Bioethics News

Mind the gap—between dream and reality

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Ray Kurzweil, inventor, futurist and now director of engineering at Google, believes that by 2045 it will be possible to upload our brains to a computer. At that point, we (or at least those who can afford it) will achieve digital immortality. This is a common aspiration among transhumanists – so common, that Kenneth D. Miller, a professor of neuroscience at Columbia and a co-director of the Center for Theoretical Neuroscience, used the op-ed page of the New York Times to dump a bucket of very cold water over it.

Here are some excerpts:

While progress is swift [in mapping the brain], no one has any realistic estimate of how long it will take to arrive at brain-size connectomes. (My wild guess: centuries.) …

Neuroscience is progressing rapidly, but the distance to go in understanding brain function is enormous. It will almost certainly be a very long time before we can hope to preserve a brain in sufficient detail and for sufficient time that some civilization much farther in the future, perhaps thousands or even millions of years from now, might have the technological capacity to “upload” and recreate that individual’s mind. …

We all find our own solutions to the problem death poses. For the foreseeable future, bringing your mind back to life will not be one of them.

The 2045 deadline is only 30 years away, one generation. Is Ray Kurzweil running out of time?  

This article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.