Uploading Minds For Interstellar Travel
DARPA and NASA are working on a 100 Year Starship initiative to make interstellar travel a reality:
We exist to make the capability of human travel beyond our solar system to another star a reality within the next 100 years. We unreservedly dedicate ourselves to identifying and pushing the radical leaps in knowledge and technology needed to achieve interstellar flight while pioneering and transforming breakthrough applications to enhance the quality of life for all on earth each step of the way. We actively seek to include the broadest swath of people and human experience in understanding, shaping and implementing this global aspiration.
(100 Year Starship)
Given the timeframe of interstellar travel, it makes sense to consider the possibility of uploading the minds of the crew rather than trying to take care of their fragile bodies:
The very high cost of a crewed space mission comes from the need to ensure the survival and safety of the humans on-board and the need to travel at extremely high speeds to ensure it’s done within a human lifetime.
One way to overcome that is to do without the wetware bodies of the crew, and send only their minds to the stars — their “software” — uploaded to advanced circuitry, augmented by AI subsystems in the starship’s processing system.
The basic idea of uploading is to “take a particular brain [of an astronaut, in this case], scan its structure in detail, and construct a software model of it that is so faithful to the original that, when run on appropriate hardware, it will behave in essentially the same way as the original brain,” as Oxford University’s Whole Brain Emulation Roadmap explains.
It’s also known as “whole brain emulation” and “substrate-independent minds” — the astronaut’s memories, thoughts, feelings, personality, and “self” would be copied to an alternative processing substrate — such as a digital, analog, or quantum computer.
An e-crew — a crew of human uploads implemented in solid-state electronic circuitry — will not require air, water, food, medical care, or radiation shielding, and may be able to withstand extreme acceleration. So the size and weight of the starship will be dramatically reduced.
This strategy has a long history in science fiction. In his 1962 story Think Blue, Count Two, sf legend Cordwainer Smith describes this very idea as a way to pilot interstellar vessels. You may consider his choice of computer system to be idiosyncratic: meet the laminated mouse brain computer:
...Tiga-belax came in, very cheerful indeed... In his right hand there was a black plastic cube wih shimmering contact-points gleaming on its sides...
"This brain isn't frozen... It's been laminated. We stiffened it with celluprime and then we veneered it down, about seven thousand layers. Each one has plastic of at least two molecules thickness. This mouse can't spoil. As a matter of fact, this mouse is going to keep on thinking forever. He won't think much, unless we put the voltage on him, but he'll think. And he can't spoil..."
And, uploaded into the laminated mouse brain is the mind of the pilot:
"Do you need the mouse any more?" said the first technician.
"Yes," said Tiga-belas. "One-third of a millisecond at forty megadynes. I want him to get her whole life printed on his left cortical lobe... "I'm putting the girl's whole lifetime into one-third of a millisecond at top power. It will drain over into the mouse-brain inside this cube."
More recently, Charles Stross has been playing with the same idea. In his 2005 novel Accelerando, a tiny starship - a Starwisp - is propelled by a light sail, and visits a nearby star system with an e-crew of 63 uploaded crew members:
Here we are, sixty something human minds. We’ve been migrated — while still awake — right out of our own heads using an amazing combination of nanotechnology and electron spin resonance mapping, and we’re now running as software in an operating system designed to virtualize multiple physics models and provide a simulation of reality that doesn’t let us go mad from sensory deprivation!
And this whole package is about the size of a fingertip, crammed into a starship the size of your grandmother’s old Walkman, in orbit around a brown dwarf just over three light-years from home.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/9/2013)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )
Related News Stories -
Students! NASA Wants To 3D Print Your Tool Design In Space!
'Mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'- Arthur C. Clarke, 1979
Flock Of Minisats Will Image The Earth
'We... dropped roughly a thousand eyes on Beta Hydri IV.'- Robert Silverberg, 1969.
The Manned Maneuvering Unit Story
'Little spurts of red-orange flame from the reaction pistol marked his companion's trail...'- Gordon A. Giles, 1937.
Bigelow's Inflatable BEAM Module Ready For ISS In 2015
'The bubble had inflatable seats and an inflatable table...'- Larry Niven, 1994.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Foodini 3D Printer
''...Food slot gave him flat reddish-brown bricks.'
Parrot Bebop Drone Pairs With Your Smartphone
'Over a radius of several miles Sonya's raytron apparatus could direct its flight [using] an image of all that the lens eye saw.'
SCRIBE Enables Distributed Genomically Encoded Memory
Genomic DNA for analog, rewritable, and flexible memory.
Artisanal 3D Printing By Martha Stewart
'Nanofax AG offers a technology that digitally reproduces objects, physically, at a distance.'
Knightscope Robot Security Guards Ready
'A robot guard appeared, streaking toward them across the field.'
Bullet-Proof Kevlar Woven Electronics
'Check the watch imprinted on his sleeve...'
USAF 'BATMAN' Wrist Display
'The tiny screen in the bracelet's center...'
CoBots - Collaborative Robots Ask Humans For Help
'Whenever a robot finds something it can't identify... You give it a good look.'
Shape-Shifting Carbon Fiber
'Its lines wavered, flowed, and then painfully reformed.'
'Digital Drugs' (Like Herbert's Semuta?) Dismays Saudis
'The effect (described as timeless, sustained ecstasy) is elicited by certain atonal vibrations...'
Mind Control Of Gene Expression In Mice
'We used your thought images almost entirely...'
Nixie Wrist-Ready Flying Selfie-Cam Drone
'He set his camera to follow him...'
DARPA Wants Airborne Launch Facility For Drones
This was tried with recon craft in WWII.
Lit Motors Self-Balancing Motorcycle
'He had never ridden any motorized device that lacked onboard steering and balance systems...'
Neuromorphic Brain-Chip Takes Flight
'Cultured brains on a slab.'
What Are Robots Thinking?
'Your clothes... give them to me.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories