A robotic human brain hovering over a computer

Scientists are now suggesting that the answer to immortality is transferring our brains onto a computer

How long has the human race sought immortality? The fountain of youth is a famous legend for a reason, and we’ve all heard numerous stories involving potions of everlasting life. There is even an entire industry devoted to freezing your body in the hopes that future technology will be able to revive you. As humans, we’ve always sought to become immortal through the preservation of our physical forms. Aging, however, is a natural process – while we can certainly slow it down with modern medicine, we cannot stop it completely. But what if we’ve been looking at immortality from the wrong angle all along?

Cyber Immortality

Scientists are now suggesting that the answer to achieving immortality lies not in preserving our bodies, but in preserving our minds. If you think about it, the human brain is akin to a high-powered computer. So, what if we could copy all those files stored in our brain and simply transfer them to another computer? Many important thinkers agree that it may be possible.

“I think the brain is like a program in the mind, which is like a computer, so it’s theoretically possible to copy the brain onto a computer and so provide a form of life after death” – Stephen Hawking

This idea is reinforced by the fact that computer power has grown exponentially over the past few decades, and continues to do so. Google’s director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, has suggested that we may be able to transfer the entire human brain to a computer within forty years.

Scientists Hard at Work

The technology itself is also progressing quickly – scientists have already been able to replicate some functions of the brain. For example, a team led by neurology professor Henry Markram was able to successfully simulate part of a rat’s brain. Although replicating the entire human brain is still a long ways off, it’s likely to happen within some of our lifetimes. As with any revolutionary technology, it will undoubtedly come with a hefty price tag. However, think about the payoff. Can you really put a price on immortality?

Coding Consciousness

The biggest remaining question surrounding this issue involves consciousness. It’s one thing to replicate the computer-processing elements of the human brain, but what about the more complex aspects, such as feelings and emotions? Is it even possible to ‘code’ consciousness? On this important aspect, the experts disagree.

Some scientists are convinced that if given enough time and research, this technology will eventually succeed in simulating consciousness.  And in fact, this work is already underway. Leaders in the field of artificial intelligence are currently developing robots that can reason, think, and even learn by imitating the human brain. Recreating human emotions will be difficult, but the technology is progressing quickly.

However, other scientists remain highly doubtful about the possibility of ‘manufacturing’ consciousness. According to well-known neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis, “there are a lot of people selling the idea that you can mimic the brain with a computer”. While this sounds good on paper, he says, “you could have all the computer chips in the world and you won’t create a consciousness.”  Until more progress is made, the jury may be out on this question.

Are We ‘Playing God’?

Either way, this is groundbreaking technology we’re talking about. Once it becomes affordable, we will be faced with an existential question: do we consider our mortal lives sufficient, or should our brains be allowed to live on in cyber form? There also exists a moral quandary here – some may argue that this technology is equivalent to ‘playing God’. Do we have the right to interfere with the universe’s plan for us? If it becomes an option, would you sign up to download your brain to a computer? Let us know what you think.



  1. vic smyth says:

    We are already immortal beings, at least in my worldview. Why would I want to jeopardize that by being trapped in a computer for eternity?

    1. Rev. Wayne Gibbons says:

      Good question.

    2. Neal VanDeRee says:

      Copying your mind to a computer would not trap you, but duplicate you.

      I think that if this becomes possible, the questions becomes why WOULDN’T I want to do this? To replicate yourself by machine.

      I would do it.

      1. Fay says:

        Why would anyone want to live forever. I personally find that a terrifying idea.

        1. Damon says:

          Except that you wouldn’t be living forever. Your memories and intelligence would last, but not your consciousness. The way I think of immortality in this sense isn’t so much that a person lives forever, but that they are remembered, much as heroes are be they national heroes or personal heroes.


