Can We Digitalize The Brain and Retain Consciousness?

I say – no. Here is my Record/Replay argument against it…

Premise 1: Consciousness is an occurrent property of the brain.

We can divide the properties of the system in two groups, the occurrent properties and dispositional properties. The dispositional properties of a system would be properties that characterize the behavior of the system in different potential circumstances. On other side, the system doesn’t exist in a potential circumstances, but in concrete ones, and at specific time has specific properties. Those would be occurrent ones. To give an example, an electron would have dispositional property to repel and be repelled by other negatively charged particles, but also at specific time will have occurrent property of position, momentum and so on.

Consciousness is something that system has or not in specific time. It is not a disposition.


Say that we have a simple system of two units connected with a information channel, so that the information from the first unit is transfered to the second unit like this. Let’s call this system ‘DC’ (for direct connection)

Let’s do changes to this system, so that we add another unit ‘X’ between A and B thusly…

Let’s call this system ‘IC‘ (indirect connection).
Let’s define occurrent connection (OCC) as: For the given span of time t1<t<t2, whatever data is on the output of A, the same data is at the input of B.

Premise 2: If A and B start from the same state in IC and DC case, if A gets same data from “outside”, and if ‘X’ doesn’t affect in any way OCC in the time span t1<t<t2, IC and DC will have same occurrent properties.


Step 1:
We take each neuron of a conscious person, and change it with a digital neuron. The brain (as it is now) is still conscious. The digital neurons are such that we can save their inputs and outputs (and the time of occurrence) and also can be reset to a specific state they had at time t.

Step 2:
For some time t1<t<t2, we save inputs and outputs of each digital neuron, including the data from the senses which go into neurons. Consciousness occurs between t1 and t2.

Step 3:
We reset the neurons to the state they had in t1, and start reproducing data from the senses. The system functions same as it did between t1 and t2. It has same occurrent properties, so also has consciousness.

Step 4:
In each connection between digital neurons we put a small Replay Box. It outputs in same timely manner the inputs that were saved in the t1<t<t2 period for the neuron. The neuron receives the information from the given input as it received it in the t1<t<t2 period. So we have something like this:

We reset each neuron to the state it had at t1, and reproduce the data that was coming to the neurons from the senses. Also in precise time we start Replay Boxes, so that we have a case of IC between neurons with same OCC as the DC in the time span t1<t<t2.

From Premise 2, it follows that the system in the Step 4 will have same occurrent properties through time as the system in the Step 1.
From this and Premise 1 , it follows that in the system in the Step 4 consciousness will occur.

Consciousness can’t occur in the system from Step 4, as what we have is just bunch of disconnected neurons.

Hence by reductio, it can’t be that system was conscious in  Step 1. Hence we can’t change the neurons by digital neurons, and in the process the system retaining consciousness.

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(I had this argument in a post I wrote some time ago, but I tried to systematize it a little as a response to a post at Philosophy, Et Cetera)