|The TL/DR Synopsis||Uploading human consciousness is a science fiction trope, but also an area of real research. Post includes links to (a) full text of a classic uploading story from 1955, (b) multiple scientific papers from 2012.|
It’s a standard part of the fictional universe of my Fallen World books that you can take a person, scan their brain, encode the data from that scan, and decant that data into an artificial medium—essentially reproducing a person’s mind within a computer. The scan is decanted into a shell, which is a synthetically created (but biological) human body augmented with hardware implants. The most notable implant is the CortEXtra, a component that’s s configured as a thin sheet lining the inside of the skull and that supplements the biological cortex.
There’s no way to decant directly into the natural brain—brains just aren’t built to have information copied into them—so the scan is decanted into the CortEXtra. Afterward, the brain and the CortEXtra function in an integrated way (much as the two lobes of the brain do) so that memory, perception, and other mental processes take place throughout the entire augmented cognitive structure. The idea of uploading a human mind into an artificial substrate is a science fiction trope that’s appeared in a variety of fiction, beginning as far back as the 1950s (you can read the entire text of one of the earliest examples, the 1955 story “The Tunnel Under the World” by SF Hall of Fame inductee Frederik Pohl, on the Gutenberg Project web site.). But uploading has also been proposed as a serious possible technology by some researchers. The generally acknowledged first proposal of the theoretical possibility was published in the 1971 paper “Brief Proposal on Immortality: An Interim Solution,” by biogerontologist George M. Martin.
A good overview of techniques that might be used to turn uploading into a reality can be found in the paper Whole Brain Emulation, A Roadmap by Anders Sandberg and Nick Bostrom,, which can be found on the home page for the first Fallen World book, Luck + Death at the Edge of the World, in the free PDF library. Anyone wanting to explore some of the most recent research on the issue might want to look at the June 2012 issue of the International Journal of Machine Consciousness, which was devoted entirely to issues related to uploading.
Here are links to the introduction and all of the papers in downloadable PDFs: