Going Digital

Posted on 16-03-2012

Imagine if we could preserve our consciousness as we would back up a hard drive, and access it in a similar fashion. Is this even feasible, and what would the implications be for learning and acquiring information?

The human brain is often compared to a computer, and although the analogy is nowhere near as close as the comparison would have us believe, the functions it performs are very similar. Even though they employ very dissimilar mechanisms and processes, their function is the same: the retrieval, management and storage of information. The medium of storage and the method thereof is also the same – both work my managing electrical impulses.

The point is that the process and the science of what is happening can be quantified, and understood, although at this point our understanding is incomplete, and our methods of interaction insufficient. But there is no escaping the very real possibility that one day we will be able to translate memory and knowledge to a mechanical or electronic medium.

We can see the beginnings of this trend in devices built currently to help disabled people. Equipment has been tested successfully that transmits information from a camera into the part of the brain responsible for sight to help blind people. And there are many experiments constantly being run showing people controlling devices using electrical impulses generated by the brain. Although the technology is primitive, we can see the beginnings of what could be – the interaction between machine and mind.

The bridge will only become stronger as our understanding of human physiology and computer science becomes greater, which of course is inevitable. There will come a time when the option exists for us not only to back up our memories, but possibly our consciousness as well.

But why stop there? We may well decide that the latest multi-petabyte hard drive does an even better job than our own brain does. When that time comes, we may see people upgrading their own bodies in order to more effectively store and retrieve information.

Such adventurous types who would opt for such radical augmentations might try taking things a step further. Such a brain would have the possibility of interacting with other electronic devices… or whatever the future’s analogue of today’s Internet may be. With such implants as they would possess, they could download information direct to their brain. Learning would be revolutionised, with people knowing everything they wished to know about a subject without having to go through the messy and cumbersome process of using the eyes as a go-between.

Distance learning courses and other similar activities would be similarly in demand in such a world. The flow of information would become an even more valuable commodity as people became hungry for more information due to the ease of access.

All this is probably still a long way off. But if it sounds scary, and unnatural, or even implausible, just remember that they probably once said much the same thing about organ transplants… or blood transfusions!


  • AstralW
    15-02-2013 20:32:26
    The way (and the speed) technology is going, sometimes it scares me. I'm open to progress, but I hope it doesn't lead us to a complete material life..
  • rebecca bath
    23-11-2012 12:49:58
    scary thought sophie, but interesting for everyone! you never know what the future holds! everyone is different from others!
  • Sophie
    09-11-2012 13:41:54
    This is such a scary thought, yet quite exciting. Although I wouldn't want to do this to myself I doubt, I am intrigued that this possibly could be possible in the future. I worry that this world may become much more a game then reality. With everyone knowing everything, how are people going to differ from one another.
  • rebecca bath
    09-11-2012 10:21:32
    going digital is a good thing, everyone is into technology these days, its more advanced. its good for everyone!
  • Jodie
    09-07-2012 20:13:35
    an exciting yet scary prospect: great, thought provoking post!
  • mike anderson
    29-03-2012 19:22:12
    i can only see augmentation getting better as the years go by and can see it greatly benefit people with disabilities. However i can also see the downsides in people becoming addicted to virtual realities this could happen if augmentation spirals out of control
  • Mike Anderson
    20-03-2012 13:42:19
    Technology is getting more and advanced and to be honest its a good a bad thing. who knows what scientific benefits it will have in the future perhaps techonolgy will be able to help with ddebilitating conditions such as strokes and dementia which would be excellent. however just how far will it end up will it lead to mind control, it may be easy to mock and dismiss this. but its a scary thought should this happen
  • Vivi Anderson
    18-03-2012 07:44:51
    A very interesting article.and who knows just how far technology will go in the future.it certainly is a worrying prospect with new ideas and concepts coming out all the time,but one can also see the benefits of how it has helped people with disabilities to communicate and so forth. but i believe we must all take caution yet still embrace new concepts

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