Let me start out by saying that I believe our personalities and who we are emotionally and intellectually are encoded in the connections of our brains. On the other hand, who we are spiritually transcends the brain. A soul is eternal whereas a brain will pass away. This post is about scientists understanding the brain so well that they might be able to copy it. I believe any such copy would appear to have the same memories and personality as the person to which the original brain belonged but that it would not have a soul. This is key. If making a copy of a brain becomes possible, then you can bet new Transhumanist religions will pop up claiming that your soul gets copied too, but this is a lie. Only God can create souls.
Much of Transhumanism hinges on developing an understanding of the human brain that allows us to digitize it. The development of neural interfaces, the “uploading” of the mind, and the augmentation of the mind beyond what is possible with biology (superintelligence) all depend on scientists unraveling the complexity of our brains. How will scientists do this? The same way they experiment on anything else – control the environment, introduce a measurable change, and observe the outcome. The problem is that scientists cannot do this with a live human brain due to the difficulty and the possibility of causing harm to the subject. This is where brain simulations come into play.
Background on Brain Simulations
The human brain has 100 billion neurons with approximately 1000 connections per neuron. Each connection uses one of more than 100 different types of neurotransmitters to communicate between neurons. Connection end-points have between hundreds and tens of thousands of vesicles depending on the strength of the connection. Vesicles are simply storage for roughly 10,000 neurotransmitter molecules.
As you might guess, to simulate the brain at a level of detail that traces the individual locations of neurotransmitter molecules would require an enormous amount of computing power. If scientists update the simulation 1000 times per second, then about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 computations per second are needed. This is called 1 yottaflop, and if computers continue to advance at their current pace, then a supercomputer capable of this simulation will be possible by 2060. Let’s call this detailed simulation a real-time, high-fidelity brain simulation.
But here’s the thing – scientists probably don’t need to wait for real-time, high-fidelity brain simulations to realize the goals of Transhumanism. If scientists simulate connections as either on or off, then they only need 100,000,000,000,000,000 computations per second (100 exaflops). That amount of computational power is only 10 years away from the public. With a sufficient budget, classified government supercomputers might even be capable of running a real-time, low-fidelity brain simulation like this today.
Once scientists can simulate a human brain, they could initialize it to a known state, control the environment, change something in a repeatable way, and observe and compare to a real brain. This could allow them not only to refine the simulation, but also to learn how exactly the brain works. Scientists might learn more in just a few years than what has been learned about the brain over the entire course of human history.
The Outcome of Brain Simulations
So, what? What does this mean for us? Pharmaceutical companies could simulate the effects of advanced nanotechnologies on the brain to develop neural interfaces. Life insurance companies could pioneer mind “uploading” at the time of death (when death is unavoidable). Companies like Apple, Google and even the government could optimize brain simulations and develop superintelligence to augment ourselves or to use as AI for various purposes.
Neural interfaces would allow a person to experience sensations that aren’t real (virtual reality), and enable your personal computer (or future smartphone) to effectively read your mind. This might support a kind of telepathy. Because of this, neural interfaces could make possible unprecedented immersion into virtual reality where perversion and sin will reach new levels (think Sodom and Gomorrah).
Unfortunately, virtual reality is all about you and what you can experience. There is little opportunity to serve others and ample opportunity to be served by others.
Mind uploading could seemingly make it possible to cheat death. Of course, we know that there is more to a person than their brain – we each have a soul.
I find this verse from the bible to be very interesting:
During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them. – Revelation 9:6
Ironic and unfortunate that if the technology to live “forever” finally becomes available, people will want to die.
Mind uploading may also explain the image of the beast:
The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. – Revelation 13:15
If the first beast is a man of authority, the second beast might be a superintelligent computer given power to perform on behalf of the first beast. Furthermore, “to give breath to the image of the first beast,” could imply that the mind of the man will be uploaded and brought to “life” in simulation.
This is all speculation of course – nobody knows for sure what form the first or second beast will take, but I find the possibility to be very interesting.
Superintelligence could make so many things possible. It will be hard to argue that anything a superintelligent computer does is bad. A superintelligent computer could track the whereabouts of every human on Earth – eliminating privacy, but creating security. It could seemingly solve all the world’s biggest problems such as safety, hunger and thirst, war, and climate change. And, it could perform other signs and wonders to deceive the people into worshiping it.
We Cannot Simulate a Soul
I will cover neural interfaces, mind uploading, and superintelligence in much greater depth in other posts. For now, I hope the dangers of brain simulations are evident. The technology will be advanced, and it will appear as magic, but we must not forget that we each have a soul, and a soul is something that cannot be simulated, copied, or created. Only God can do that.