Brain Uploading

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"The point is, if we can store music on a compact disc, why can't we store a man's intelligence and personality on one? So, I have the engineers figuring that one out now. "

Artificial intelligence is hard. Why reinvent the wheel, when you've got plenty of humans walking around? Who will miss one, right?

Alternatively, you might be one of those humans looking for easy Immortality. Either way, once you finish scanning the brain, you end up with a file that you run in a physics simulator, and presto, you have a computer that remembers being a human. If you do it carefully enough, the original brain won't even notice it happening.

This computer has a number of advantages over a meat human. The simulation can be run many thousands of times faster than objective speed, if you've got enough computing power. It can be backed up with trivial ease. You can run multiple copies at the same time, and have them do different things, make exotic personality composites, and tinker around with the inner workings of the brain in ways that are either difficult or impossible to do with a meat brain.

These advantages are a bit overwhelming if you're trying to incorporate brain uploading into a story. It kind of kills the tension when the protagonist can restore from backup whenever the Big Bad kills them. Authors have devised a number of cop-outs, which you can recognize by asking these questions:

  • What is the underlying mechanism of the upload? Is the computer simulating every atom in every neuron, or is the upload applying memories and personality characteristics to a default template?
  • Is uploading destructive? Depending on which process you use, it may be possible, but many authors deem it convenient to have it destroy the original, to avoid the confusion of having two copies of the same character running around.[1]
  • Can you augment intelligence? Or does the brain's pattern need to be copied exactly to still function like a mind, leaving no room for radical enhancements?
  • Can the upload be copied? If the answer is "no", the work might be on the soft end of Mohs Scale of Sci Fi Hardness, although it's also possible to make it a little harder by running the AIs on a quantum computer and saying something about the "No-Cloning Theorem".

There's also a pile of legal, moral, and theological questions that might be addressed in the story:

  • Is the AI considered to be the same person as its human predecessor or a digital twin? Is it a person at all? If an upload is a person, how different do copies of that upload have to be before they're separate persons?
  • Is one copy responsible for the debts and/or crimes incurred or committed by another copy? Is the original responsible, assuming nondestructive uploading?
  • Assuming nondestructive, undetectable uploading, is uploading without consent of the original a crime? What if the original objects, but the upload doesn't want to be deleted? What about uploading dead people who specified they didn't want to be uploaded after death?
  • What do you do with the backups of an upload who commits suicide?
  • Would the soul be copied over? Is there a soul at all to be copied? While some people might see the debunking of mind-body separation as just another case of science marching on, a great deal of people would find the idea that even their mind is quantifiable to be rather frightening. Or worse, would see those who go through with the upload as less than human, and campaign for a ban of the procedure for it violating human dignity or some other such nonsense.

Widespread Brain Uploading tends to lead to The Singularity or something very much like it. Or it may be a result of said Singularity.

Compare with the Virtual Ghost, where the uploaded brain can control a projection of themselves to interact with the real world. Contrast Neural Implanting, where computer files are uploaded to the brain instead of the other way around, though both tropes are occasionally used together. See also Heart Drive and Body Backup Drive. Compare Living Memory. Also compare Save Scumming.

This article from The Other Wiki contains a list of examples...


