Vacation time, time to read and explore beyond the usual. And this is what I found when trying to update myself on connectomics, a science that is just beginning and that I mentioned a couple of times in previous post. If you need to start from the basics you may want to read Sebastian Seung book: Connectome.
Kenneth Hayworth goes a step further of Sebastian speculation that “we are are neuronal connections” to declare that by the end of this century it will be possible to replicate in a computer all neurones and their connection so that such a replica will be “us”. Insert the computer in a robot and “voilà”, you have achieved immortality.
He goes even further to depict the exact procedure for achieving such replica: first you die (not before throwing a party with all your friends) and at the hospital they replace your intracellular fluid with resins. Then your brain is sliced in micro-slices and each one is read by a computer, through a scanner, to identify each neurone and each connection. This is what is done already today to study portion of brain tissue. Then all the information is transferred to the robot computer that from then on will be you.
Let me say that I find this approach too simplistic (I should also say that I don’t like it in a more general sense, but this is not the point). It is not that I believe there is something more than the mechanic brain (like the soul) but I think there is more in a brain that just its connections (and neurones). What about the way that specific neurone is going to reach to a signal brought by the afferent dendrites? What about the molecules that float in the intracellular brain fluid (like serotonin) that are actually influencing the response to electrical signals?
I am not alone in having strong doubts, there are many “non believers” in this approach as you can see from the linked article.
Still, I found it an interesting view….
For immortality, or just a longer (and healthier) life, I put my bets on bio-engineering: it looks like patching the telomeres, avoiding their chopping as we grow older, can do the trick. At least for mice it works!