We are currently engaged in one of the biggest scientific endeavors: the quest to comprehend the brain, the most intricate structure known to man. Massive amounts of information regarding the structure and operation of a wide variety of brains, from the smallest to our own, are being gathered by scientists. And in the process, the brain has frequently been compared to a computer.
We frequently assume that human consciousness is similar to a computer in that it is just the input and output of electrical impulses inside a network of processing units. The reality, however, is far more complicated since the brain holds a vast array of memories, emotions, and ideas, and we are unsure of its exact boundaries. Therefore, the ambition of uploading entire human brains seems far-fetched at the moment. Although we have gone a long way in terms of theory, actual understanding is still rather hazy.
Scanning, processing speed and memory, and environment are the three key technological areas that must progress for this to be conceivable. The connectome, which provides a comprehensive map of the brain, is going to be our first obstacle when it comes to scanning. Brains are incredibly complicated. The brain of a nematode, which has roughly 302 neurons, is the only organism whose whole connectome has been completely mapped by scientists. Along with the 10,000 or more connections each neuron makes with other neurons, the human brain contains 86 billion neurons. We just can’t map them all out with our present brain-scanning technology, such as MRIs and MEGs.
Two years ago, researchers at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, United States, achieved an incredible feat by mapping the 3D structure of every neuron contained inside one cubic millimeter of a mouse brain. The researchers discovered more than 100,000 neurons and more than a billion connections between them inside this tiny cube of brain tissue. It took two petabytes, or two million gigabytes, of storage for them to successfully store the appropriate data on computers, including the structure and configuration of each neuron and link. Their automated microscopes had to continually gather 100 million photos of 25,000 slices of the little sample over several months in order to do this. You may probably now appreciate that extracting this data from the human brain won’t be a simple task.
Whatever the method, the technology must be able to scan and capture enormous volumes of data. Massive here refers to zettabytes of data. And we still don’t fully understand what we’re looking for. The connectome puzzle still needs many neurotransmitters, many of which have not yet been identified.
The difficulty is not limited to data extraction and storage, though. The information would need to be kept in the computer’s random access memory (RAM), rather than on conventional hard drives, in order for it to retrieve any and all stored data quickly, simulating the way the brain operates. However, if we attempted to fit the researchers’ collected data into a computer’s RAM, it would take up 12.5 times as much space as the biggest single-memory computer (a machine designed more for memory than computing) ever created.
Every aspect of the physical structure of the connections between neurons in the brain, including their size, shape, quantity, and position, contains information. But would one agree to have their brain cut open in that manner, as was the case with the mouse? Be that as it may, considering the volume of the human brain, it is quite doubtful that the entirety of the brain could ever be chopped precisely enough to be correctly reconstructed.
Another thing to keep in mind is that while fundamental cognitive abilities gradually deteriorate with age, they begin to do so after the age of 20. Our brains shrink as we age, which is one of the main causes of this deterioration. We have a smaller brain because neurons degenerate more quickly than they are replaced. However, given that we have approximately 100 billion neurons when we are 20 years old and that this attrition rate results in just a 2- to 3-percent loss of neurons by the time we are 80. Our brains can still represent our lifetime way of thinking at that age, assuming we don’t get a neurodegenerative condition. But what age would be appropriate for stopping to scan and store?