An article from ABC news online reports that a BT scientist, Ian Pearson, thinks that by 2050 it will be possible for a person’s mind to be downloaded and stored by a supercomputer, rather like the constructs that William Gibson envisioned in Neuromancer and subsequent novels. The difference is that Gibson’s constructs were recorded personalities (they respond to questions, but they are not conscious), whereas Pearson is talking about downloading somebody’s mind and having that mind continue on in a conscious state. His belief that this may be possible as early as 2050 seems to be premised upon the rapid advances in computing power. However, surely our knowledge of what constitutes intelligence and consciousness is not advancing at the same rapid rate. Until we fully understand how the human brain operates, I don’t see how it is possible to download somebody’s mind and have it do anything constructive. See, this is a substantially different problem to the one of AI, because it is conceivable, even likely, that the human brain is not the only entity capable of exhibiting intelligence. It might therefore be possible to create an entity that exhibits intelligence, which bears no similarity to the human brain. To have somebody’s mind execute, for want of a better word, on a computer, entails understanding the machine it was intended to operate on: the human brain. Figuring out the human brain (i.e. the hardware) is one thing; replicating that machine in hardware or software is another thing altogether.