Mind backup methods

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Mind backup is a hypothetical future technology to reverse-engineer and reconstruct a human mind by indirectly recording some portion of what the mind knows and how it functions. This would be of interest to transhumanists. There are no known methods to directly record the information stored in a brain, and it might not be possible at all.

Future mind backup methods would require new insights and paradigms to acquire and organize mind information. The following list is incomplete and speculative:

List of possible Mind Backup methods

Record everything

The oldest and most useful tool to record someone's personality may be lifelogging. Cameras and other sensors would record everything the subject is doing around the clock. These could be wearable cameras as used by Google Glass. This vast trove of data would later be sorted and processed.

Lifelogging devices

Various future devices and associated software designed to monitor their users, both in daily life and online. They could be tiny wearable computers, or embedded in the environment. Ideally, they would create an immediate narrative record that would be as detailed and meaningful as the user's own memory.

Life overview

The first sorting step might be a life story interview, with aspects of a biography and an autobiography. This would also generate an overview of what the person knows, and what they are like.[1]

Brute force AI

Reverse engineering a human mind from fragmentary life observations would require deep insight and intelligence. This intelligence might be expected to become available through increasing CPU performance.[2] Future Artificial Intelligence software may be able to evolve itself to become orders of magnitude smarter than any human (also known as an intelligence explosion), allowing it to analyze all the recorded data from the subject's life. With sufficient processing power and general knowledge of human minds, it might deduce their mind structure even from incomplete records.

Open source mind tests

Large databases of highly specific mind tests proven to reveal personality and memory aspects could be created and updated by volunteers and users.[3] Early attempts include IPIP-NEO[4] and the Personality Project[5]

Existing open source AI projects include OpenCog and Open Mind Common Sense and NuPIC.

Third person interviews

Getting other people to describe the subject's behavior and personality as fully as possible from the "outside" could reveal deeper insights than subjects could provide themselves.

Neuroscientists can already predict someone's behavior better than the individual.[6] Groups can sometimes make more accurate estimates than any member of the group (also known as the "Wisdom of the crowd". Sometimes other people can predict individual responses to new situations better than the individual,[7][8] though paradoxically there is also evidence individuals can predict group responses that will be more accurate than their own response.[9]

Quantity over quality

The goal would be to generate a very large list of lifetime events, locations, persons, and interests in no particular order. This data could later be sorted and organized. There are already apps and sites that encourage people to record unorganized thoughts and memories on a daily basis.[10]

Question/answer cycles

The subject could create their own ideal mind test, by suggesting the most relevant and penetrating questions for themselves, and then answer these questions. This method is said to reveal unique personal insights.[11]

Free association tests

Starting from a random fact, a Rogerian question/answer chain (where each answer becomes the basis for the next question)[12] could explore many aspects of someone's personality or memory.

Binary tests

The test subject could rate pictures according to some value, for example whether they like the picture or not.[13][14] Or they could answer short or complex yes/no questions. The test should allow a simple or binary reply, ideally with only two possible answers. (However, the test could also measure the intensity or duration of the responses.)

Each reply could determine the next question, eventually generating a unique profile. Identifying related traits could predict the response to millions of unasked questions. Software would try to predict these responses. A reconstructed mind copy should accurately replicate how the original mind would have reacted to any binary question.

Personality Type tests

Only a few personality traits are thought to be completely unrelated to each other, the Big Five personality traits:

  • Openness versus Conservativeness
  • Agreeableness versus Hostility

Sim experiments

A high-resolution computer simulation of the subject's life, programmed with simulated drives and motivations, that may be modified to match their actual behavior across their lifespan as closely as possible. It would be a highly evolved life simulation game.[15] The simulation could incorporate a virtual model of the world.[16]

Mind movies

A typical memory could be described as a more or less detailed scene, which might be visual in nature. Different memories could share the same scene elements. A memory could also be fully described in words if necessary. Solving the problem of awareness or perception may require a way to fully describe individual memories.[17][18] Future software could generate virtual reality models, or elaborate text descriptions, or visual animations of a person's individual memories.

