Reverse engineering the brain is just a matter of time. If we get our collective act together with respect to supporting and developing longevity science then many of us will see the age of artificial brains.
"The plan is to engineer the mind by reverse-engineering the brain," says Dharmendra Modha, manager of the cognitive computing project at IBM Almaden Research Center.
In what could be one of the most ambitious computing projects ever, neuroscientists, computer engineers and psychologists are coming together in a bid to create an entirely new computing architecture that can simulate the brain's abilities for perception, interaction and cognition. All that, while being small enough to fit into a lunch box and consuming extremely small amounts of power.
As this review shows, [whole brain emulation] on the neuronal/synaptic level requires relatively modest increases in microscopy resolution, a less trivial development of automation for scanning and image processing, a research push at the problem of inferring functional properties of neurons and synapses, and relatively business‐as‐usual development of computational neuroscience models and computer hardware.
Functional artificial brains will bring the potential for a great many changes, such as a phase change in the nature of humanity itself, but the most interesting potential for those of us chasing personal longevity is the replacement of neurons with more reliable machinery:
Neurons made from exotic nanomaterials could one day enable humans to survive even the most horrendous accident, and as a bonus, provide amazing new capabilities.
Burch describes how we would switch to the new brain. A daily pill would supply nanomaterials and instructions for nanobots to format new neurons and position them next to existing biological brain cells to be replaced. These changes would be unnoticeable to us, but within six months, we would be enjoying our new brain.
Should a person with the new damage-resistant brain die in an accident, their body could be a total loss, but the brain would survive. Biological brains die within minutes after the heart stops; our new brain will simply turn itself off and wait for a new power supply.
As I examined in a post back in the achives, the major stumbling block to extreme longevity - after the necessary medical technology has been developed - is that the standard issue human brain and body are fragile. Accidents happen, and we're not well equipped to survive them. The technologies that will be developed in the decades following the culmination of the biotechnology revolution will help overcome that limitation.
It's a tough road between here and there of course: we're still struggling with the first step in the process, sufficiently good repair of aging to live into the next age of technological development. First things first, but it can't hurt to occasionally look ahead to see the golden future that awaits should we succeed in repairing the cellular and molecular damage that causes aging.