          1. vic smyth says:

            The people who are working on this, such as Ray Kurzweil, believe that the brain produces consciousness. Once neuroscientists figure out how that is done, computer scientists can program it into a computer and upload a person’s consciousness, not just their memories, etc. That person would then live forever in the computer. According to Kurzweil It would not be a copy, it would be the real you.

            Others, such a Sir Roger Penrose, head of the Math Dept at Oxford, disagree that a computer could ever be programmed to have consciousness.

            With today’s technology a computer cannot tell the difference between a dog and a cat. It took a team of Grad students an entire semester to program a robot to pick up a glass of water without dropping it, and a juice box without crushing it. Will a computer ever be able to appreciate a Mona Lisa, a Shostakovich symphony, a sunset, a dry sense of humor, or experience a first kiss?

            Of course others, such a Nick Bostrom, also at Oxford, believe that what you are experiencing right now is a computer simulation, one so advanced that it seems like reality.

            Would a Perfect Being living in a Perfect World be perfectly omniscient if it never experienced imperfection, never made a mistake? That Perfect Being could create a simulation and fully immerse themselves in it, not remembering that in their original state of existence they are a Perfect Being. Is that who You are?

          2. vic smyth says:

            Yikes, I can’t figure out how to edit a post. The last paragraph of my previous post the second sentence should read: “That Perfect Being could create a simulation of an imperfect world with imperfect beings and fully immerse themselves in it taking on the role of an imperfect being, not remembering that in their original state of existence they are a Perfect Being.”

  2. Pete says:

    This article did surprise me as I was expecting it to be written from a religious viewpoint, but instead appeared to be written from the stance of a non-believer.

    1. Jameson Graeg says:

      Non-believer of what?
      Remember the tenets to which each of us agreed when we requested and accepted membership to the ULC.
      It was written, appropriately, in an expressly neutral voice. It is up to each of us to determine how it affects us in light of our respective religious views.

  3. Neal VanDeRee says:

    While we pray for life after death and have hope or faith in it, there is no guarantee of it. If, however, we find a way to reverse the aging process OR transfer our memories to a computer, that would obviously be akin to using modern medicine to lengthen our lives.

    If it is moral to save lives or treat diseases, then it would follow that it is moral and ethical to try to extend healthy human living in either of these ways.

  4. Larry Mager says:

    If folks will remember, The Original Star Trek dealt with that same that very subject in at least 2 episodes that I remember: “What Are Little Girls Made Of” comes immediately to mind. James Blish in his original Star Trek novel “Spock Must Die” brings it up as well, only this time in regards to how the transporter was supposed to work. In theory, once the original body is destroyed, the person “shifting” their minds to a computer would NOT know they had been “reborn” The being so created would be a new creature with our memories, BUT NOT the original person!!!! I’m not going to argue with anyone about this, but rather throwing out some ideas and fact.
    Peace to all,

    1. William Waugh says:

      Let’s not forget LTC Data and his everquest to be human. -and the animated series as well as NG had the Enterprise developing self awareness!

      1. reverend Larry says:

        Thanks, Bill. I knew there were several other episodes as well that touched upon the theme.

  5. Rev. Matt says:

    To gain more knowledge and a better understanding of creation. Then when you get to heaven eventually, you can talk to God about what he’s done

  6. Rev. Larry says:

    Everone has good points that they have made. For myself, A.) I’d rather have my body AND mind together as opposed to a copy of my mind on a computer, and B.) If my Spouse couldn’t join me in physical immortality, I’d rather have my body die and allow my soul to go to Heaven so I could be with Her. She’s my VERY Best Friend, so either way, it will be forever with Her.

    Cheer, Peace, and contentment to all

  7. Sandy Hubert Rasmussen says:

    Yet another silly idea from the “mind” of mankind–
    Why would this process be any good to us when we die?
    And if one has a strange idea to transfer another’s information into another’s brain– Who wants someone else’s memories??
    Someone must’ve been tripping on acid or dropping ecstasy to think up something this ludicrous!!

    1. Lee says:

      Sandy, I could not have said it better!

