Whole Brain Emulation

I haven't had time to read any more 99-cent e-books because I have been enjoying Name of the Wind instead. Until I get to another one, I thought I'd provide a brief summary of something I read about for Project: Sol. It's very cool. Whole brain emulation is the equivalent of scanning your brain onto a computer! In computer science, emulation means using one machine to obtain the same results as another machine. In this case, you'd be using computer software to think the same way your personal brain would think. In the most successful scenario, you could theoretically exist forever as a personality on a computer as a real person.

If you're wondering why you haven't heard of it before, it's because we can't do this yet. There are physical, technological, and philosophical problems that need solving first. Living brains move so much due to the blood pumping through them that it is impossible to get a detailed scan with current technology. No hard drive in existence has the storage capacity to hold all of the data required to run an emulation of your brain. Your brain might not be able to survive without a body to send it signals. How can we emulate the chemical and electronic input? And would it really be you in the computer, or just a fake? What about your soul, if you believe in such things?

This has been addressed in science fiction by Asimov, Clarke, and many others. My favorite fictional instance of whole brain emulation is the Flatline in William Gibson's Neuromancer.

For more on this topic, check out this Google Tech Talk.

R. E. Stearns