It sounds like a scene from a sci-fi flick. Or a horror film. Take your pick. Scientists of the future have finally found a way to digitize our brains and store them in storage disks (or Dilithium crystals for more capacity). One day you’re human and the next day you find yourself in the body of an android. OK, this experiment might not exactly be that sensational, unless you happen to be a roundworm whose suddenly finds itself with the body of a LEGO robot.
In theory, all our brain activity can be reduced to electrical signals and so mapping out a brain is tantamount to mapping out those signals. And since they’re electrical signals, they can then be digitized, stored, and emulated in software. At least that’s the theory, and as anyone knows, in practice, theories are easier said than done. Not to mention the ethical questions this might raise.
So a group of scientists from, what else, the Open Worm Project, have decided to do just that but on significantly smaller scale. The scale of a worm, to be exact. Taking the Caenorhabditis elegans as the, er, test subject, the scientists were able to map out the worm’s rather simplistic 302 neurons and emulate it completely in software. Of course, they had to cut corners in a few areas to emulate, for example, firing neurons. And of course they had to replace actual worm body parts with sensors and wheels. And the initial results are quite impressive and promising. Look Ma, no programming!
It will be a long, long time before we can achieve something similar with human brains, but it’s a start, though small. It is a future that is both exciting and frightening at the same time.