  8. Bob Soukup says:

    I believe that sometime in the future, all our body parts will be interchangeable, replaceable, and reproduced to function better than the original body parts. When science reaches this point, humans could live forever. I do not foresee this happening in my lifetime and I am not sure I want to live forever.

    1. Lee says:

      Can you imagine Charles Manson living forever where he lives?

  9. Damon says:

    While this wouldn’t help an individual, it could be helpful for the race as a whole. Obviously, you wouldn’t be transferring your consciousness to a computer, but perhaps your memories, cognitive functions, etc. Imagine if we could still ask Albert Einstein questions about the scientific advances happening, or if Martin Luther King, Jr. could comment on what has been going on with police brutality? Or what about museum displays where an expert could talk about what you were looking about and answer questions?

    I think this could be a huge deal and ensure that we preserve knowledge for future generations.

  10. Brother John says:

    Mankind’s hubris is the source of some incredible assumptions and beliefs, certainly including the world’s religions and their various creation stories. We need to cultivate realistic perspectives to keep our beliefs in line with reality. We share this planet with over 8 million other species. It’s estimated that there are over 8 billion habitable Earth sized planets in our galaxy and 200-400 billion stars, most of them larger than our sun. Current estimates are between 100-200 billion other galaxies in the known Universe, each with billions of stars.

    With this perspective in mind, how could we possibly believe we are of any particular significance or importance? From the standpoint of the world’s most widespread religion, why are we the epitome of God’s creation? Why was the creation of the mind boggling expanse of the Universe only given a few pages and the rest dedicated to the awesomeness of we humans and our dominion over all living things? Did God create the unfathomable expanse of the Universe without life or consciousness with the exception of our tiny speck of a planet? Sure the night sky is pretty, but we can’t even see 99.999% of what’s there. If other life exists in the Universe, why is it not given at least as much attention as mankind?

    The answer is most certainly that all the holy books, stories and the plethora of gods they portrayed were all created by humans, mostly men. These men often created positions of power for themselves by promoting their abilities to confer with their proposed deities and pass on applicable rules, explanations and commands to the unenlightened masses. Incredibly, with all the assumed advances in human intellect and understanding, some of these systems are still operating, all based on faith and belief.

    The primary purpose for the millions of species we share this insignificant planet with is to reproduce by either sexual or asexual means. Bacteria, as an example, usually reproduce by simply dividing in two. Each new bacterium is a clone of the original—they each contain a copy of the same DNA. This is called binary fission (bye-nair-ee fish-un). If conditions are just right, one bacterium could become a BILLION (1,000,000,000) bacteria in just 10 hours through binary fission! Pretty impressive!!

    Homo Sapiens Sapiens is very likely the only species that has imagined any purpose in life beyond reproduction with biological offspring as a means of extending life beyond death. We are likely the only animal that contemplates our impending death, which is the principal driving force to finding purpose. As disturbing as it may be for some, the reality is that most of us will be entirely forgotten within a couple of hundred years after our deaths unless we’ve done something worthy of a place in history. This is the closest any of us will come to having a shot at immortality. Most, if not all of us cannot recall 99.99% of our own daily lives with any clarity or accuracy and what memories we do have are murky fragments of what actually occurred in the past.

    It’s possible that the Hokey Pokey is what it’s all about in the end.



  11. Reverend charlie hart says:

    Fear it or embrace it No one knows what it will be until they try it and if God is willing to allow it who are we to condemn it . Of course being the litigious society we are I can just imagine the contract and possibility of opt out and/or opt back in clauses or buttons or whatevs . Anyway , lot more complicated subject than can be covered in a couple of minutes early on a Sunday morn .

  12. Fr David Sodey says:

    If we donate our bodies, or parts, I believe we may consider that we are in existence and if that person donates his body then again your existence is extended ad infinitum.
    So donate your body for transplant with the caveat that the recipient must sign a donation form also.

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