The prospect of being able to upload minds has long been considered within trans-humanist science fiction. We could escape our ailing bodies by carefully digitising our brains, to run them in an emulated form on a computer instead, perhaps within a simulated human avatar.
There is also discussion of a potential forthcoming Age of Ems, where emulated minds greatly outnumber natural ones, and where emulation enables them to perform functions a thousand times faster than equivalent human real-time thinking.
Science has now taken a great step towards making such possibilities real. A collaboration between the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Cambridge, and Google has yielded an emulated fruit fly brain (drosophila melanogaster).
Tiny 40 nano-metre slices (about 80 atoms across) were sliced and scanned in minute detail, layer by layer, using a transmission electron microscope, to generate a 40 trillion pixel set of images.
Advanced procedural generation technologies, such as Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) and Style Transfer techniques, enable one to generate highly realistic imitation data that matches with the features or aesthetics of an input source.
Such techniques are applied to rebuild any missing data from the upload process in an approximate form.
After being remastered and recombined, Google used thousands of advanced Tensor Processing units to map each individual neuron, along with tracing it's connections to others.
Now this network can be downloaded freely, copied, and run in endless emulations.
However, it is highly likely that emulated brains may suffer just the same as natural ones. Such experiments may create a situation where millions of minds are endlessly tortured in an invisible box that they cannot escape from, and cannot self-terminate.
We urgently need to begin a conversation on the rights of emulated minds, and our responsibilities towards them, today.