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Is it possible to upload/download your conscience/memories to/from a computer?

Ed Boyden's talk opens up a lot of possibilities regarding human-computer interfaces with his binary approach. The implications in curing mental illnesses is just a sight of the surface, in my opinion. If we can create an input into the brain, through light signals and their respective light-sensitive proteins, I think it is a matter of time before we can develop very accurate output and recording devices for all these signals.

We can already see the brains outputs and its activity through MRI scanners but, I think, delivering DNA that contains the blueprint for a light emitting protein to the respective neurons ( note that the respective protein might use different frequencies of light for different types of neurons; for better accuracy ) I think we can achieve higher levels of accuracy - I think it is possible to pinpoint an individual neuron firing at a given time. This is just an idea.

Once we can implement both input and output methods I think we can develop algorithms that can decode the information from the brain and store it on the computer. Through such an interface we could access the Internet with our minds, giving a new dimension to our thought.

I wonder, if in the future we could be living inside machines because I really think that what we really are is not limited to our body, but to our genome and, especially, our connectome. I think, for this feat to be achieved, we must fully understand how the brain works so that we can simulate it on a computer and, more importantly, we have to understand how a complex logical and mechanical system like our brain can give rise to consciousness.

I would like to see your guys and gals view on this matter.

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  • May 17 2011: I don't know, but I see only bad sides at the moment. I think about soldiers, who can deactivate their fear, communicate over some wireless network or even be controlled like this. And there are so many other possibilities to abuse this technology.

    I am really scared now and I am really not a conservative or technology-fearing person.

    Am I the only one?
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      May 17 2011: I understand your position. Science has always been like this. What science does is unlock new options in the reality we live in. How we use that knowledge depends on the user.

      I think we, as a specie, have to keep up our responsibility and mentality with the progress of science. An uneducated man with a nuclear bomb at his disposal is something utterly frightening whereas a team of expert physicists don't scare me as much.

      We have to take responsibility for our tools.
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      May 19 2011: Hi Robin..well suppose we had an ethics system for this so that each person controlled the uploads..the content of them and alsothe ownership of them? Suppose a young man going off to a war where he risks exposure to things that could cause post traumatic stress syndrome or traumatic head injury in which meory and personality might be lost could upload all those htings he wanted to be sure he could have and on his return all the trauatic PTSD stuff could be expunged and what he has chosen to keep restored to him? ( this is imaginal so we can design it however we want and obviously ethical issues and issues of control and use would be part of this technology)
      • May 26 2011: I'm a psychology student and I agree with you to some point. I agree that it would be the greatest thing if one could "erase" PTSD and live on like a normal person. But I think there is something that's been left out of the equation here. What keeps us from fighting each-other is not really a PTSD but a more complex thing of moral standards for example - if I can be trivial. But moral standards or norms whatever you like are being preserved by sanctions, and conscience is sort of a natural sanction mechanism. We feel guilty when we do something wrong. And this is as well how we learn not to do wrong things again and again. Therefore if a soldier comes home after killing tons of people and then just erases effects of his conscience then the natural 'holding-back' mechanism is basically lost. And what happens is we start to believe there's nothing really wrong with wars and stuff like that.

        Well, that is just my humble opinion and I apologize for any spelling mistakes.
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          May 26 2011: Nicely argued Zala and you bring up some important considerations. There is already drug therapy in the works that would erase traumatic events from memory if administered shortly after the trauma itself.
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          May 26 2011: Hi Zala I understand and share the core value in what you are saying ( that we wouldn't want to lose accountablity or remorse for our actions)

          PTSD people were involved in a scientific study of injuries to the pre fronta lobe ..the part of the brain where these moral judgements and empathy and our values reside..Sorry I don't have the citation but my recollection is that the conflict within the brain between values and the acts they were required to commit actually shorted out the pre-frontal cortex..in PTSD..In other words PTSD is a "blow out" resulting from the intolerable conflict between personal values and the acts they were required to witness or commit.

          That is the context in which my comment was framed. That this neuron "transplant" or exchnage..could erase the memory of that intolerable conflict and restore the persons previous normal personality.(These boxes are sometimes too small to provide a clear exchange. I apologize if I did not provide a clear context for my comment on PTSD )
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          May 26 2011: Hi Lindsay, Nice review of the research there. The prefrontal cortex is where logic and emotion are integrated and so there is a tremendous battle that goes on there in PTSD. It can actually short out the immune system if it gets bad enough. These events can also cause the amygdala to shrival. When I was in grad school we saw the brains of some men who had been tortured in Japan when they were prisoners of war and it was shrivelled like a dried up old bean. It really hit home that cruelty really takes its toll on people even when we cannot see it on the outside.
          I wonder what the milk of human kindess does?

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