Of course there’s some weird stuff going down around the world – look at all the brain/machine interface work that’s happening. And improvements in brain imaging will allow individual neurones to be scanned in real time. Could a brain be scanned in sufficient fidelity to allow a human to upload? Not yet, as even the beefiest super-computer is only just creeping into human brain territory of raw number crunching power. Emulating a brain faithfully might be a few orders of magnitude away, and we still don’t know how much the basic architecture (serial versus massively parallel) affects consciousness yet.
OTOH what does it take for a brain to run Humanity 4.3.4?
Notice the version number – if Ardipithecus is the first unique human ancestor 1.0 (rather than a possible LCA 0.0 like Sahelanthropus or Orrorin), then Australopithecus anamensis is 2.0, and A. afarensis is 2.1. Add other “South Apes” as you see fit. Then we get the Habilines – H. habilis, H. georgicus, and H. floresiensis (the Hobbit) – who are 3.1, 3.2, 3.1.2 respectively. Finally we get humans of modern gross anatomy – H. ergaster (4.0), H. erectus (4.1), H. heidelbergensis (4.2), H. neanderthalensis (4.2.1), and H. sapiens (4.3). And since we sapiens turned up, there have been a few upgrades, with the final version (4.3.4) coming Out of Africa c. 50,000 bp.
Version 3.1.2, the Hobbit, had an advanced, but very compact brain – down to about 400 cc of neural volume. That’s about 1/3 modern levels, which suggests we have a lot of “bloat-ware” filling our skulls. The Hobbits made tools and even had fire, which is quite impressive for such tiny forms. The low body mass probably helped free-up a fair bit of brain for other things, though the relationship is non-linear.
A friend of mine, Glenn Morton, is a geophysicist who has a unique theory on when and how God made humans a distinct lineage to our Last Common Ancestor (LCA) with the chimps. He believes Noah’s Flood was the terminal flooding of the Mediterranean in the Messinian, some 5.5 million years ago. As the only hominids around back then had chimp-sized brains this does make for a difficulty – how could Noah have been smart enough? Now the Hobbit suggests the problem is somewhat more complicated than simplistic comparisons with chimps imply. After all the chimps have spent about 6.5 million years evolving away from our LCA too, so who knows how they compare to our mutual progenitor?
Glenn also thinks that Adam was made from the “clay” of an LCA who had died from genetic incompatibilities. God thus rewired and cleaned up the LCA’s genetics, breathing into this new creature something distinct from other apes. To my mind this implies a lot of fiddling by God, but then our species Creation was supposed to be a miracle, one of the few occasions in Genesis when God actually did something directly.