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Dec-05-2010 18:25printcomments

How to Become Immortal: Upload your Mind

Can brain uploading be achieved within 40 years? Sooner, say some experts.

Brain download

(CHICAGO) - According to Ian Pearson, a British futurist, death will be a thing of the past by 2050.

CIan Pearson

Pearson is one of many futurists, cybernetic experts and artificial intelligence researchers whose thoughts are converging on the same basic idea: Why not upload everything that's in the brain—everything that makes a person who they are—into a computer and then download it again into a new body? Doing such a thing would make the individual theoretically immortal.

For such a thing to work, more advancements will be needed in the hardware and the software, and better interfaces will have to be developed between the human brain and the silicon brain.

Yet how to get there from here is not insurmountable.

Can brain uploading be achieved within 40 years?

Sooner, say some experts. What's needed are super fast computers with huge memory capacity. They see that happening before 2020 and that's just 10 years away. If there are unexpected breakthroughs with quantum computers the time line will be shortened considerably.

Some are not so ambitious; they're satisfied with the idea of virtual immortality. In that scenario everything that's an individual is uploaded into a digital avatar and survives 24/7 within a permanent, theoretically eternal, Internet.

Science fiction? No. An organization called The Digital Immortality Institute (DII) is researching the possibility of doing just that. DII has determined the three things necessary to achieve digital immortality are: guaranteed Internet access; insure the identity integrity of the avatars for each individual user; and finally, make sure the personality, memory, everything that makes up the person as a unique individual, has been uploaded into the digital facsimile before the actual person dies.

Yet virtual reality holds little interest for Pearson. He wants the real thing, and so does scientist Anders Sandberg. A member of the new transhuman movement (beyond human), Sandberg believes uploading minds and downloading them again into new bodies is a technology that's imminent. He believes it will happen because of Mankind's desire to overcome aging and death, as well as solving the problems associated with overpopulation.

Another transhumanist, AI theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky is convinced the technology must be developed quickly before a group or government with evil intentions does it first. He sees artificial intelligence as the key to unlock the immortality door. But it must be done in the right way for if it's not, dire consequences could follow. "If a self-improving AI is thrown together in a slapdash fashion, we could be in for big trouble," he warns.

Some like 80-year old Marvin Minsky, called the father of artificial intelligence, creator of artificial neural networks and the co-founder of the AI lab at MIT, believes the general masses haven't a clue about how to handle immortality, nor do they deserve it. From his ivory tower perspective he believes that scientists need the extra time that immortality can provide, while the rest of humanity should be satisfied with normal lifespans.

Sounding a bit godlike, Minsky waves aside any ethical considerations and argues that scientists are above such things. No restrictions on the research and applications, no regulation of any kind should be countenanced by the scientific community.

"Scientists shouldn't have ethical responsibility for their inventions, they should be able to do what they want. You shouldn't ask them to have the same values as other people," Minsky adamantly declares.

Now, that is scary. Isn't that the premise that Dr. Frankenstein had in the book that bears his name?


Mind Uploading Home Page - Robots shall inherit the Earth; and they shall be Us...

Ian Pearson

Video: Ian Pearson on the ultimate re-boot

The Digital Immortality Institute

Marvin Minsky

This article was originally published by

Terrence Aym is a Contributor based in Chicago, who is well known nationally for his stirring reports on the top ranked site, Born in Minnesota, Terrence Aym grew up in the Chicagoland suburbs. Having traveled to 40 of the 50 states and lived in 7 of them, Aym is no stranger to travel. He's also spent time in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and Western Africa. An executive for many years with Wall Street broker-dealer firms, Aym has also had a life-long interest in science, technology, the arts, philosophy and history. If it's still possible to be a 'Renaissance man' in the 21st Century, Aym is working hard to be one.

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jesse March 2, 2011 5:49 pm (Pacific time)

well, you wouldn't have to. it would be like something out of a peter hamilton book. the reality dysfunction, or the evolutionary void. personally i love the idea.

Icebrand January 9, 2011 3:42 pm (Pacific time)

What's wrong with good old cryonics? As soon as irreversible unconsciousness happens (i.e. clinical death) you can simply cool your body until the cells cannot break down any further. Then when the tech level is high enough, it should be entirely possible to repair and de-age the cells. How to pay for the reanimation surgery? Set aside a little money in a trust fund that is perpetually reinvested until time to revive... You might even end up getting rich out of the deal. At the very least the money will help research cellular repair methods that can help sick folks. This idea has been around for over 50 years, I don't know why everyone is acting so shocked about the idea of ultra-long lifespans for folks living today.

Daniel December 10, 2010 5:32 am (Pacific time)

And now to suit our great computer your magnetic ink .

justavet December 8, 2010 7:57 pm (Pacific time)

this has nothing to do with extending ones life, it is antithesis to the creator and to life itself. it is a mockery of the life we are given and the pentultimate insult to the Creator. this and this only is the reason these transhumanist demon worshippers are doing this. they forget one thing- the personality of an inidvidual is greatly influenced and made up by the interaction of the soul/spirit with the living machine, without it you have souless beings who can be possessed by spritual darkforces.

CHrisboo December 8, 2010 9:16 pm (Pacific time)

Sounds like what Tad Williams wrote in his books "Otherland"...

danbug December 8, 2010 1:21 pm (Pacific time)

I've been a PC/Network technician and programmer since 1983, and I would never trust my life to a digital existance.

xexon December 6, 2010 6:10 pm (Pacific time)

There's a lesson to be learned from Jurrasic Park. Things that have ended should not be brought back. I've spent a large part of my life studing the human mind. People tire as they age. Not only physically, but mentally as well. Death almost becomes a welcome relief from what you've learned in this life. The idea of adding to that will break an average person. x

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