2012-06-26

Mind uploading: from mad science to peer-reviewed literature

It's finally happened.

This month, for the first time ever, a peer-reviewed scientific journal dedicated a "Special Issue" to the subject of mind uploading. A theoretical process whereby human beings could become software, mind uploading promises all kinds of benefits imaginable, from immortality to cheap space travel.


Preprints of most of the papers can be found at Ben Goertzel's blog. And for the introduction and Randal Koene's paper, even the published versions are open-access.

There's been academic research on mind uploading before, notably Bostrom and Sandberg's 2008 report Whole Brain Emulation: A Roadmap. Unfortunately, Bostrom and Sandberg are philosophers, not scientists. Some people with computing or physics credentials (Vernor Vinge, Ray Kurzweil, Frank Tipler) have also discussed the subject in books. But neuroscientists has been mostly silent on the subject, and what little they've written about it has been overwhelmingly pessimistic.

But International Journal of Machine Consciousness 4(1) achieves two new milestones: First, it features work by at least one neuroscientist (Randal Koene). Second, its contents have passed the acid test of scholarly peer review by scientists. Mind-uploading theory may once have been the domain of mad "scientists" whose peers never took them seriously. But I bet this issue will go down in history as the point when it went mainstream.

Granted, publishing this Special Issue is a long way from launching a journal dedicated to mind uploading. But with scholarly publishing on most scientific subjects doubling about every 3 years --- meaning half of all papers at any given time are less than 2 years old -- that's bound to happen eventually.