Fully describe one past life setting in detail

According to various holographic mind theories, many or most aspects of someone's personality could be deduced by studying just one aspect or setting of their life. The subject could start by fully describing one favorite memory or past life period or interest, which could then be simulated in high detail. This simulation would reveal many aspects of their personality.

Fully describe one's present life in detail

The test subject could be asked to describe all their current issues, concerns and purposes in life as completely as possible. The goal would be to create a complete snapshot of their present situation.

Creative language

Test subjects could invent new words or extend the meanings of existing words to express hard-to-define and highly personal concepts. This may be necessary to define and describe the most unique traits and aspects.


A hypothetical concept by Rudy Rucker about a computer program designed to store personal data and reminiscences. Described in his book "The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul" (Oct 2005), a lifebox would actively gather data about its owner. By design, it could operate in reverse to describe its stored memories, according to its owner's recorded personality. This means it could also act as a mind extension.[19][20]

Virtual Memory Palace

A Virtual Reality environment could represent someone's ideal reality. It could be a library, island, theme park, city or entire fantasy world. It could embody someone's personal values and interests in ways that may be symbological.[21][22] This could also be an endless moment simulation.

Personal encyclopedia

A reference work of many different types of personal events, trends, things, persons, settings, and themes; viewed and described in many different ways, objectively and subjectively, defined as precisely as possible.

Mind backup lists

A way to sort and record otherwise unrelated memories in specialized lists encompassing many different categories. There would be short lists of important high-order memories, and long lists of less important but more numerous low-order memories.

The lists could be of persons, places, interests, skills, recurring events, etc. One type of list might record someone's favorite things, or their relative preferences.[23] Also a timeline list of lifetime events.

Complete openness

The subject could choose to reveal all their secrets, mistakes, violations, and flaws as honestly as possible, in order to reveal deep aspects of their personality. Current personality tests try to avoid embarrassing questions.[24] The data from this test would have to be kept secure. It might also be protected with plausible deniability so it can't be subpoenaed.

Such a test might have unknown risks. Using double blind encryption, compatible people could use the results to communicate without revealing their identity at first, but criminals could also use it to find conspirators. (This is related to group formation software.)

Personality comparison software

Purely hypothetical software not known to be in development that would be intelligent enough to measure someone's personality, by comparing that person to all other persons in its database. It would list the persons whom the subject most resembles in various ways, by comparing the profiles of millions of others to find the closest matches along various dimensions.

Social cooperation and group formation software

Purely hypothetical software not known to be in development that would be intelligent enough to allow people to combine and cooperate in effective groups. Personality tests could identify highly compatible people worldwide, and determine to what extent they could cooperate. They could join in temporary or permanent online communities. Such a community could even have aspects of a group mind.[25] This software, if it is possible, would have to be smart enough to measure its users' personality and capacities, and perhaps to modify them somewhat to cooperate more efficiently.

Mind extension software

Purely hypothetical software not known to be in development that would be intelligent enough to assist people with planning and managing their daily activities. This software might eventually evolve into a simulacrum of its user.[26] After being used long enough, the software could become an extension of its user's mind. This is a stated dream of the developers of software like Evernote.[27] In that way, the software would record many aspects of its user's mind.[28]

Change the person to resemble their future simulation

People could spend part of their life interacting with virtual locations designed to resemble the simulated locations their future mind copies will inhabit. These environments would likely be simpler than physical reality. By learning to become more like their future simulations, the human Mind Backup subjects may become easier to reconstruct and simulate.

Asynchronous mind reconstruction

Once a Mind Backup customer has died, there would be no hurry to create their mind reconstruction. The stored data would not degrade, so whoever is in charge of the process could take as long as necessary. The reconstruction could even be created out of sequence, using different passes at increasing levels of resolution, provided there are no logical conflicts. Subjectively speaking, the reconstructed mind could still experience time passing normally.

