Your brain will never turn into software on a supercomputer

Illustration for article titled Your brain will never turn into software on a supercomputer

Getting ready to upload your consciousness into a brain-emulating computer in a decade or two? You'll be waiting a lot longer than that. Princeton computer science researcher Timothy B. Lee doesn't think we'll ever upload our brains. Here's why.


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Lee says we won't ever be uploading our minds into computers that "simulate" a brain environment for one simple reason: You can't reduce a biological system usefully with mathematical models. Here's what he says, in part:

Scientists have been trying to simulate the weather for decades, but the vast improvements in computing power in recent decades have produced only modest improvements in our ability to predict the weather. This is because the natural world is much, much more complex than even our most powerful computers. The same is true of our brains. The brain has approximately 100 billion neurons. If each neuron were some kind of simple mathematical construct (in the sense that transistors can be modeled as logic gates) we could imagine computers powerful enough to simulate the brain within a decade or two. But each neuron is itself a complex biological system. I see no reason to think we'll ever be able to reduce it to a mathematically tractable model. I have no doubt we'll learn a lot from running computer simulations of neurons in the coming decades. But I see no reason to think these simulations will ever be accurate (or computationally efficient) enough to serve as the building blocks for full-brain emulation.

Read Lee's entire post about this topic on his blog, Bottom Up.


Mr. Gotham and I talk about this all the time. Here is what we've come up with. You don't upload your brain, instead, as an infant a computer program is put into your brain that is there simply to observe and record. It watches your 'operating system' seeing how it works, learning you. As you gain complexity, so does it. After a while it starts making guesses about what you will do and how you will react to certain stimuli. It learns how to be you. After you die it is put into it's own body and lives based on the behavior it's learn.

I think that is the closest we will ever come to living forever.