...Although that won't stop us from adding our own


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Galaxy Express 999 has a couple of instances of a gigantic supercomputer being used to simulate the brain of a deceased human. Whether the series' main antagonists, the "Machine-Humans", also qualify or are simply disembodied human brains inhabiting robotic shells is not made clear.
  • Ghost in the Shell, when not focusing on sociology, likes to take a trip down this lane. Memories can be copied easily and reliably, but a individual's 'ghost', the verse's term for consciousness, can not be safely or easily altered or copied. Expensive and rare techniques called 'ghost-dubbing' actually upload this consciousness into an electronic format, but the result is always more limited or more insane than the biological version, and the biological suffers heavy brain damage and eventually death as a result, which is why ghost dubbing is illegal in the GITS universe. It's not really clear that the resulting electronic copies are the same mind, or just a AI capable of pretending. The resulting copy can be copied many times, but will degenerate each time it is copied. It also asks the question of what makes up a mind, the soul or the memories, when a boy receives all of his father's memories with interesting effects. Whether true mind-uploading is possible within the universe is still up at arms, as most of the attempts either don't try hard enough or don't involve humans in the first place.
    • Interestingly, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has a South American guerilla hero/Che Guevera analog undergo multiple ghost-dubbings into clone bodies as a way to "miraculously survive" multiple assassination attempts. Both the Major and Batou considered this considerably dangerous and "macho". The dictator himself died after three ghost-dubs (still, as the Major notes, surviving just one was testament to his willpower) but his dub was then copied into multiple clones.
    • In one of the Stand Alone Complex episodes this golden rule gets oddly broken, when a disappointed indie movie director makes a perfect movie inside his disembodied cyberbrain, which caused people who connected themselves to it to lose themselves in the movie and become comatose in reality. Just how this could be possible when a brain should only be able to host one Ghost, and it's impossible for a Ghost to leave its original "data-storage" without highly specialized equipment as described above, is never explained. It's more likely that they're not entering that brain, rather just viewing particular data and encountering something not unlike the Individual Eleven meme.
    • The second feature film, Innocence, features a multitude of ghost-dubbed dolls manipulated for the purpose of freeing the enslaved children used to dub them. It raises the question of whether, being imparted with some aspect of human consciousness, the dubbed dolls cannot be considered alive, and thus victims themselves in the film's violent plot.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion's EVA units and the MAGI supercomputer are borderline examples. More like "Soul Uploading" tho'.
  • In Gundam SEED Astray, Lowe gains possession of a strange module from a worshipper of George Glenn, the so-called "First Coordinator". This black box just happens to contain Glenn's actual brain, and eventually Lowe's Bunny Ears Lawyer teammate Professor hooks it up to a holographic projector, allowing George to captain the Junk Guild's battleship.
  • In the manga GUNNM (Battle Angel Alita) this is used as important final plot twist in the last episodes, when the mad doctor Desty Nova reveals that his organic brain was abducted and replaced with a biochip with his personal memories implanted. He found it years ago and became literally mad. In Last Order this practice appears to be diffused in some contexts (i.e. Zekka had practised it on himself but also the main character "herself" becomes an unknowning example of this case; new revelations are follwed by "What Measure Is A Man" stuff). However, the sequel is stuffed with many other examples of futuristical or bizarre Weird Science. We have also the Cloning Blues of Desty Nova.
  • In one Detective Conan Non-Serial Movie Phantom of Baker Street, the Child Prodigy coded an artificial intelligence that is practically himself, and then killed himself. This artificial intelligence then haunted an Deep-Immersion Gaming event and... Nobody in the movie even tried to distinguish between said artificial intelligence and its creator, and neither did fans.
  • A variation on this is Yuzuki from Chobits, who was created to be a Replacement Goldfish for Kokubunji's dead sister. He can't upload her mind directly, so he just programs as much information about his sister as he can, and for much of the series she attempts to emulate her. Then, after an accident wipes out all that data, Kokobunji declines to replace it, saying she should just be herself.
  • Kaiba explores the idea of digitizing one's memories/souls to achieve immortality and looks at the potential side effects of such technology such as the increasing gap between the rich and poor, the casual way people might just delete the memory chips of their loved ones to make more space for other people, and how quickly people can throw away their bodies to swap for new ones.
  • GaoGaiGar resorts to this when they need to build new robots but don't have the time to build the AI from scratch; it's mentioned that the A Is for KyoRyu and EnRyu took six months to develop. This results in the ridiculously Hot-Blooded Goldymarg and the child-like Mic Sounders.
    • Mic Sounders Boom Robo was uploaded from Stallion White; this is why Mic was able to System Change to protect Stallion's sister Swan before his limiters were removed. No one's sure where the Cosmo Robo personality actually came from; maybe that's that that's what a young Super-AI actually acts like.
    • Pei La Cain and Palus Abel, two of the villains from FINAL, are supposedly based on the actual masters of the Green and Red Planets. Given that three of GGG's units are children, biologically or metaphorically, of Cain or Abel, including Guy himself, this results in brief angst. Very brief.
  • Done in Blue Drop: Tenshi no Bokura, to the main character's best friend. To avoid spoilers, lets just say that it ends badly for anyone involved. Reader included.
  • In King of Thorn, one of the first things super-hacker Zeus does as part of his A God Am I is download his mind into a new Medusa form. "That shell could never contain my potential..."
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00:
    • Innovators have the ability to transfer their consciousness to Veda after their deaths Used primarily by Ribbons and Tieria Erde to cheat death.
    • More than that, Innovades are essentially A Is - "Bio-Terminals" - stored within Veda, of varying levels of complexity. An Innovade is dumped into a cloned host body, capable of interfacing with Veda and other Innovades, as a type of artificial Innovator, though they seem incapable of interfacing with actual humans like true Innovators can. In the clearest example, artificial Gundam Meister #874, Hanayo, starts off as being depicted as a hologram, then shifts into a nanomachine body, then is forced into a Haro.
    • This technique is used to amass Ribbon's clone army for the last battle of the series.
  • Crossbone Gundam and its sequels like this one.
    • Skull Heart has an interesting example: the Jupiter Empire somehow got ahold of the original Gundam's battle computer, which had stored in it Amuro Ray's complete battle data from the One Year War. They used this to create a partial AI and uploaded it into a new Gundam... which went berserk and attacked everything in sight because someone didn't set the targeting parameters correctly. Althought it's destroyed, it's briefly hinted, right as the machine "dies", that a true piece of Amuro's mind might have been present in the data.
    • Crux Dogatie does something similar in the original Crossbone Gundam story: knowing he's at the end of his life, he creates multiple biological computers and uploads his consciousness into one. Then he copies it into the rest. The result is ten Crux Dogaties running around in machine bodies, all working toward the same goal.
    • Steel Seven has Shadow of Callisto transferring his consciousness into a bio-computer after his defeat on Earth, using his telepathic brother's mind as a medium. This bio-computer is then loaded into the Digitus so that he can fight alongside his still-living twin in the final battle.
  • In Professor Layton and The Eternal Diva, Melina's memories were uploaded into a device her father constructed and disguised as a musical instrument, so he could find a body that matches hers and create a Replacement Goldfish by erasing the conciousness of an innocent girl. Once he actually did it, Melina did not agree.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • In the British comic Rogue Trooper (a 2000AD stablemate to Judge Dredd), three of the protagonist's squadmates were uploaded to chips on their death and integrated into his equipment. (These personality-saving "biochips" are actually an integral feature of all Genetic Infantrymen; they're meant to be recovered in case of death and installed in newly-cloned bodies.)
  • In The Avengers:
    • For a while, the Vision, a member of the Avengers, has the downloaded personality of Wonder Man to make him more "human". However, this is later undone and a new personality substituted.
    • Ultron, psycho Killer Robot and Avengers enemy, attempts to upload the entire mind of his 'mother', the Wasp, into a female bot that he's created (aptly named Jocasta) for companionship, having brainwashed his "father"/her husband into helping him do it. While the Avengers rescue her before the process could finish (and kill her), Jocasta ends up with enough of Janet's personality to later turn on him and join the Avengers.
    • Ultron himself is Ret Conned as having originated with a botched download by mentally-unstable Henry Pym's all-too-flawed engrams.
  • In the Marvel/Epic comic Dreadstar, one of the themes is that the main heroes fight against a tyrannical government, only to find out the new government isn't much better. Willow, one of the main characters, uploads herself to take over the new government's main computer.
  • In the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mirage series, this accidentally occurs to Professor Honeycutt; while testing out his Menta-wave helmet (which granted its user psychic and telekinetic abilities) a bolt of lightning caused his consciousness to be transferred to the body of his robot SAL. In the cartoon based on the book, this later on allows him to copy his consciousness between computers, allowing him to survive his own heroic sacrifice.
  • In Transmetropolitan, people can destructively vacate their bodies, using their chemical energy to bootstrap a cloud of Nanomachines that then houses their consciousness. This being Transmet, they've formed their own weird subculture.
  • Adam Warren's version of the Dirty Pair had this as a common technology, which played a role in several of the plots—such as when a rogue agent uses an emergency backup of Yuri's mind and DNA to grow his own Evil Twin to send at the originals.
  • Iron Man:
    • Tony Stark being the tech geek he is, he couldn't resist the temptation to make a back-up of his brain on a portable hard drive. Came in handy after he ended up wiping his mind at the end of the Worlds Most Wanted arc.
    • The stand-alone comic book Hypervelocity is entirely about Tony Stark 2.0, a digital version of himself that occupies his suit. As the comic progresses, he slowly gets corrupted by a rogue virus girl program.
  • The Ultimate Universe Continuity Reboot of Paperinik New Adventures had this trope when Lyonard D'Aq uploaded his brain as a side result of him exploring a virtual world. Then this trope became a Chekhov's Gun when after Lyonard got Killed Off for Real (or, more precisely, got devolved into the monstrous Lyozard and then got killed off) and Uno downloaded the data version of his brain into a (superpowered, of course) bionic body.
  • This happened to Cliff Steele (Robotman) in Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol after the Candlemaker crushed his brain. Fortunately, he was hooked up to the Chief's computer at the time, and his intelligence was downloaded on a disk. Once he figured out what happened, he was able to return to his body, though he was pretty freaked out by the entire process.
  • The Battlestar Galactica comic 'The Final Five'has this as the origin of the Thirteenth Tribe. Originally, they were members of the other 12 tribes but after uploading their consciousnesses into new cybernetic bodies were treated as a new group. This includes the idea that the Thirteenth Tribe have committed some kind of 'sin', apparently borne out by the intervention of supernatural/sufficiently advanced beings.
  • Savage Dragon featured a number of characters with Power Armor who had previously downloaded their brainwaves into the suit, allowing them to continue fighting long after death.