Turing Test implications

Epistemology is the philosophy that studies how minds accept reality, and what it means to be certain of something. One philosophical implication of the Turing Test is that if a mind convincingly claims to be aware, then it really is aware[29] (this implication is not accepted by philosophers who believe in the possible existence of philosophical zombies). Conceivably, if a human-like Artificial Intelligence were made to believe that it is the continuation of a past human mind, then this belief might also become a self-fulfilling truth. If someone had the reasonable expectation that after they die, a simulation of their mind will be created with the perfect certainty of being themselves, they could try to prepare for this state while still alive.[30]


  1. Dan P. McAdams, Northwestern University. "The Life Story Interview" (2008) http://www.sesp.northwestern.edu/foley/instruments/interview/
  2. http://www.williamhertling.com/2016/01/zuckerberg-importance-moores-law-ai/ (Jan 27, 2016)
  3. https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-best-open-source-personality-test
  4. (retrieved May 5, 2017) http://personal.psu.edu/j5j/IPIP/
  5. (retrieved May 5, 2017) http://www.personality-project.org/
  6. UCLA "Neuroscientists can predict your behavior better than you can" ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100623110114.htm (Jun 23, 2010)
  7. Time Magazine (Mar 19, 2009) http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1886607,00.html
  8. "The Surprising Power of Neighborly Advice" Gilbert, Killingsworth, Eyre, Wilson. Science Vol. 323, Issue 5921 (Mar 20, 2009) http://science.sciencemag.org/content/323/5921/1617
  9. "A solution to the single-question crowd wisdom problem" Prelec, Seung, McCoy. Nature 541 (Jan 26, 2017) http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v541/n7638/full/nature21054.html
  10. examples include 750words (started 2013) http://750words.com/
  11. Chris Guillebeau. https://chrisguillebeau.com/an-interview-with-yourself/ (Mar 2010)
  12. Example: https://allpsych.com/personalitysynopsis/rogers/
  13. "Facebook 'likes' predict personality" (Mar 11, 2013) http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-21699305
  14. Kosinski, Stillwell, Graepel. "Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior" Microsoft Research (Feb 12, 2013) http://www.pnas.org/content/110/15/5802.full.pdf
  15. Many virtual life simulation games featuring fictional characters and communities exist | http://gameslikefinder.com/games-like-the-sims/
  16. Wade Roush (Jun 18, 2007) https://www.technologyreview.com/s/408074/second-earth/
  17. http://www.human-memory.net/processes_recall.html
  18. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-long-term-memory-2795347
  19. http://www.rudyrucker.com/lifebox/
  20. Presentation at the IOHK Summit in Miami Beach by Rudy Rucker (Apr 18, 2019) http://www.rudyrucker.com/blog/2019/04/16/lifebox-for-telepathy-and-immortality/
  21. Memory Techniques Wiki (retrieved Feb 23, 2017) http://mt.artofmemory.com/wiki/Artificial_Memory_Palaces
  22. Anthony Metivier "How To Enhance Your Memory With Virtual Memory Palaces" (Apr 14, 2016) https://www.magneticmemorymethod.com/how-to-enhance-your-memory-with-virtual-memory-palaces/
  23. Scott Adams (Feb 22, 2017) "the thing that most defines an individual is their preferences" http://blog.dilbert.com/post/157571909611/scariest-thing-you-will-see-today
  24. http://www.management-issues.com/news/4687/personality-tests-poor-predictors-of-job-performance/
  25. Georg Theiner & Rob Wilson "Group Mind" Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Social Sciences (2013) http://www.academia.edu/1117009/Group_Mind
  26. Ander Sandberg "Ethics of brain emulations" Journal of experimental and theoretical artificial intelligence, Vol 26, 2014 | http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0952813X.2014.895113?journalCode=teta20
  27. Wired Magazine. https://www.wired.com/2013/07/evernote-10-questions/
  28. Many of these mind tools were described under different names in the obscure science fiction novel "Infinite Thunder" (2007) by Jack Arcalon. Mind Extension: "ME" personal software. Personality comparison software: "D-Map" (Deviation Map) software. Social cooperation and group formation software: "FAM" (Forced Affinity Matrix) group software.
  29. SelfAwarePatterns (Jun 11, 2014) https://selfawarepatterns.com/2014/06/11/what-does-the-turing-test-really-mean/
  30. (retrieved Feb 22, 2017) http://wikibin.org/articles/immortality-test-3.html