• Question: Will we ever be able to put a human brain on a computer?

    Asked by Bonners to LauraAnne, Dan on 17 Nov 2016.
    • Photo: LauraAnne Furlong

      LauraAnne Furlong answered on 17 Nov 2016:

      The human brain is the most advanced computer we will probably know in our lifetimes. At the moment, what we know about the brain is really very limited – it’s the bit of our bodies we know the least about. It’s such a complex part of the body with so many different parts and interactions, and it is very difficult to test some things we are interested in knowing about it. If we want to know something about blood for example, we can get a blood sample from someone quite easily, and this is something that is done by doctors and nurses every day. A small blood sample can give us lots of information about someone like their blood type, how their body is responding to exercise, or what is in their blood. We can do this with lots of people. We can’t do that sort of work with the brain though on a regular basis with lots of people which makes learning things about it more difficult. Even though we are learning more and more every day, I don’t think we will be able to do something like that in the near future, but who knows where we will be in 100 years?

      In saying all that, there are some techniques used now which are called artificial intelligence and machine learning, and that is where you train a computer to make a decision based on how it interprets the information around it. It might be interpreting how a set of muscles are activating (getting ready to work), and making a decision about what the arm or leg wants to do (e.g. lift a cup or move your leg); this is a rapidly developing area of robotics. So, while I don’t think we will be able to store all the bits of information about your brain and how it works on a computer, we may be able to develop technology that can behave like a brain to allow people to do certain tasks.