Films -- Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • Avatar has biological uploading.
  • In Batman and Robin, Alfred uploads his "brain algorithms" into the batcomputer to give the new sidekick a briefing.
  • Possibly Jarvis in the Iron Man movie.
  • The Sixth Day features a way of making copies of a person mind that can be uploaded into clone bodies. Unfortunately as uploading is often done after death you get memories of dying.
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture. After V'Ger scans and destroys Ilia, it sends a robot replica of her to the Enterprise with her memories and personality stored in it. Eventually the crew manages to re-awaken her mind in the machine.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Accelerando by Charles Stross has uploads; they're legally the same person as their predecessor—to prevent people from running up huge debts, copying themselves, and then committing suicide—and work by neural simulation.
  • The Alastair Reynolds Revelation Space universe has both neural ("alpha-level") and behavioral ("beta-level") uploads. ** Alpha-level uploads are considered sentient in their own right, and when they're first developed constructing them kills the human in question. Even after nondestructive scans become possible, destructive alpha-level scans achieve a higher resolution and a more accurate simulation of the mind they are based upon. Most people prefer nondestructive uploads with periodic updates, for obvious reasons. It's also implied that it takes a certain strength of will and personality to become an upload... many of the first group of uploadees who undergo destructive scanning do not thrive in their new virtualities and many crash or became corrupted. Later systems presumably had this bug ironed out, though it is never explicitly mentioned.
    • Beta-level simulations are generally not considered sentient, although a particularly good beta-level simulation that was trained over a very long period of time may well appear sentient if you don't know any better, to the point where it may as well be considered an AI.
  • In William Gibson's Neuromancer series:
    • Neuromancer itself has a ROM chip with a human being's personality stored on it. When plugged in, it acts like an AI.
    • Later, more complete uploads can be made with the advent of more complex storage and simulation systems. 3Jane's Aleph in Mona Lisa Overdrive ended up running several human minds after their bodies died, and it was suggested it may have been used to record many more.
  • The horror that is the short story "Daddy's World" by Walter Jon Williams. Brrr.
  • One of the main characters in The Android's Dream by John Scalzi is the uploaded personality of Brian, the protagonist's high-school friend, who brain-scanned himself as a prank just before graduating, and then died in combat shortly thereafter. Brian eventually discovers that many of the events in the book have been orchestrated by another uploaded personality, who's been around for about a century.
  • The Jenny Casey series by Elizabeth Bear contain a sentient AI with the memory and behavioral patterns of physicist Richard Feynman. Despite thinking of himself as "Dick" or "Richard", he's very clear on being a different person than the original Feynman. He also takes considerable advantage of the increased processor power he finds, duplicating himself many times and eventually becoming a sort of guardian to the entire Earth.
  • The short story "Identity Theft" deals with some of the ramifications of this. One of them being, if a second copy of a person is made and you destroy one of them, is it murder?
  • In Tad Williams' Otherland series, the villains plan to upload their minds to the Otherland network (and commit suicide to avoid duplication problems). It fails; however, Orlando finds himself uploaded to the network after his apparent death, and it eventually transpires that the version of Paul Jonas who's been appearing throughout the series is an upload; after his Heroic Sacrifice, the main characters meet his physical counterpart. Mr. Sellars does this in the end, too.
  • The central premise of the Takeshi Kovacs novels (Altered Carbon, Broken Angels, and Woken Furies) by Richard Morgan is that computer technology has advanced to the point where everyone has their brain backed up on cortical stacks and most any middle class consumer can afford a new body after a while (mortgages and re-sleeving insurance policies are common making the price an apparent contrast with that of a house), creating effective immortality open to the mass market. Bodies are referred to as "sleeves" and society as a whole doesn't value life as much since you only suffer 'Real Death' if your cortical stack is destroyed—and cortical stacks are heavily armored. They can be destroyed, but it takes a good deal of effort to do so. Anything short of massive firepower, enormously high temperatures or nanomachine-induced disintegration won't so much as scratch them. Cortical stacks commonly survive incidents of incredible violence that leave the bodies scattered over several square metres.
  • The Footprints of God by Greg Iles has memory uploading using a super MRI to scan the brain, and uploading the resulting model into a computer. The uploaded person is fully connected to the Internet, and able to learn things in seconds. The person being uploaded is a billionaire with a god complex. Guess what happens.
  • In John DeChancie's Skyway series, the protagonist's father has his mind preserved by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens and acts as the AI for his truck. Later he's given a pseudo-organic body by other even Sufficiently More Advanced Aliens.
  • Fool's War by Sarah Zettel appears to have brain uploading technology. In actuality, it just has AIs who've figured out how to download themselves into human bodies -- the uploading process doesn't work on anyone who started their life as human.
  • In the strange society depicted in Iain M. Banks' book Feersum Endjinn, when a person dies their mind is automatically uploaded by organic systems in their brain (not implants; they grow there naturally implying they are germ-line genetic engineering). They then get downloaded into physical bodies again the first 7 deaths, then spend their next 8 rebirths solely in a virtual reality. Then they die for good. Nondestructive uploads can also be made, and experienced reintegrated at a later date. This allows for the possibility of people uploading copies of themselves to have a passionate affair in a suitably private virtuality, and then redownload the experiences into their minds and fully appreciate them later without interfering with work or family life.
  • In Destination: Void" by Frank Herbert, the entire purpose of the apparently impossible, deliberately crippled interstellar colonization mission is determined by the crew to be to force them to create (because they are doomed to die if they don't), beyond the reach of the disaster that would likely ensue, an artificial intelligence beyond the capacity of a human brain. This is done by first building a physical analog of a human brain, but with several times the complexity, then once it has displayed the necessary capabilities, uploading the mind of one of the creators into it, and parts of the personalities of the others. This results in the creation of a god, like in all Frank Herbert books.
  • This is the entire plot of Circuit of Heaven by Dennis Danvers. 99% or so of humanity has uploaded their consciousness into "The Bin", a giant computer storage that lets them all live virtual lives. Those who chose to remain behind live in a Crapsack World where everything's been abandoned. They are allowed to temporarily visit their relatives within The Bin, doing a temporary brain uploading.
  • Mindscan by Robert Sawyer has this technology being commercialized. Rich people get what's essentially a super MI that creates a perfect duplicate of the brain at the time and it gets uploaded in to an android body. The real people then retire to a lunar colony that's extra-legal and the droids will claim to be the humans and designed to look like them at their peak of life. The book then revolves over What Measure Is a Non-Human? as the android version has to fight over its personhood.
