of Google’s executive, Ray Kurzweil. The engineer predicts advances in biotechnology where people can replace parts of their own body using biological and/or non-biological transplants, opening up an apparent fountain of youth.

As much as I understand my brother’s desire to have the use of his arm back, I wonder if he would actually take up any of these technological advances. The experience has helped shape who he is today: someone I look up to, respect and admire beyond many others. He has achieved great things with only one arm and can appreciate things differently to how he did before the accident. He would not be the incredible person he is today if it weren’t for that moment.

Before we all slide down that slippery slope of apparent immortality, we as individuals, and as the human race need to reflect deeply on this path and where it will lead us.