This is an exercise on articulating a subject that is quite fascinating after a reviewing a series of coincidence papers, videos and live streams all somewhat related to the field of neuroscience. I would recommend the video below. For a paper discussing the Reconstruction and Simulation of Neocortial Microcircuitry here you go and good luck. Its the longest paper to be released on cell.com. I am speculating a lot, this is more of a continuous write up as I learn more.
The Future of Consciousness
After reading papers about tissue preservation and recreation of mice brains digitally, along with Elon Musk’s venture into neuralink. This has been quite topical of late. I will revisit this post as I learn more. The way I articulate what consciousness is from my understanding is you have a create table at birth, where scientists in these papers, say and I quote.
“This paper throws a hand grenade into the middle of what the common beliefs are,” says Becker. “We may have vastly underestimated the ability of the brain to recover.”
Say consciousness grows as information is appended, modified and deleted. The brain is the data housing for new information, much like a table in SQL or even excel. I prefer to think of a noSQL type pattern. You can copy the table to another place, sure but thats a “copy”. You are the table, everything done thereafter in this is a copy and not a direct translation of the original. The create date will always be more recent than the original which means its not the same as the original table.
Anyway enough SQL, you also have the concept of the embodiment problem in AI which leads into more discussion in this area, can AI ever think like a human. I think its more likely we create an AI that can “embody” the characteristics or even electronic copies of people. But not actually in a direct consciousness mind. Even if you copied every neuron and the hormones in the correct quantities required to trigger the various synapse firings, it could never translate 100% of your consciousness via upload as the create date is different. Each neuron is meshed in a way that was gradually built up. A flick of a switch has different characteristics. I I think there may be something about sleep or being put into an altered state of conscious which you can then perhaps append your brain to reach a different level of consciousness. Moving your consciousness self to an artificial place.
Interfaces of Future Consciousness
To elaborate, it would be interesting to see what the opportunities of brain tissue preservation are. Where your brain is preserved in its current state, but then could translate part of your consciousness into other artificial body. What would it feel like? This new environment for your conscious self to explore, it could be related to something like a sleep state, we can all relate to sleep being a different state of consciousness from being awake. Imagine exploring a new area of the mind you can travel to which is artificial, think of integrating yourself into a cyborg over time, you will have to train your mind to support the new interfaces that you’re now using. Similar to downloading a driver but the brain will have to create new neural connections to get everything working effectively, as the brain is elastic I think it is possible for it to learn how to interface differently. It all comes down to electrical signals from nerves to neurons and hormones driving the walking chemistry lab that we are. This is related to reanimatology, an area of medicine that studies patterns of cessation and restoring human functions. When we sleep we dream and our perception of consciousness itself is entirely different to when we are awake. What if there was potentially infinite other states of consciousness like sleep, awake.. death.. that you could artificially create and move into. Neurons are nodes of a network communicating by electrical signals and hormones. Both of together give us emotions, the ability to learn and our conscious self. By changing the mesh of neurons we have, and changing the hormones we reach a different state of consciousness.
Cutting brains into tiny slices, using lasers to record neuron locations and modeling them followed by hormone simulation doesn’t seem plausible. It will not hold your consciousness, if we can find an interface to extend ourselves, for example ability to communicate with a storage device over time.. could we then actively move ourselves to the human accepted storage medium. You start with 100% knowledge and consciousness in the brain. You then interface with a new device (again think cyborg) and over time you use this device to interface with more and more until you can leave the brain. Your consciousness would then have adapted to the new device and assuming its not powered off seems like the only plausible way to migrate to the cloud, but I think this would take too long for a single persons lifetime.. its like speeding up evolution to have a bigger brain capacity. Thats as far stretched my idea would have to be to even consider getting uploaded to the cloud.
Rather, I think its plausible after reading this study that preserving the brain for as long as possible would be the best way. I think it could lead to brains evolving to be bigger over 1000’s of years of evolution of a preserved brain… interestingly if we live forever do we continue to evolve? Born on two feet then evolved to lose them? Well genetic modification with CAS-9 from the cellular level for new births could well increase their life duration, but for those who were without any genetic enhancements from birth would require another approach. Even so, anyone genetically modified (or enhanced) would still want “immortality” as I am unsure if total genetic modification could ever grant this based on unknown mutations and side effects that at present day (but lets not get into medicine or limitations of genetics.)
Its fun to tease with these concepts as there isn’t an answer. Keeping the brain alive in artificial bodies or tanks may be the best way to translate our consciousness (recent paper released of someone who did this with a pig brain). Our brains are hardwired into this body of ours, but if we can move it to another body form or storage mechanism and preserve its life, brain tissue and all you essentially can “move your consciousness” change your perception of reality and in a sense… evolve human by interfacing with new bodies.
Check out the following links for inspiration and further reading about this topic
- Cells in human postmortem brain tissue slices remain alive for several weeks in culture
- Restoring brain hours after death
- Human Brain Project, EU funded studies