  • This is common in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow; anyone with enough Whuffie can backup themselves at will, a restore is made using a clone body. Since the process is so easy and basically free, it's common for people to swap their body for a clone-and-restore for things like the common cold.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • There is an alien species that likes uploading the minds of prisoners and putting them through some kind of programming to make them A Is for small fightercraft and various systems in their ships. We're never shown or told what this does to the minds, but Luke thinks they're all suicidal.
    • A later book had the dying Jedi boyfriend of a character willingly going through this with that same technology, though without the reprogramming, and being put into a Ridiculously Human Droid. The result was basically a human-looking droid who answered to the same name and had the right memories and personality, but couldn't touch the Force and didn't feel any angst when captured and given a restraining bolt. General consensus was that doing this had been a mistake. There was also a Jedi character who'd uploaded herself into a spaceship somehow; the end of the book had droidboy getting destroyed and his girlfriend committing suicide while leaving her body intact so that spaceship girl could inhabit it. Droidboy and his girlfriend are mentioned by no other authors.
  • The Culture has brain uploading as a matter of course; human mindstates get scanned and transmitted out of danger.
  • Ken MacLeod's Fall Revolution books have it as well, with brain backups, or minds that get copied from brain to computer and back to brain.
  • The short story "The Cookie Monster" by Vernor Vinge has a decidedly unethical variant; a scientist uploads his students and employees into a simulated computer environment without their knowledge and uses them to do tasks that require a human mind at computer speeds, and "resets" them after a set period (a day for tech help, months for researchers, etc.) to keep them from catching on. It's not revealed whether "reintegration" with their real-world counterparts is possible, though as two of the protagonists are copies of the same person and another is a copy of someone who was murdered after upload, it's definitely not possible for all of them.
  • Edenists in Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn universe upload themselves to the neural strata (brain) of living habitats at the moment of their deaths.
  • This happens to Lia Kahn in Skinned by Robin Wasserman.
  • This appears in There Will Be Dragons by John Ringo. Rachel, one of the protagonists, has a friend who gets transferred into nanites and dies as a result of the power loss when the Net goes down, although it's stated that she might be revived if the power returns and she'd had a good memory storage system installed. The nanites are regarded as being people, but one of the problems mentioned with the procedure is that it 'locks' the person at the mental and physical age they were when it was done, meaning that the friend is stuck as a teenager for the rest of her life.
  • In Greg Egan's Learning to Be Me, children are fitted with a "jewel"—a small solid-state computer that monitors all brain activity and emulates it, guiding (or forcing) a slaved AI to be a mental clone of the growing child. As middle age approaches, it is traditional to have the failing grey goo scooped out of your skull and let the jewel take over. If you are the failing grey goo, you have a horrible dilemma to face—but are you absolutely sure you aren't the jewel?
  • The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson. Jenna Fox wakes up after being in a coma and finds out she is only a clone of herself.
  • A destructive variation happens to the main character of Loop, by Koji Suzuki, where he volunteers to messily get himself uploaded to a virtual reality to save the world from super-cancer
  • The Strugatsky Brothers' Noon Twenty Second Century includes a short story, in which the brain uploading technology is first attempted on a dying genius's brain. This procedure involves shutting down an area for miles lest any EM emissions interfere with the process. For the same reason, perpetual rain clouds are induced in the area to block solar radiation. The containers for the mind are large buildings full of gel. This makes one character to wonder if everyone will take up as much space after an upload. The other character thinks that anyone else's mind will probably fit into a suitcase. Unfortunately, the subject dies with only 98% of the process complete, making this a partial success.
  • This becomes the plot point in the StarCraft Expanded Universe Dark Templar Trilogy, where a Protoss female named Zamara copies her consciousness into the brain of Jake Ramsey, a human archaeologist. While she is able to communicate with him and grant him some of her Psychic Powers, the process will ultimately kill Jake. They travel to a Dark Templar world where priests record memories of still-living Protoss onto Khaydarin crystals. This is different from what is done by the Khala-worshiping Protoss, who have specialized individuals known as Preservers, who store entire consciousnesses (not just memories) in their heads, "uploaded" through the Hive Mind at the moment of death. Zamara is the last Preserver. The goal is to put Zamara's consciousness onto one such crystal. Unfortunately, Zamara realizes that the Dark Templar only copy memories, not entire individuals. However, the unusually large crystal they use not only manages to contain the entire consciousness of a Preserver but also that of a Dark Archon who threatens to destroy everything.
  • In the Animorphs series, there is one book in which a species of intelligent birds on the Hork-Bajir homeworld have the technology to create computer-backups of a person's mind, which can be inserted into someone else's brain after the original's death, to temporarily share their body. The Andalite female Aldrea was stored in this way. In the Ellimist Chronicles the ellimist is captured by a creature the size of a moon, who can absorb memories of any being it entangled. He eventually breaks free by downloading all the memories into himself. The trope appears again later when he starts making copies of himself, until he has become an entire starfleet. The copies never branch off to become separate people, however, as their minds are always in contact with each other via ship-to-ship communication.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Future History series, specifically Time Enough for Love and its sequels, this capability is identified as part of the medical rejuvenation technology used in cases of extreme physical deterioration, wherein a human being's brain is scanned and uploaded to a computer while a new one is cloned; said clone then has the saved brain downloaded back into it. The same technology is used in reverse when the computer Minerva decides to become human—she creates a composite clone body and downloads herself into it once it's mature.
  • While not computerized, Characters in the Skulldugery Pleasant Universe can sleep for three nights with a gemstone called an echo stone beside them, and thereby imprinting it with there personality and memeorys. It then generates a hologram which can also talk, but is still imaterial. The stone needs to b recharged by putting it in it's cradle, which takes about a year.
  • Max Barry's Machine Man has the main character, Dr. Charles Neumann, eventually end up as this.
  • Discussed in The Biology of Star Trek. Athena Andreadis's general conclusion is "it's theoretically possible assuming a ludicrous amount of highly reliable data storage, but if it could be done, it's very likely you would go insane".


