Wow does this article wander.. A LOT. It basically makes the argument that it’s not feasible with current technology so it will never be possible. The line “because the brain just doesn’t operate through deterministic physics.” is currently non-falsifiable. The only thing we can say about whether our mind will be uploaded in 2016 is that it is not possible today but it may be possible in the future. It’s not a very bold claim but it is arguably the only correct claim about the subject that has been made.
Edit: By correct I mean something we actually know to be true as opposed to conjecture.
because the brain just doesn’t operate through deterministic physics.
Every component of it is either completely predictable or completely random. If it’s completely random, then all you need is an RNG. To say otherwise is to reject the Church-Turing thesis.
The part I found most interesting is that simulating the “neural network” isn’t sufficient to emulate the brain, because the fundamental unit of computation is the molecule rather than the neuron. Unlike a microprocessor which is specifically designed to have a higher-level logical wiring diagram that is merely implemented in hardware, the brain wasn’t “designed” with this kind of layering in mind, and it appears that a lot of low-level molecular interactions, not cleanly broken down into higher-level functional units, carry out a substantial portion of the computation. Which greatly ups the requirements for successfully scanning and simulating a brain.
I believe something vaguely similar has been found when evolving circuits: absent some kind of constraint preventing it, they’ll start evolving mechanisms to carry out computation outside of the normal circuit elements, e.g. they’ll use weird nonlinear RF interactions between nearby elements to carry out real computation. Your normal high-level circuit simulation software would no longer be sufficient to simulate this kind of circuit; you’d need something that simulated the physics in more detail.
An analogy might make this clearer. Let me ask this question: is it possible to simulate the CPU in your mobile phone? At first sight this seems a stupid question – of course one can predict with a very high degree of certainty what the outputs of the CPU would be for any given set of inputs. After all, the engineers at ARM will have done just such simulations before any of the designs had even been manufactured, using well-understood and reliable design software. But a sceptical physicist might point out that every CPU is different at the atomic level, due to the inherent finite tolerances of manufacturing, and in any case the scale of the system is much too large to be able to simulate at the quantum mechanical level that would be needed to capture the electronic characteristics of the device.
Is there a point to trying to perfectly simulate a specific CPU? As long as it can still run software, I’d consider it a working processor. Same goes for brains. We will end up with a brain in simulation but not necessarily your brain in simulation.
Maybe that’s what the author was getting at – this project is so difficult, we’ll all be long gone by the time they hypothetically are able to scan+upload a physical human’s brain. But brain simulation is still hypothetically possible.