But exactly how the brain generates our mind is a mystery like no other in science, according to the neurobiologist Prof Rafael Yuste of Columbia University.
"The challenge is precisely how to go from a physical substrate of cells that are connected inside this organ, to our mental world, our thoughts, our memories, our feelings," he
Here Itskov might get some unexpected help, according to Yuste
- who helped bring about the world's biggest neuroscience research project, the Brain Initiative.
In research yet to be published, Yuste
has for the first time imaged over time the hypnotic electrical flashes that make up the activity of nearly all the neurons - up to several thousand - in one of the simplest nervous systems in evolution, a tiny invertebrate called a hydra.
"It was very exciting," he
is also very far from certain the brain works like a computer and could ever be copied in a machine.
But because neuroscience cannot yet explain how exactly the brain gives rise to us and prove that mind uploading is impossible, he
believes society should start considering what the consequences might be if Itskov succeeded in his
"The pathway that leads with the new neural technologies to our understanding of the brain is the same pathway that could lead, theoretically, to the possibility of mind uploading," says Yuste
"Scientists that are involved in these methods have the responsibility to think ahead."
Mind uploading would usher in a world fraught with risks.
"If you could replicate the mind and upload it into a different material, you can in principle clone minds," says Yuste
But this assurance is not enough for Yuste, who sits on the Brain Initiative's ethics panel: "I would put mind uploading in the list of the topics that should be very carefully discussed and thought through."