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The entire concept of Dollhouse is based on this trope.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Ultimate Computer", Dr. Richard Daystrom turned the M-5 computer into an AI by impressing his own engrams (mental patterns) on its circuits.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In the episode "The Schizoid Man", Dr. Ira Graves uploads his brain into Data, essentially possessing him; at the end he moves into the Enterprise's computer, where his knowledge exists but he has no conscious awareness. We hope.
    • There's also something of a debate (albeit one with -arguably- a life on the line) in the episode "Measure of a Man" wherein Commander Maddox proposes an experiment that basically involves taking Data apart to see what makes him tick. His only reassurance that Data himself will be preserved by this is the fact that he is able to download all of Data's memories and experiences into a computer and reupload them when his body is reassembled (that's assuming he CAN actually reassemble him.) Data argues that only the events and recollections themselves will be preserved and the "essence" of the events and situations will be lost, therefore so will he; because Star Trek wants to have its materialism and eat its dualism too, it's never made entirely clear whether this is because Data's soul wouldn't survive the transfer, or just because Maddox isn't competent to do it properly. Still, theoretically uploading might be possible. They never got to take him apart to find out for sure.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Lifesigns", the Doctor discovers that his dying patient has some sort of electrical implant in her brain that enables him to transfer her mind into the ship's computer and let her live as a hologram while he works on the disease in her actual body. Unfortunately, the circuitry containing her mind has only a limited time before it will degrade, thus causing her death unless she's transferred back to her body in time.
  • In Doctor Who:
    • In the new-series two-parter "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead", the computer at the heart of the titular library is an uploaded version of a young girl who had a terminal illness. She's also capable of storing and running the personalities of anyone else who tries to teleport while in the library, as well as anyone who dies in the library while wearing neural relay.
    • In the original series, the Time Lord Matrix was a supercomputer that contained the recorded memories of all the past presidents of Gallifrey, but apparently not their complete personalities.
  • This is what makes the Cylons of Battlestar Galactica Reimagined functionally immortal. Their memories and consciousness are stored upon their death and then downloaded to identical bodies, until the Resurrection Hub is destroyed. It's also their origin, by way of Replacement Goldfish. Maybe. It seems a bit more complicated than that.
  • Turns up in, of all places, Red Dwarf as the technology behind hologrammatic characters—every crew member has their personality and memories uploaded and stored so they are available come back as a Virtual Ghost after they die. Whether it is possible to activate a hologram while the crew member is still alive has never been raised. We do know it's possible to activate a single hologram multiple times - as shown with Rimmer times two.
  • Overdrawn at the Memory Bank called it a "dopple" (as in doppelganger). Once your brain was uploaded to a spinning cube you could take a vacation and experience life as an animal. Aaron Fingle's dopple was botched when the technicians lost his body and were forced to upload his consciousness to a mainframe as an interim solution. The film indicated he had a limited amount of time before his consciousness degraded to the point of non-functionality. It wasn't really made clear if this was a function of the transfer, the inability of his body to continue function without the mind or some other factor, but then again it was a made for TV movie aired on PBS. It was also lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
  • A similar plot happens in an episode of Amazing Stories called "The Eternal Mind".
  • How the titular character of Max Headroom came to be. The same process is brought up in one episode as a way to save the life of a terminally ill millionaire. Though Max and his "original" coexist and interact regularly, the implications of having multiple copies of the same personality around are discussed very little.
  • Several The Outer Limits episodes deal with the concept. One memorable episode also involves Cloning Blues. A scientist's wife falls into a coma while attempting to upload her brain into a computer. After many years, he perfects cloning and duplicates his wife using the uploaded information. She is the perfect copy of his wife. However, just then his real wife awakens from her long sleep and isn't too thrilled to find out there's another one of her. The couple decides to kill the clone, but the situation is ultimately resolved by cloning the guy, ensuring that both couples are happy.
  • In a John Doe episode, a scientist experimenting in this field is killed. It turns out it was his colleague who turned out to be a religious fanatic and claimed humans aren't meant to live forever. The twist happens at the end, when it is revealed that the scientist encoded his mind onto bar codes of several ordinary-looking items.
  • This is basically how the Asgard survive, which is convenient since the main ones keep dying all the time. Unfortunately, the cloning process is impossible to maintain indefinitely so they all opt for mass suicide instead of slow death.
  • The supposed AI created by a former Warehouse 13 agent, which takes over the warehouse in one episode, is actually an artifact-assisted upload of his right-brain, leaving the living agent with all his creativity, but none of the logic that enabled him to harness it.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • The Shadowrun adventure "Imago" had a human personality uploaded to and stored in a computer. This is probably a Shout-Out to Neuromancer, because the game borrowed a lot of other things from that novel. It also had the Program JackBeNimble, which "saved" copies of the brains of people killed in the Crash 2.0
  • The "ghosts" in the GURPS setting Transhuman Space.
  • "Nybor's Psychic Imprint" spell in Forgotten Realms (at least, 3rd ed).
  • Cyberpunk 2020 has the "Soulkiller" program, which would copy the victim's personality onto a sufficiently powerful mainframe and then kill the victim's physical body. Alt Cunningham, the program's creator, became its first victim when she had finished writing Soulkiller for evil Mega Corp Arasaka and they decided they didn't need to have her running around anymore.
    • Overlaps with And I Must Scream.
    • Also, certain kinds of full 'Borgs, especially combat models, can be used with brain canisters that store a person's memories/soul which can be swapped between the combat cyborg body and a "normal" one.
  • Car Wars. Autoduelists store their memories on a machine and have clone bodies made. If they die in the arena, their memories are "played back" into their clone and they live again (well, sort of).
  • Extremely common in Eclipse Phase. Most of the surviving population of the solar system escaped the devastation of Earth by uploading their minds off-world, and backups are ubiquitous. Unfortunately, there's also a severe shortage of bodies, and millions of info-refugees desperate to own one.
    • Also, almost every biological body (since you can inhabit artificial ones too) comes equipped with a Cortical Stack, and as in the Takeshi Covacs novels, they are nearly indestructible barring a deliberate attempt to destroy them. One might wonder if Altered Carbon inspired the authors of Eclipse Phase in some way. (Then one notices the blatant Shout-Out in the opening fiction and knows it definitely did.)


