- Written by EMMA HUGHSON EMMA HUGHSON
- Published: 28 April 2014 28 April 2014
Experts say uploading an individuals mind onto a computer is impossible
In the new movie Transcendence, actor Johnny Depp plays a scientist who downloads his mind into a super computer after becoming terminally ill. That concept has previously appeared in other science fiction stories, such as the novels Zendegi and Software. But experts say it's unlikely that this type of technology will appear in reality — at least in our lifetime.
In an interview, Chris Eliasmith, the man behind the smallest functioning simulation of a brain in the world, said there are no current examples of someone "uploading" their mind.
The only technology that even comes close is a prosthetic chip, developed by a University of Southern California biomedical engineering professor in 2001, which repairs brain matter and is meant for victims of strokes or Alzheimer's.
But Hamid Tizhoosh, an engineering professor at the University of Waterloo, stated in an email that he believes this technology is impossible and will not be seen "in the next 10 to 20 years."
That being said, Daniel Silver, a computer science professor at Acadia University, explained in a phone interview that "we will be able to store different aspects of things that are simple [concepts] in computers" — as opposed to just procedures. For example, right now computers know how to calculate fractions. But they may eventually be able to understand why that procedure works.
But that's a far cry from the capability required to store human consciousness.
"The representational ability of the computer is different to the representational ability of the brain," said Silver.
Still, Ray Kurzweil, a futurist and director of engineering at Google, predicted last year during the Global Futures 2045 International Congress that we will be able to upload our consciousness to computers.
Although this technology would be a break through, Tizhoosh said he believes such immortality "can only mean chaos and suffering at a whole new level."
According to Eliasmith, this technology is extremely unlikely. " It's maybe as likely as the replicators or transporters in Star Trek," he says.
It would be more likely to build an extremely intelligent robot, Eliasmith added. It is just too hard to gather enough information from a brain; even mapping non-functioning brains are a hard task to accomplish.
We cannot gather enough information from one specific persons brain to be able to "simulate behaviour" because we would be missing too much information to create behaviour mannerisms.