In the new techno-thriller “Upload,” a young computer scientist with a sketchy past and distrust of society decides to take the ultimate leap forward by scanning his brain and uploading his memories, personality and consciousness into a simulated world of his own making.
Raymond wants to live forever, controlling his environment and interactions with other humans as a god-like being.
The novel by author Mark McClelland is set in the Michigan of 2070 about the time that futurists like Ray Kurzweil predict that “singularity” will be reached, the moment when machine learning will surpass human intelligence. It’s not the first science-fiction tale to explore human-computer hybrids (see “What are Little Girls Made Of” in the first season of the original “Star Trek” series) or even the perils of virtual reality becoming too real (see the “Matrix” triology). But it does posit some questions that real-world researchers are just now tackling.
The European Union, for example, recently announced it was funding a $1.3 billion project to build a human brain on a silicon substrate. That’s about 1 1/2 cents per neuron. Swiss neuroscientist Henry Markham, who is behind the Human Brain Project, has already started work on building a simulated rat brain.
At the same time, getting machines to think more like humans is also progressing. Especially in the realm of human-computer interfaces. Researchers are figuring out ways for victims of paralysis to control their artificial hands with brainwaves or even walk with exoskeletons.
Both computers and the robots they control are getting smarter, according to Moshe Vardi, professor of computer science at Rice University.