Videogames[edit | hide]

  • MegaMan.EXE in Mega Man Battle Network supposedly originated as an uploaded version of a baby with a rare heart condition who had no other way to survive. He also uses DNA (somehow) to perform Synchronization with his twin brother.
  • AIs in the Halo universe are created by this method. Though this process kills the brain being uploaded, as a result only one (known) AI is based on a living person's mind, Cortana. She was created by flash cloning Dr. Halsey's brain and inducing the memories into the disembodied organ. It took several tries, and for some reason, the resulting file can't be copied.
  • Independence War 2 Edge of Chaos takes Jefferson Clay from the first game and puts him in a "Brain Box", so that the main character over a century later can have a mentor and guide to the game.
  • The AI that comes with the ship The Federation loaned Samus in Metroid Fusion is one of these. Because of his similar personality to an old commanding officer of hers, Samus dubs him Adam. She later realizes that it actually is said officer, uploaded to AI, when he says something to her that only he would say. Brain uploading is commonly used in the Federation to preserve the minds of politicians, military leaders and other important people. It would seem that the uploading is only done when the person is dead or dying, but considering that he died under unrelated circumstances (namely in the huge, fiery explosion of a lab full of invincible Metroids jettisoned into space), this is almost certainly to avoid the complications of having armies of duplicates running around rather than for any reason inherent to the process.
  • Hostile Waters had this, with "soulcatcher chips"; it was apparently inspired by Rogue Trooper. They were said to the copies of the minds of dead soldiers in AI form. Though they could be duplicated you were not allowed to, because it had been found that if two copies of the same personality became aware of each other each would consider the other an impostor and they would fight to their destruction.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri implies this to be part of the process behind the Clinical Immortality secret project. And that's just the beginning: the Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence Victory is done by first uploading all the knowledge created by Mankind into Planet's global mind, then by uploading all your people's minds in the same global mind.
  • Portal:
    • GLaDOS claims to have a backup of Chell on file, which she later claims to delete. Of course, she is a lying liar who tends to lie.
    • Cave Johnson really did back himself up, as revealed in his casting call, as well as the ARG leading up to Portal 2's announcement.
    • In Portal 2, it turns out Johnson was never uploaded, but on his request his secretary Caroline was uploaded into the A.I. network that became GLaDOS, against her will.
      • In the PeTI DLC, it turns out that in an Alternate Universe Cave succeeded in uploading himself. He quickly goes insane from boredom, and decides he needs to kill everyone so he can ascend to Olympus like Hercules. When Cave Prime hears this, he decides to cancel research into Brain Uploading, strongly suggesting "Earth 1" is not the same universe the main story takes place in.
  • In the Black Market universe, people can be downloaded into Soul Jars, while machine minds are relegated to Turing Jars. Pirates use this method to endlessly reincarnate; one of the main characters is a "Ghost" in this fashion.
  • Ace Combat 3 Electrosphere had this with "sublimation", the act of uploading your mind inside a computer. Among other things, Ouroboros is a secret faction hell-bent on sublimating all the people in the world, and Fiona is unable to forgive her sister Cinthia after she tells Fiona she wants to sublimate her mind. (Don't panic if you don't know that: all that stuff is exclusive from the Japanese original; the American release had this engaging storyline replaced with a generic A.I. Is a Crapshoot plot).
  • The Doctor, a Playful Hacker of City of Heroes is revealed to be one of these, and created an easily produced process to upload personalities. Oddly enough for the genre, it didn't destroy her original mind or body; Crey took care of that some time after she had already gone on the net. She's treated as a human, although she does recognize that she's not one any longer. City of Heroes also features this trope's inversion : Paragon Protectors are revealed to run on home-built personalities downloaded into clone bodies, using the same underlying technology and copied on a massive scale. They're fairly expendable, in a world where normal clones or uploaded personalities are treated fairly well, but Crey does tend to harvest the original copies for those personalities from the rotting corpses of dead heroes and rip out whatever higher brain functionality is left before slapping the Paragon Protector together.
  • Occurs at the end of Space Quest 4, when Big Bad former-"human" AI Vohaul not only uploads Roger's son's mind to a disk (1.44mb! Who knew the mind was so... compressable?), but then uploads his own mind to Roger's son. Roger then has to defeat Vohaul by putting his son's mind back in place, and transferring Vohaul's mind to the computer just seconds before a system format.
  • In Jak 3, Vin (who had died in the previous game) is discovered to have uploaded his mind into a computer. This is treated as if he were the same person and had never died at all.
  • One theory as to what happened to Dr. Light between the original Mega Man series and the Mega Man X series. Also, it's believed that Wily somehow turned himself into a Reploid (Dr Isoc, or Serges in the Manga).
  • Tron 2.0, the video game sequel to the cult sci-fi Disney flick Tron, featured Ma3a, an artificially intelligent construct and vector for the digitization correction algorithms who was modeled after the original movie's Lora Baines, player character Jet Bradley's mother. It is hinted however that Ma3a actually has part of Lora's consciousness integrated into her program (said part having been digitized during the digitization laser accident that claimed Lora's life).
  • Orthopox from Destroy All Humans! does this when he gets destroyed with the mothership during a nuclear attack staged by the KGB.
  • The opening cinematic of Cortex Command shows a person's mind being uploaded into a Brain In a Jar, which frees the mind and makes space travel a lot easier.
  • Starship Titanic: all the robots on board have these have copied human minds courtesy of 'personality transfers'. It's like blood donation in America, which means you get lots of people who really shouldn't be donating.
  • In Defense Grid the Awakening, the general who won the war against the aliens 1000 years ago had his brain uploaded in case they came back, which they have. He usually plays the part of the Exposition Fairy, but he can't seem to get raspberries off his mind.
  • In Total Annihilation, this is what sparks the game's galaxy-wide class 4 apocalypse.
  • In Starsiege, this is how the Immortal Brotherhood came to be; individuals who were part of the Lazarus Project team, or who were exceptionally loyal to Emperor-to-be Solomon Petresun, were transferred into biomechanoid brains which could then be transplanted from body to body. Since the brains have their own power supply and were extremely durable, the immortal could be killed without actually dying... however, the nature of the brain/body interface could cause severe personality shifts from one 'lifetime' to the next. Prometheus, the Cybrid who invented the technique, later used it to create infiltration units as weapons against its creators.
  • In Perfect Dark, Dr. Carroll uploads his personality into a "sapient" (floating laptop-looking thing) before his death.
  • A real Tear Jerker example in Mass Effect 2 which has David Archer, whose mind was uploaded so he could control an army of Geth. Unfortunately, his mind is unable to take the strain of being in charge of a highly advanced computer network, and he goes insane.
    • The fluff for Mass Effect series also contains some interesting trivia on "brain" uploading: essentially, a true intelligence, be it natural or artificial, can only "run" on a quantum computing core, and while it is possibly to copy the data that constitutes it to as many cores as you wish, each copy would be a different "individual" rather than a carbon copy, thanks to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle that plays a major part in quantum computing. The geth, however, explicitly violate this principle, being sentient programs that may transfer themselves into different hardware at will.
  • Mass Effect 3 has Shepard perform this in order to take over the Reapers in the "control" ending.
  • In Infinite Space, the NOS Command System owned by Zenitorians allows one to transfer his/her consciousness to a spare body, as shown by Rubriko.
  • Throughout most of the Assassin's Creed series the audience - and the characters - are led to believe that Subject 16, Desmond's predecessor, went crazy and committed suicide. The first is definitely true, and the second may be as well, but before he did so, he was able to upload or at least copy his mind into the Animus program, where he is implied to be watching over Desmond.
  • Glowgrass contains an example where it is used to discover part of an ancient culture.
  • Prometheus in Conduit 2, due to events in the last game.
  • In Kamui:
    • The eponymous fighters require this to work. At the time they're developed, they're considered Necessarily Evil due to the extremely powerful ZODIACs clashing with Ophiuchus, laying waste to the earth just as collateral damage.
    • After the event with the ZODIACs ends, the scientist that developed the technique (whose daughter was one of those uploaded) eventually uploads himself to the orbital fortress "The Adjucator" after he finds out that the government, whom he considers to have become corrupt, is planning on using his technique to strengthen themselves.
  • In Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, a somewhat less biological, more behaviourally-based attempt is used to create Peace Walker's AI, a somewhat distorted version of The Boss's consciousness.
  • At the end of the Marathon Game Mod EVIL, the player character's mind is uploaded to the D'ricta space station's core.
  • In Sword of the Stars 2, you can preserve admirals' expertise by converting them into expert systems.
  • Your entire crew in Iron Seed has had this done to them


