SCIENCE
09/24/2013 06:06 pm ET Updated Sep 25, 2013

Stephen Hawking: Brains Could Be Copied To Computers To Allow Life After Death

Could your brain keep on living even after your body dies? Sounds like science fiction, but celebrated theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking recently suggested that technology could make it possible.

"I think the brain is like a program in the mind, which is like a computer," Hawking said last week during an appearance at the Cambridge Film Festival, The Telegraph reported. "So it's theoretically possible to copy the brain on to a computer and so provide a form of life after death."

He acknowledged that such a feat lies "beyond our present capabilities," adding that "the conventional afterlife is a fairy tale for people afraid of the dark."

Hawking, 71, made the remarks in conjunction with the premiere of a new documentary about his life.

He has spoken previously about what he calls the "fairy story" of heaven and the afterlife. Likening the human brain to a computer whose components will fail, he said, "There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers."

Some people are actively working to develop technology that would permit the migration of brain functions into a computer. Russian multi-millionaire Dmitry Itskov, for one, hopes someday to upload the contents of a brain into a lifelike robot body as part of his 2045 Initiative, The New York Times reported recently.

A separate research group, called the Brain Preservation Foundation, is working to develop a process to preserve the brain along with its memories, emotions and consciousness. Called chemical fixation and plastic embedding, the process involves converting the brain into plastic, carving it up into tiny slices, and then reconstructing its three-dimensional structure in a computer.

(Hat tip, Raw Story)

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