Whole brain emulation, also know as simply mind uploading or brain uploading, is like moving into the Matrix permanently. Basically the idea is that by taking the all the information that makes you who you are, and uploading it into a computer, you would be made entirely digital.
For those who support the idea, whole brain emulation seems like a ticket to immortality. Let’s walk you through the thought process: first, you must acknowledge that even if you lost an arm, you would still be essentially you, the same person who had that arm before. I don’t know of anyone who disagrees with this proposition. Second, let’s say you lost your whole body, and were just a brain in a vat – most would agree you’re still you, the same person you were before.
Now comes the tricky part: what if instead of being a physical brain in a physical vat, you were a simulation of a brain in a simulation of a vat? All the information that makes your brain you would still be there, and all the processes that make up your thoughts would still be running, just virtually. With the right technology, you could transfer yourself perfectly right back into a physical brain. In this sense, the computer running the program that made up “you” would just be a sort of prosthetic, letting your mind keep on running even after your brain was destroyed.
Based on everything scientists currently know about the laws of physics, the workings of the brain, and the workings of the mind, this is entirely possible. A basic version of this is already being done with a worm, although the project is not yet far enough along to say that it’s definitely working.
This is kind of a big deal in futurism circles, not least because there are a lot of philophical questions to answer before we ever even think about trying this on a person. A lot of people think that the person on the computer wouldn’t really be you, they would be a copy. A lot of people think that if a person’s brain is digital, then they can’t really be a person at all. The answers to most of these dilemmas are based heavily on how you define things like “self” and “person” and “consciousness”. Despite years and years of debate, these questions still raise heated controversy.
Do you think that if you could, you’d want to live in a virtual world? After all, you’d still be able to pilot a robot to visit the real world whenever you wanted. And a virtual world would have practically no cost of living, and endless freedom. If you wanted to spend some time being an elf or a dragon or an angel, you could do that. If you wanted to live inside your favorite video game, you could do that. If you wanted to make marshmallows rain from the sky, you could totally do that. What would you do?