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • In Narbonic:
    • Dave does this after his Mad Scientist awakening.
    • Also in the mini comic Edie in Orbit, which has only seen the light of day as a Narbonic Sunday special feature, Edie's robot buddy is a human mind scanned into a floating robot head.
  • In Girl Genius:
    • Tarvek uploads his sister's mind into a Ridiculously Human Clank almost by accident: he builds it to serve as her prosthesis after she's injured, and it doesn't notice when she dies. Later, the same clank ends up housing the mind of The Other.
    • This was lady Lucrezia's speciality.
    • Unsurprisingly, some mad scientists provide this service to pay for the equipment. One of the presumably happy customers is Madame Desmana. There are some known issues, however - including "post-vital personality drift".
  • A Major McGuffin of the Hob arc in Dresden Codak.
  • In Unity, the main character's neural patterns had been uploaded into a powerful computer. This simulation eventually (and accidentally) takes over the ship - for the better.
  • In Bob and George, the Marverick virus is a digital copy of Dr. Wily's soul, corrupting and reprograming Reploids just as Wily did to robots.
  • In Homestuck, this is how Dirk created his auto-responder. It was apparently meant to respond to instant messages when Dirk himself wasn't at the computer, though it's developed beyond that. It's treated as a character in its own right, superficially similar to Dirk but with its own quirks and eccentricities.
  • Schlock Mercenary has this developed several times.
    • There's now a way to backup/restore (or run as AI, or edit) someone's brain using nanomachines, created as a part of an immortality project. One of the lead researchers ran off and uploaded his mind into a medical suite. Later this method was used to overwrite brains as a way to deliver infiltrators. When not all data is actually delivered, this may backfire, of course.
    • It turns out that the Schuul can do much the same with bodies of other species (such as humans), probably artificially grown, when they want to snoop around a little.
    • A few millions of years ago, after Bradicor implementation of biological immortality combined with their brain architecture led to some messy problems. Most chose the uploading as a solution. Their next war was implied to be something like Ubik, but with access to weapons capable of destroying their mainframes. Thus when the smoke cleared, the only Bradicors left were those few who chose to retain their bodies and tweak their new brains into semi-senility instead. Oh, and one brainwashed Super Soldier in storage, but since he went Ax Crazy upon awakening, they subdued and transformed him in their likeness too.
    • The All-Star is an ancient artifact specifically built as a huge (it's a dedicated Dyson Sphere) network for uploaded sophonts. The place is secret, thus they forcibly upload those who discover them to keep it this way, but otherwise are all for protecting the agency of sapience. At least after that one time.

