What is 'mind uploading' (MU)? What is a 'substrate-independent mind' (SIM)? And what is 'whole brain emulation' (WBE)?
As described in the Wikipedia entry for mind uploading (MU),
'mind uploading (sometimes called "mind copying" or "mind transfer") is the hypothetical process of copying mental content (including long-term memory and "self") from a particular brain substrate and copying it to a computational device, such as a digital, analog, quantum-based or software-based artificial neural network.'
Mind uploading implies a process by which, from a subjective perspective, a person's conscious experience (sense of 'self' or 'personal identity') continues, despite his or her neural functionality ceasing in the originating biological brain and subsequently occurring via brain-like processes in some other system (ostensibly some sort of computer). The concept of mind uploading therefore relies on the stance that all experience (sensory perception, conscious introspection, learning and memory, etc.) is an emergent function of neural-like processes. The biological brain is in that sense a device or machine, and as such utilizes functions which can be confidently replicated by properly arranged alternate systems, including nonbiological systems (once again, by this we imply something akin to a conventional computer).
A crucial component of mind uploading is that the process does not merely transfer or duplicate neurological or cognitive functions. Rather, it implies that a person's subjective experience (their identity) also comes to be associated with the emergent functionality arising from the activity of the new brain-like substrate. This concept is referred to as preserving personal identity in the new substrate. Recent work has addressed the question of whether the particulars of the method used to achieve mind uploading would lead to different outcomes (Wiley & Koene, The Fallacy of Favoring Gradual Replacement Mind Uploading Over Scan-and-Copy)
The concept of mind uploading, in its full meaning, has been used in science fiction at least since the mid 1950s (e.g. Frederick Pohl, The Tunnel Under the World; Arthur C. Clarke, The City and the Stars), and has also been used as a tool for thought experiments in philosophy. Mind uploading became a topic of considered scientific interest in the mid 1990s (e.g. the Mind Uploading Research Group).
A substrate-independent mind (SIM) is the method-agnostic term for the concept of a mind that can operate on many different types of underlying functional processing substrates, e.g. a biological brain, a special 'neuromorphic' device, software executed in a digital computer, etc. SIM is the desired result, the goal or objective of efforts to achieve mind uploading. The objective is to be able to sustain person-specific functions of mind and experience in many different operational substrates. A mind is then considered substrate-independent in a manner analogous to a programmer's understanding of platform-independent computer code, which can be compiled to run on many different computing platforms.
Whole brain emulation (WBE) is the principal method proposed by which to accomplish SIM for mind uploading and many other purposes (e.g. general brain research, research into clinical neural prostheses, research into artificial general intelligence, etc). In academic research, the shorter term 'brain emulation' is sometimes used, and terms such as 'whole-brain activity mapping' are used to describe data acquisition tools developed and used in closely related fields of neuroscience. Whole brain emulation uses high resolution data about specific brain structure (e.g. the connectome) and specific brain activity (e.g. electrophysiology).
The term 'emulation' is used, specifically, to underline the distinction when compared with investigative simulations carried out in computational neuroscience. Simulations are generally built to study system or mechanism principles derived and abstracted through the study of brain function in many animal or human subjects. While the principles learned there are important for WBE, the emulation aims to match the characteristics of mental function specific to an individual brain. When a smaller piece of a brain is emulated this is also known as a neural prostheses or neuroprosthetic (e.g. Berger et al and the hippocampal neural prosthesis).
Whole brain emulation can therefore also be thought of as applying neural prostheses to all parts of a person's brain. Emulation, as a means to match a whole collection of target characteristics of a processing platform is also a well-known term in computing, where an emulator enables one computer system to behave like another one (e.g. emulating the old Commodore 64 on a modern computer). In engineering, the reverse engineering of a system for purposes such as emulation is known as system identification (as applied, for example, by Berger et al for the hippocampal prosthesis).
What's the purpose of the minduploading.org site? How does it relate to carboncopies.org and wholebrainemulation.org?
The site minduploading.org is dedicated to interest in the broader concept and goal of mind uploading. The site aims to serve general public and specialists alike, providing news, answers to questions and background information.
The minduploading.org site is closely affiliated with carboncopies.org, the non-profit organization operating as a nexus for activity and interest in the objective of substrate-independent minds (SIM). Carboncopies.org explains fundamental concepts of SIM and maintains the research roadmap and network. A Facebook carboncopies group carries on public discussions with contributed posts and updates about topical events and news.
The research site wholebrainemulation.org links to activities, labs and contacts in the fields of connectome research (e.g. high-throughput microscopy), neural prosthetics, neural interfacing, large-scale computational neuroscience and more.