What’s the line between life and brain death? Artificial intelligence offers hope of digital simulation

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Image credit: Frederik Questier

Since the invention of bypass machines in the 1950s, which can artificially maintain circulation and respiration, death has come to be defined by an absence of brain activity – brain death.

But even permanent brain death, which is considered undisputed, does not hold as an adequate criteria for some. The field of cryonics rests on the belief that if one’s brain is frozen and kept intact, future scientific advances will enable reanimation. Although often considered outlandish, new advances are being made that involve a process called aldehyde-stabilised cryopreservation.

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Novel approaches to neurobiology based on information-theory, however, go a step further, making the bold claim that it is possible to accurately emulate the brain’s connectivity, and therefore the mind, in the form of digital information.

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According to this perspective, permanent death occurs only when the neural connections that support one’s memory, personality and self are annihilated. It is underpinned by the emerging possibility that one’s connectome can be scanned entirely, transformed into a digital code and then ‘uploaded’ to any new, viable substrate.

The boundary between life and death seems like it will never be clear. Yet the connectome and the information it contains regarding critical aspects of consciousness mark a digital-age transcendence of current thinking regarding biological brain and heart activity as supporting life.

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Read full, original post: AI-powered brain emulation is changing our definition of death

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