Putzho (a newcomer given the whole picture as a part of the orientation/interview): Hey. You're only at 44% capacity. You could pull everybody else in the Galaxy in here and not tick past 45%.
Ulaque: We tried that once. As raptures go, it was unacceptably lossy.

    • There's a difference for continuity of mind, however: a swarm of specialized nanobots can take and transmit the state of a living brain point by point, allowing to create a coherent backup, which is just a load of data that can be copied onto suitable wetware (normally, a clone of the original brain assembled by medical nanobots) or hardware (where "downlift" effectively becomes an AI with peculiar architecture and personal history) medium to run again; it doesn't have to be unique, and indeed "brain clones" (both vanilla and tweaked) of still living people are occasionally made. "Soul-gig" used by Oafa and All-Star is a variant teraport that moves someone's mind as a big wave packet into another medium.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal explores the politics of this solution here.

Web Originals[edit | hide]

  • In Red vs. Blue, A Is work much the same way as they do in the Halo universe—they are created from a real person's brain, and you can make an AI of a still-living person by cloning their brain and whatnot. In Reconstruction, it's revealed that all of the A Is that had been met up to that point weren't actually full A Is; instead, they were "fragments" created from torturing a single original full AI (the Alpha). Church is actually what's left of the Alpha. Similarly, Tex is sort of a side effect of the Alpha's creation, based off of the Director's extremely strong memories of the original Allison. It's never quite clear what happened to the original Allison to make the memories so strong, but Church's feelings toward Tex imply that it was the Director's girlfriend or wife who died. In season 9, we actually get a chance to see a full AI for once--the original Alpha shows up very briefly in a prequel segment.
  • In the Whateley Universe, one of the supervillains—The Palm—is doing the reverse. He's downloading copies of his AI self into the brains of (probably) already-dead human bodies, with Body Horror results. (Of course, as far as we know he started out as a human being—Dr. Abel Palm—who left his body behind to convincingly fake his death, so depending on just how successful he was he may also be a straight example of the trope.)
  • In Fine Structure, Mitch Calrus inhabits a mortal body, but he needs to be around in 20,000 years to fight the Final Battle. Thus he makes countless copies of himself and spreads them all over the solar system, to be installed in available bodies as necessary.
  • Ubiquitous in Orion's Arm. Entities that keep upgrading their minds will usually have to upload into a more advanced housing several times.
  • In the Star Army universe, the Yamatai Star Empire makes use of extensive "soul transfer" to the point where the vast majority of their population has transferred into optimized, customizable android bodies. Citizens' right to backups is legally ensured and their data is legally protected. Tampering with "soul data" means a permanent death penalty to the perpetrator and all his/her backup files.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • In TMNT: Back to the Sewer it is revealed that the Utrom Shredder periodically uploaded a copy of his mind as a back-up; if he ever died, that copy was then re-downloaded into a clone body. Before that, Professor Honeycutt (aka "The Fugitoid") combined this with Lightning Can Do Anything.
  • The title characters of The Venture Brothers had their minds uploaded by Doctor Venture because they're death-prone and he keeps a stock of clones ready to replace them. That... sounds really bad on paper
    • Oh, it sounds really bad on the show, too, and that's not lost on those around Rusty.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • The Blue Brain Project. They've claimed to have simulated a rat's neocortical column and expect to be able to simulate the entire human brain by sometime in 2020 (depending on which expert you ask).
  • In all likelihood, while computer processing power will reach the point where it can emulate a human brain, this trope will probably be banned from ever occuring, due to the laundry list of moral, ethical, sociological, etc., problems with it, much like how human cloning is currently banned.
    • It also gets into the idea of a soul. From a strictly biological definition, there does not appear to be a soul in human consciousness, and our minds could possibly never be truly emulated, relying heavily on the interactions of various chemicals and having involuntary subconscious changes, like mood fluctuations. Drawing a distinct delineation in the parts of the brain where aspects of the mind are solely housed too may prove impossible, as for instance personality, intelligence, and memory for instance are likewise impossible to completely separate.
    • Of course, going by the strictly biological/physical approach, one would be able to create a copy simply by creating a computer simulation that takes into account every single cell and chemical reaction in the body itself, falling into the commonly accepted concept of a truly accurate simulation requiring a system at least as complex as the system being simulated. Of course, this does not get into the philosophical questions of what truly defines consciousness.
  • It is now theoretically possible to upload someone's memories to a computer at this point in time. You would need, however, advanced programming and algorithms to tell the computer how to read said memories; it is likely that it would work like an emulation program, e.g. DOSBox. However, the only current way to get said memory data is to scan the brain with a special machine that builds a 3D computer image of whatever is scanned. Unfortunately, it can only scan objects that are as thin as paper. This and other complications means that the brain must be flash-frozen while still alive, cut out of your head, and sliced into paper-thin pieces.
  1. The easiest, and currently the only vaguely practical process would be to take the brain down to liquid helium temps, then image it with a scanning probe microscope. Except that a SPM has to get the probe within nanometers of the surface it's scanning, so after you scan a layer of brain, you scrape it off with a diamond microtome, and scan the next layer down. You end up with a map of the locations of each atom in the brain, and a pile of rapidly defrosting brain slices on the operating room floor; and is about the most destructive brain uploading process, that doesn't involve TNT, imaginable.